Sunday, October 10, 2010

Better is possible

"...better is possible. It does not take genius. It takes diligence. It takes moral clarity. It takes ingenuity. And above all, it takes a willingness to try."

This line from Atul Gawande's "Better" sums up the book - "a surgeon's notes on performance". It is an amazing book. To be honest, I felt a little bored while reading the first three chapters which are about how doctors in three different, yet trying circumstances overcome difficulties to succeed. But that only served as a backdrop to make the point Gawande was trying to emphasize - better is possible.

In the medical field, as in any other profession, you have people who go about their job as a matter of routine. Like an everyday chore. They do not have any real passion for their job. And then you have what Gawande calls the "positive deviants", the people who raise the bar, the people who dream about their job in their sleep, those who constantly improve not only their own abilities but also the system.

Medicine is full of such examples. These are the people due to which we have innovations. The human body is terribly complex. To innovate in treating such a complicated system has its pitfalls. The risks are great. Yet, we find individuals who have the willingness to try and the ingenuity to back this determination. Fortune, as they say, favors the brave.

Very often, in our jobs, it is easy to 'fit in'. You have set processes. You have established procedures. It is easy for us to follow them. In doing that, however, we lose out on improvising. We lose out on finding new and better systems. Most of us go about our lives in this manner. It is important to come out of our comfort zones, to take risks and try to be better. It is the "positive deviants" that make an impact on the world around us. It is these people who actually change the world.

In the medical profession, more than any other profession, this is so important. The impact of such endeavors is much more because it is human suffering that is being addressed. The effect is much more fundamental to our existence. It is more basic than developing a nice-to-have gadget, for example.

People in the medical profession should definitely read this book. Others will also take away a lot from it.

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