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Blog : BOARD TALK

A Riddle To Make Us Think

Posted on February 18, 2011 at 10:30 AM

A well-known riddle - with implications for boardrooms, and just about everything.


A father and son have a car accident and are both badly hurt. They are both taken to separate hospitals. When the boy is taken in for an operation, the surgeon (doctor) says 'I can not do the surgery because this is my son'. How is this possible?


The answer is simple. The surgeon is his mother. But you would be surprised how many people struggle with it. Malcolm Gladwell and many others have used the riddle as an example of in-built prejudices we all have.


Horrified though I am at myself, I have to put my hand up and say when I first heard it I struggled. But gratfiyingly, my son did not hesitate. At least to him, it was obvious. It has a lot to do with the way we are brought up, and how we learn to look at the world.


The media at large in the UK often does not help.Sometimes I wonder why I ever switch R4 off for BBC  Breakfast on the telly. This morning there was talk of coverage later on how Michelle Obama has become a 'style icon.' Not even a new story, let alone a news one. It would be nice if they also threw in that the First Lady is a graduate of Princeton and Harvard Law, with an established career in the public sector.


But I digress. Back to the boardroom.


Reed Elsevier plc has appointed Adrian Henna, currently CFO of Smith & Nephew plc, as a NED, and Lord Sharman is stepping down. At least this company has two women on its boards - Lisa Hook has been a NED since 2006 and is on the board of the plc and Reed Elsevier NV, while Marike van Lier Lels joined the supervisory board of Reed Elsevier NV in 2009.



Categories: Behaviour, Women, Appointments