My story: As a seasoned executive with experience in hospital and academic administration, I have … Read More
I had a wonderful opportunity to speak to an international group of regulators, dedicated to protecting the public by ensuring quality and safe clinical care globally. Technology is shifting how we regulate and practice, and this was a unique dialogue to model emerging technologies. Please take the time to listen and be prepared to be stunned by what is unfolding in healthcare!
The book entitled Brilliant Mistakes by Paul J.H. Schoemaker has intrigued me. So many efforts in health care relate to AVOIDING mistakes — AT ALL COST — and these efforts serve to remind us of the dire consequences that medical errors can have on life and limb. In no way do I trivialize medical error; quite the opposite. Have we pushed the subject of making mistakes too far, though, discouraging the benefits that come when they occur? Can the lessons that are derived from making mistakes lead us to fewer of them in the long run? A closer look provided by Schoemaker reveals four types of mistakes:
- A tragic mistake – the kind that should be avoided when caring for others. The cost of life, limb, career, reputation and more is simply too detrimental to all involved, so are to be “wholly avoided.”
- A serious mistake – can also have a high cost, but can yield tremendous life lessons in retrospect.
- A trivial mistake – is one with low impact, but also low reward. When I don’t take enough change with me to plug the parking meter and end up with a ticket is an example of a trivial mistake.
- A brilliant mistake – are those mistakes that offer high benefits at a relatively low cost. Taking an exam and not passing it the first time around has enormous benefits — you now know what you should have known — and can correct your course for the future. In the short-term, it might appear catastrophic, but in the longer term, it provides critical reflective feedback!
Brilliant mistakes require that “something go wrong far beyond the range of prior expectation” and, “this allows for deep new insights to emerge whose benefits far exceed the cost of the original mistake.
I observe that educators really dislike letting their students make brilliant mistakes. Too often these educators try to teach to achieve perfection, thereby avoiding the resultant wisdom that comes from helping someone remediate the problem they got into, to begin with. Wisdom is the byproduct of new insights – what is sometimes called critical thinking. Doing something right the first time is great, but it doesn’t lead to profound knowing. So, too, leaders and managers want their programs and services to be flawless. It takes perspective and skill to lead a team away from tragic and serious mistakes, minimizing the managerial effort spent on trivial mistakes and then letting go so the team can make and learn from brilliant mistakes. As a consultant who is usually on a tight time frame to get things accomplished, I have to fight the urge to fix something NOW, rather than trusting the process and facilitating deep learning that is derived from brilliant mistakes.
Risk managers are well-intended professionals who do deep dives into organizational problems. Combining subjective and objective information, they study decision-making, the design and strength of processes in place and outcomes. These prevention specialists are critical, but their presence can also lead to an unintended consequence — risk aversion that is tied to professional pride. Professionals need to learn from their mistakes; it makes us aware of what we do and don’t know, giving us wisdom. The wise risk manager will help us learn what evidence was present or missing and give us a chance to learn through reliable feedback. This feedback is the foundation for true peer- and self-review.
Shoemaker offers in Appendix A the “23 Errors of Einstein.” Each error of judgment – even by Einstein – is documented and leads to . . . well, you know the rest of the story.
Paul J. H. Schoemaker (2011). Brilliant Mistakes: Finding Success on the Far Side of Failure. Philadelphia: Wharton Digital Press
The above link takes you to a great news story! It highlights the states in the nation with the highest per capita number of men in the nursing discipline. Who would have thought that Nebraska would rank number one with 20%? I’ve had the great pleasure of working with two of the students featured here: Ben – whose brother had his leg amputated at an early age, giving him exposure to nurses – and Baker, a former Husker linebacker, a second-career student and relates nursing as a career where a team-based environment is needed. Nursing lacks diversity and we are far behind the other health professions, nearly all of whom are about at the 50-50 gender mark. I’m proud of both of these students and am glad to have been able to influence them along their journey.
At the end of the day, we need “all qualified and capable” hands on deck to meet the health care needs of our nation.
And while we’re at it, check out page 10 – 13 of the magazine link below. I’ve been a huge fan of Talent + since working with them on executive development and the selection of the right kinds of students to enroll at a College where I was President and Dean. This explains a new way of thinking about talent. Not everyone who wants to be a nurse necessarily should be. Innate abilities matter. Hope this gives some insight into evidence-based science used to advance the impact of individuals in their respective fields of work and in the organizations where they serve.