Getting Better

18 Dec 2017 - reading

Last year, across Nov-Jan, I spent a significant amount of time in a hospital for a family emergency. I was working, but I was also reading while waiting around. One of the books I read during this time was “Better” by Atul Gwande. The book talks about certain aspects about improvement that I’ve also read in Swtich.

An empty hospital floor

The chapter titled “The Bell Curve” is one my favorite chapters. Dr. Gwande talks about cystic fibrosis treatments across the US. This is how he described the doctor at the top treatment center:

He believed that excellence came from seeing, on a daily basis, the difference between being 99.5% successful and being 99.95% successful.

It looks like they’re almost the same but over the course of a month, it adds up. Over the course of a year, it adds up even more.

A line from the conclusion of that chapter:

Even doctors with great knowledge and technical skill can have mediocre results; more nebulous factors like aggressiveness and diligence and ingenuity can matter enormously.

As a sysadmin and software engineer, my success does not depend on my skills alone. I work in a team. I can only be successful if I communicate effectively and work with the team. On that note, I’d also recommend the post “What we can learn from the Mayo Clinic” from The Farnam Street blog.

Image credit: Naoki Takano hospital (license)