2 kids are playing.


They’ve a long piece of wood and a pin.


They take turns putting an end of the piece of wood to their ear while the other kid scratches the other end of the piece of wood with a pin.  The sound of the pin scratching one end is amplified at the other end – to the kids’ delight.


This scene is witnessed by a young doctor as he walks briskly on a cool morning through the courtyard of the Louvre Palace in Paris.


A couple of months later the same doctor is trying to figure out what’s wrong with a young woman whom he believes may have heart disease.  He wants to make a diagnosis but hasn’t yet managed to.  So he decides he wants to listen to her heart.


However there’s a problem.  He’s embarrassed at the prospect of putting his ear to her chest.


He remembers the kids and their wooden toy.


The result?  The young doctor invents the stethoscope.


It was a huge advance in medicine.  As sociologist Trevor Pinch says, “it was one of the first ways of getting a diagnosis on a patient independent of their own version of what was happening“.  Before the stethoscope came along doctors couldn’t get a view of what was going on inside a body unless it was dead.


What has this got to do with your business?  Well the lesson for us is in a small piece of what Trevor Pinch said – “independent of their own version“.


A lot of business owners have no stethoscope – no way of knowing accurately what’s happening in the hearts & minds of their customers or employees.


The effect?  Potential problems are missed.  Actual problems are missed.  Opportunities are missed.


So – what part of your business are you wondering about the most?


Your action?  Get yourself a “stethoscope”!


PS: That young doctor?  René Laennec.  He only lived another 10 years after his invention – one of the pioneers of chest medicine ironically dying of tuberculosis in 1826.


PPS: Credit to the Science Museum, London for use of the photo of one of his actual stethoscopes.


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