I Want to Get Morbid About Innovation

ComplicationsInnovation is all about looking outside your industry to find new opportunities. At futurethink, we try and live that adage. From a personal standpoint, I try to read a new book every week – books that have nothing to do with innovation or the business world. It’s always refreshing. And there are always lessons to be learned.

Here’s a great example, I just got done with a book called “Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science“, by Atul Gawande. Gawande, a doctor, writes for the New Yorker, and focuses on subjects in the medical world.

Most of us think of medicine as a perfect science with precise tools and technologies. We fall ill, we trust doctors to know exactly what’s wrong with us, and expect them to provide precise care and advice. But, in “Complications”, Gawande offers a fascinating look at the human side of medicine. He reminds us that ultimately, doctors are human beings, and there is always a margin of error, unpredictability, and chaos that we simply haven’t come to terms with.

What’s the innovation lesson here? Well, I learned about “Mortality and Morbidity” sessions that are part of the way large hospitals function. Every week, residents and doctors meet to discuss mistakes made in the care of patients. The goal is to learn from failure, adjust behavior, and prevent similar instances from happening again. What a noble effort.

Apparently, M&M meetings (or so they’re called) have long been the tradition in medicine going back to the early 1900s. They’ve been cited as a major reason why the world of medicine has been so good at adapting, evolving, and minimizing the danger faced by patients. They’re so successful that the CDC (the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) publishes a weekly magazine called the MMWR (Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Report) that is free to download for the global medical community.

Failure is such a dirty word in business. More often than not, we’re far too busy covering up our mistakes. Just imagine what we in the business world could learn from something like this. Imagine a monthly M&M meeting in your offices where you talk about project failures, and what you learned from them. Imagine how this could substantially improve your innovation efforts.


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