Doing “things right” or doing the “right thing.” Which is better?

Doing the “right thing” — by a score of at least 100 to 1

This blogpost was inspired by my youngest friend, a 29-year old scientist at Pfizer who I met through our yacht club here in Stonington. A very bright thinker himself, Tim adopted a near optimal, plant-based diet shortly after sailing with me for a few hours and listening to me talking about our book. He said it just made sense.

Last week, he sent me a video of the late Dr. Russell Ackoff (see below). In it he talks about the concept of five types of content in the human mind:

Dr. Russell Ackoff

  1. Data
  2. Information
  3. Knowledge
  4. Understanding
  5. Wisdom  =  effectiveness

The first four deal with increasing efficiency; whereas the fifth (wisdom) is all about effectiveness and that means doing the right thing. And, as Dr. Acker explains in the video, “It’s far better to do the “right things” wrong than to do the wrong things right.

He went on to use that concept to explain why our health care system in the United States does not work. Spending far more than any other nation, we rank 37th in terms of effectiveness of our health care system. As he explained, we’re doing whole lot of wrong things right.

“If you wanted a true health care system, you would pay a doctor to keep you healthy. You would pay the doctor a fee and he would then pay all of your medical expenses. Now, it would be in his interest to keep you healthy, not to keep you sick.”

During the video, it appears that Dr. Ackoff never learned the secret himself — of doing the “right thing” when it came to feeding his body. He never mentioned it during his “health care” discussion, and his appearance would suggest that he was not eating a whole foods, plant-based diet.

He depended on our schools of nutrition and our medical community to tell him all about the “right things.” And they failed him. Taking took money from the food and pharmaceutical industries, they failed to promote the “right things” for our health.

So Dr. Ackoff probably believed what they told him. And, therefore, he was like at least 95% of the scholars of his time—believing that he “needed” to eat animal protein to be healthy. Had he learned the truth about nutrition, he would’ve said that “Our meat & dairy industries have become very efficient at doing the wrong things. But when it comes to wisdom, and doing the “right things” to make us healthy, they have missed the boat completely.”

Julia Child, doing the wrong things right.

Contrast that with someone like me who is doing the right thing (in my food choices) although not doing it very well in terms of taste, variety, and presentation.

But, regardless of those things, my “doing the right thing” — eating plants—has rewarded me with far better health than if I was still doing a wonderful job of cooking and eating the wrong things—a la Julia Child.

We need more thinkers like Dr. Ackoff and we need to unlock the power of their minds by telling them the simple truth about what kind of food promotes health in the human body—whole, plant-based foods. I encourage you to watch this thought-provoking 10-minute video.

As a bonus by doing the right thing for ourselves, we also do the right thing for our planet.

Russell Lincoln Ackoff (12 February 1919 – 29 October 2009) Wikipedia. Was an American organizational theorist, consultant, and Anheuser-Busch Professor Emeritus of Management Science at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. Ackoff was a pioneer in the field of operations research, systems thinking and management science.

As an Industrial Engineering undergrad and a process improvement consultant for much of my career, I can definitely appreciate the wisdom of Dr. Ackoff. And I have always focused on “the big picture” — forever striving to do the right things for the benefit of all.

Quite simply, our system has failed us as they focus on efficiency over effectiveness and confusion over clarity. Our experts are missing the main point when it comes to promoting our health and in promoting environmental health that will foster the sustainability of the human race. A few related posts in recent weeks.

Handy 4-piece take-charge-of-your-health kit—from

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J. Morris Hicks, working daily to promote health, hope and harmony on planet Earth.

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Blogging daily at…from the seaside village of Stonington, Connecticut – Be well and have a great day.

—J. Morris Hicks, board member, T. Colin Campbell Foundation

About J. Morris Hicks

A former strategic management consultant and senior corporate executive with Ralph Lauren in New York, J. Morris Hicks has always focused on the "big picture" when analyzing any issue. In 2002, after becoming curious about our "optimal diet," he began a study of what we eat from a global perspective ---- discovering many startling issues and opportunities along the way. Leveraging his expertise in making complex things simple, he is now seeking corporate clients who are interested in slashing their cost of health care. In addition to an MBA and a BS in Industrial Engineering, he holds a certificate in plant-based nutrition from eCornell and the T. Colin Campbell Foundation, where he also sits on the board of directors.
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One Response to Doing “things right” or doing the “right thing.” Which is better?

  1. Peter says:

    I’m a little surprised that you say that you do the ‘right thing’ but not quite the ‘right way’ in that you mostly eat whole plant foods prepared simply. Haven’t you become used to and therefore enjoy eating minimally processed whole plant foods?
    I too don’t eat fancy meals but I find the minimally plant food dishes I eat, delicious. As result I don’t crave any animal products what so ever as there are so many wonderful delicious plant foods at our disposal.
    I can however see how outsiders see your food choices as boring. Whilst people see this way of eating as such then they are unlikely to adopt the ‘right way’ of eating. I’ve always felt that a key way to get people to eat more whole plant foods is to highlight recipes that are relatively simple to prepare but tasty.

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