What causes failure?

What causes failure?

We plan, we work hard, we are sure that we have done it all right – and then WHAM!!! – it all falls apart, like we had no idea of what we were doing or where we were going.

What just happened? Ever get that feeling…?

Sometimes we blame Murphy – as in Murphy’s Law.

Sometimes we blame Karma.

Or Kismet.

Or we just say “C’est la vie,” or as is expressed in American slang.

But sometimes all of the above is a mere cop-out, an excuse, a lack of accountability – you get the picture.

I was reading a review of a book called The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right, by Atul Gawande.

A professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School – Gawande believes that simple checklists can help us better navigate the growing complexity of our ever more complicated world.

Truth is – he focuses more on medicine, and the results are staggering – but the checklist as he defines it was actually pioneered by the U.S. Air Force and his description of the way the checklist was followed (two, in fact, at the same time!!) by Captain Chesley Sullenberger as he landed his stricken jetliner in the Hudson River is amazing, instructive and gets the thinking going….

Truth is – I am a big believer in “Blink” moments – but as intuitive as I think we need to be, there is something to be said for making sure that we are also competent….

Gawande writes (talking about medicine – but it applies) that the problem is “making sure we apply the knowledge we have consistently and correctly.”

In The New York Times Book ReviewSandeep Jauhar, the reviewer, writes, “Failure, he argues, results not so much from ignorance (not knowing enough about what works) as from ineptitude (not properly applying what we know works).”

So here is the thing…

The most used list I have seen, over the past few years, is the one I see in many conference rooms to guide one through the intricacies of turning on the AV system – and maybe – just maybe – therein lies a piece of the problem.

What I’d like to suggest is that we combine the “Blink” moment with the “Checklist” – link our rational “go down the checklist” side with our intuitive, passionate “I feel it” side.

In fact I’d argue strongly that if you have heard Captain Sullenberger or read his interviews – that is just what he did – went by the checklist but added his deep intuition and passion.

All of which leads me to the following:

My feeling about technique in art is that it has about the same value as technique in lovemaking. Heartfelt ineptitude has its appeal and so does heartless skill; but what you want is passionate virtuosity.

John Barth

A final anecdote:

In the Army there was a saying – If someone was smart and passionate they made him a field officer because they are the ones who lead the troops into combat and need the combination of the two. If someone was smart and lazy they made him an HQ officer because the smarts were valued and it was OK to be 9 to 5. On the other hand, if you were stupid and lazy they made you a parade sergeant because you could strut around all day. BUT – if you were stupid and industrious they took you out to be shot – because you were the one who was going to get everyone else killed.

And there you have it – passionate virtuosity – the Blink and the Checklist….

What do you think?

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