Gawande:: to err is human [or don’t mess with complexity!]

@atul_gawande by pixbymaia

@atul_gawande by pixbymaia (Photo credit: pixbymaia)

OK, so this isn’t quite what Atul Gawande says in his excellent book, ‘The Checklist Manifesto’ (link to title on Amazon) but, when highly skilled people whom we trust to see us across thousands of miles of open sea in an aircraft or through a critical 6 hour surgery, it may as well be! It is a strikingly similar message to that promoted by Nassim [Black Swan] Taleb and, implicitly, by Ontonix.

I don’t know about you but, if I am going on a transatlantic flight, under the knife or entrusting a lifetime’s worth of savings to an expert, I really don’t care that they may use a checklist to improve their chances of success! Rather that than rely upon a fluffy mascot, lucky bandana or some other such nonsense!image


When I first encouraged people to read Gawande’s book (over 2 years ago) I hadn’t actually read the full text but have, since then, read it twice in quick succession…it IS that good.

Now, I’m not a medical person nor am I a pilot but that isn’t really the point I want to make. It isn’t the point Gawande is making either.

Even after years of study, vocational training and hands-on experience, when we are dealing with complex systems, it is not adequate merely to prepare for known risks.

According to Zadeh’s Principle of Incompatibility “high complexity is incompatible with high accuracy”. So, no matter how well-practised the technique or familiar-looking the territory, the message is that there should be little (or no) room for assumption. Accepting the nature of complexity and preparing for uncertainty is the ONLY practical course…irrespective of whether the system is biological, technological, financial, etc.

Does it strike anyone else as strange that, when the early signs of system failure are quantified in thousands of feet per second, heart rate or units of blood the well-being of the whole system, in ‘real-time’, is recognised as critical, yet, when quantified in GBP, USD or similar, success or failure is measured against the metrics of past, peer or projected performance rather than upon the actual ‘health’ of the system?

As Gawande touches on in the book, there was a study in the early 70’s that identified the difference between ignorance and ineptitude. To paraphrase: ignorance is ‘acceptable’ if you lack knowledge or tools but, if either/both are available but not used, is ineptitude.

On this basis, the INEPTITUDE of financial experts across our entire Financial Services sector – from economists to central bankers and traders – globally, accounts for the premature death of individual [business] systems

But it is too pre-occupied with metrics that fit to their fuzzy image of financial well-being whilst the heart rate of national economies slow or stall. The reality is that their techniques are no more scientific that those of tribal witch doctors!

Arrogance, greed and ineptitude are harmful to the health of society and ‘wealth of nations’ provide your customers’ the evidence to PROVE it or the TRANSPARENCY to show you can be trusted to do the job.

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