I've been thinking about the role of the honest outsider in holding the mirror up to organizations. Two elements got me there - The League of Denial, the PBS documentary on Football that came out earlier this fall and Reza Aslan's book on Jesus, Zealot: The life and times of Jesus of Nazareth.
To start, let's talk about Dr. Bennet Omalu, who first identified the traumatic brain condition that is commonplace among American football players, CTE. The forensic pathologist conducted the autopsy of Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike Webster in 2002 after Webster died of a heart attack at 50.
|Dr. Bennet Omalu from |
his twitter page @bennetomalu9168
Omalu is a Nigerian by birth who knew little about American football as a game - he didn't watch it even though he live in a football-crazy city, didn't know anything about the legendary Webster. All he knew was that he was conducting the autopsy of a 50-year old man whose brain showed the wear and tear of a 75-year-old. The game had battered his body, but even more, his brain. In his role as a neuropathologist, he discovered the kind of a trauma he'd never have expected - a condition called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. The condition causes depression, memory loss, and sometimes dementia.
Omalu’s lack of reverence for the player meant that he was respectful, caring, persistent, thoughtful and ultimately absolutely the right person to work on Webster. He served Webster and his family in ways no fan ever did – he discovered the truth behind Webster’s tragic last years of pain and suffering and showed that it was the disease, not the man, that was flawed.