The Bone-Headed Doctor
Reading Time: 4.6 minutes
To say that Hakeem Riley was at the cutting edge of his profession would have been a good joke, but you’d probably have to tell him why it was funny. He never really got humor.
You see, Dr Riley was one of the world’s leading experts on 3D printing. But, not any-old printing. He was the king of a new field of orthopedic surgery. He had developed machines that printed bones into the bodies of patients during surgery. It was as revolutionary as it was astounding. He was justifiably internationally famous.
Imagine Hakeem’s background. A middle class, black kid brought up in Center City, Philadelphia. In high school he excelled in math, biology, chemistry, physics, and computer science. He won lots of prizes and lots of praise. Deservedly so.
There was one slight problem, though. When it came to understanding other people, he had some Swiss-cheese holes in his personality. Not that he was unkind or uncharitable. His religious parents made sure he understood (at least intellectually) what was right and wrong, but beyond that he really didn’t get people. Not the way everyone else did. He simply missed the subtle hints and tells that most of us understand intuitively. He meant no harm. Most people knew that.
After a stellar progress through the Perelman School of Medicine at UPenn, his career careened into the stratosphere. Now, at 55, Hakeem found himself owning not only 100% of a topflight medical technology business, but also the patent to his particular method of printing bones in people. Hakeem3DMedical was, up to this point, a brilliant success. That’s when everything started to fall apart, until he learned one heck of a lesson.
Luckily, back when he was an intern, he had met a strong, emotionally incisive young grad called Amy who could see his faults and loved his far-sighted brilliance. They married and had three kids. In the early days, when Hakeem started his company, she had the good sense to guide him through his “difficult” moments with his customers and staff. Of course, those days were long gone.
He had a couple of good people who worked for him from the start. Chief among them was his friend Bradley. Brad was very smart and flexible. He helped develop the patent and acted as a vice president overseeing financial and human resource issues.
Around this time, things started to change.
The world of medical technology moves quickly. Competitors rise up. They challenged and changed the ground beneath Hakeem’s feet. One company, called Enkronistia, was always a couple of months ahead of Hakeem’s plans. It was infuriating. And, depressing. Weird.
One day, Hakeem came home from work, feeling mentally drained. In the kitchen, his always-irritable teenage daughter sat staring at her iPhone, working frantically at it with her thumbs. She didn’t look up. He desperately wanted to avoid any arguments or temper tantrums so, with his last grain of mental strength, he tried to remember the name of the boy she was keen on. That would be safe ground.
Hakeem’s daughter glanced him with an expression of contemptuous disgust and returned to her iPhone. She murmured, “He’s dead.”
It took a few tumbling seconds of confusion for Hakeem to realize that she meant she and Elijah were no longer … dating. Or even interested. As far as she was concerned, Elijah was as good as dead.
Hakeem shifted to automatic mode. “I’m sorry to hear that. He seemed like a nice guy.”
She snarled. “Yeah, well, I found out what he’s really like.”
Fearing he was wading into deep water, Hakeem nodded. “Oh. Right.” He quickly headed outside to sit on the back deck and stare at the trees. Amy would probably provide the details later on … privately. He had enough on his plate right now. He didn’t need any adolescent angst outbursts to add to his misery.
Back at work, Hakeem found himself staring absently out of the floor-to-ceiling window of his office. An unpleasant thought had been growing in his mind over the last few weeks. Enkronistia. Always a couple of months ahead. Making announcements just before his. Maybe, someone was helping his competitor. Someone on his own staff.
For a reason he could not define, his suspicious mind often settled on his chief finance officer Kimberley Frosthaven. Like Brad, she had been with the company from the start, but she was the one who always had the latest information about Enkronistia. Kimberley seemed loyal enough, but she was decidedly cool when she had to work with Bradley. Not a good sign.
Hakeem told Amy about his suspicions. She pursed her lips and thought for a moment. She knew all these people … through the power of her intuition, she knew them much better than Hakeem ever would.
Amy shook her head. “It’s not her. You’ll have to keep looking.”
Hakeem took his wife’s judgment seriously but had no direction to pursue.
“If it’s not her. Who could it be?”
Amy waved her hand dismissively. “Don’t know. Do something different. Challenge Enkronistia.” But, then she stopped. She’d had a thought. “I know. You should pay closer attention to your daughter.”
She showed Hakeem the program that their daughter had been using with her friends, male and female. “It analyzes their messages. Gives you an extra insight. Lord knows, you might learn something.”
As soon as he got back to his office, Hakeem put Kimberley’s messages on Slack through the MercurySays system. It was fascinating. It said that everything she wrote was utterly sincere. She was being serious, forceful, and convinced. Hakeem was a little shocked to see that Kimberley believed she was plain-speaking, alert, and trustworthy. That was pretty much how he saw her … until recently.
That afternoon, Enkronistia released another statement about their latest advance. Hakeem forwarded the text to Bradley. What did his trusted colleague think?
Maybe Hakeem caught his friend at a bad moment. Maybe he was distracted.
Bradley’s answer was short and sour. “I am not interested.”
Then, without thinking, Hakeem put Bradley’s brief message through MercurySays. He stared at his computer screen.
According to MercurySays, Brad was feeling determined, unrestrained, and focused. Okay. Seemed normal enough. But, the program then suggested that Bradley believed he was being cautious. That didn’t quite fit. And that he was being influential and involved. Hakeem saw none of that in Brad’s response.
He felt a bit uncertain. Then, he read MercurySays’ answer to “Is their message sincere?’ The result was “mostly no.”
Huh? Not sincere?
Of course, that was not the end of the matter. Hakeem was no fool. He assessed many more of Bradley’s messages. Most were perfectly fine, but there were quite a few that suggested his feelings and his self-belief did not add up. They weren’t aligned.
Then, Hakeem did something that would never have previously crossed his mind. He rang the CEO of Enkronistia.
A receptionist took his call.
“Hello. It’s Hakeem …” He was about to say “Riley” when the receptionist interrupted.
“Hakeem3DMedical?” There was a moment’s pause.
He stuttered a reply, “Er, yes.”
“I’ll put you through.”
A little confused, Hakeem waited a second or two before he heard a voice he recognized. It was the CEO of Enkronistia who said, “Hey Brad. Are we getting there? Is Hakeem dead yet?”