I joined a book club for a national conference for SGIM 2016! And, I thought the choice of the book was interesting. The night before the book club meeting, well past midnight, I finally finished the book and realized that I felt inspired.
Books offer a new world of thoughts, ideas, and inspiration. Ed Catmull in Creativity Inc. has laid out the truth about organizations and happiness on the personal and professional fronts. I am sure that many book critics and experts can truly dissect the anatomy of this book, and probably much more accurately than me. However, I wanted to share a few themes that left me inspired as a physician and as a person.
Empowering quality inherently
Catmull writes about giving ownership and responsibility of a product’s quality to the people who are most involved in its creation. According to him this “resulted in continuous improvement driving out flaws and improving quality.” He takes the example from other industries and applies to animation. When I read this, I wonder about the multiple businesses that choose to pursue errors and mistakes in a responsible and candid fashion. How did they start their journey? How did they overcome obstacles? And, how did they strengthen this system over time. In medicine, we routinely care for people across their life-cycle, birth through death. Some of the actions we take have significant consequences on people’s lives, including patients, families, and colleagues. However, have we evolved into a system that chooses to empower by allowing candor when quality is at stake? Healthcare should look to evolve into a system that allows those who work within it to report flaws and thus allow continuous improvement. This requires alignment on internal and external factors if we are to be successful.
Our lives are unbalanced right now. We have this sense that in order to be successful and proud of our productivity, we must be dedicated to our work above and beyond any other commitment. Is this true? As Catmull states,
“if we are in this for the long haul, we have to take care of ourselves, support healthy habits, and encourage employees to have fulfilling lives outside of work.”
Fulfillment outside of work is hard to attain and harder to require. Physician burnout, depression, suicides, and shift work are some of the phrases we hear commonly now in medical literature. There is a plethora of ongoing research in this realm, yet, we are not able to solve for the “x”. What is the x-factor? Why do physicians cope with life in medicine in varying degrees? How can we make personal fulfillment be acknowledged as a step to professional fulfillment?
Fail early and fail fast
One of my favorites! This is a very important motto in this book and credited to Andrew Stanton. Catmull explains that failure is akin to
“learning to ride a bike; it is inconceivable that you would learn to do this without making mistakes be wrong as fast as you can.”
The concept is that when you are in pursuit of a goal, you must start somewhere. Start and then see how things go. At the worst, you fail. But, you can always decide to try again in a more novel way. The most basic example of this in medicine is running ACLS codes. Circulation is key and the goal is to start compressions if no pulse. Then, if you think there is a shockable rhythm, deliver shock. Still no pulse? Start again! Beyond the ACLS codes however, this is not as apparent, although it is embedded in most of our processes. On a personal front, this is so important to me. I remember planning my wedding and I toiled with the ideas of centerpieces. Days were spent deciding which flowers, colors, height. But at some point, we picked one and moved on. Was it tough to pick one? Yes. Was it life-altering? No. Lesson – pick one and move on!
On Mental Models (my absolute favorite!)
“We are meaning making creatures who made other people subtle clues just as they read ours. All we need is a tiny bit of information to make huge leaps of inference based on our models.”
That is true! Furthermore, in the book, they mention that less than 50% of what we think we “see” comes in through our eyes; the remainder is constructed from patterns and memory. Can you believe this number? If our feedback to others is based solely on our sight perception, how can we be sure we saw what actually occurred. Think about it this way: I can remember where I parked in a large airport parking lot for a total of 10 mins. When I come back from a 2-day trip, I use my parking ticket with space number to recall where my car would be. If I am asked to provide feedback to a resident from an event that occurred few days ago, how much of my perception is now accurate? More so, how much of my previous interactions with residents will influence how I remember the event? And if my perception is an approximation with 50% chance of being incorrect, then,
“the conclusions we draw cannot be helped but be prone to error.”
In medicine and medical education, we should be acutely aware of this phenomenon. What we “see” is not actually what we “see.”
Catmull has discussed many more ideas and concepts on being a more “creative” organization. Like he says, this book is not meant to give directions on how to grow creativity, but how to enrich the soil in which creativity can grow. He provided an avenue for his best people to share their best ideas and their mistakes. Of course, I am not going to list everything because I want you to go read the book. This is a FANTASTIC book for ANYONE! Why? Because it makes you think about the movies you love the most. Because in this book Catmull helps us realize that the animation process is exactly that, it is a process. It has a beginning, middle, and end. Everything that happens in those stages is the true magic – the magic of coming together as people, not employers and employees. But as people with an ability to create and the need to experience fulfillment.