money jungle

Atul Gawande’s Suggestions for Becoming a Positive Deviant

Posted in value investing by moneyjungle on March 22, 2009

Surgeon and New Yorker writer Atul Gawande‘s book Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance is a fantastic book. Beyond being a well-written, revealing look into the medical profession, I think it has a lot to offer investors, as its topic concerns improving performance in a complicated and uncertain field.

Throughout the book, Gawande discusses the concept of “positive deviants” — doctors whose outcomes are much better than the averages would predict. He describes how several physicians have advanced their craft by adopting techniques that go beyond the typical standards of care, like how Warren Warwick became the most successful cystic fibrors doctor, and how the Apgar Score transformed obstetrics.

Here is a paraphrased summary of Gawande’s suggestions for how to become a positive deviant:

1. Ask an unscripted question: you start to remember the people you see, instead of letting them all blur teogether. and sometimes you discover the unexpected… if you ask a question, the machine begins to feel less like a machine
2. Don’t complain: its boring, it doesn’t solve anything, and it will get you down
3. Count something: regarless of what ultimately does in medicine — or outside medicine, for that matter — one should be a scientist in this world. In the simplest terms, this means one should count something….the only requirement is that what you count should be interesting to you… if you count something you find interesting, you will learn something interesting.
4. Write something: i do not mean this to be an intimidating suggestion…what you write need not achieve perfection. it need only add some small observation about the world.
5. Change: make yourself an early adopter. look for the opportunity to change… be willing to recognize the inadecuacies in what you do and seek out solutions

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