Failure and Rescue
Atul Gawande and How Failures can be Turned Around
Atul Gawande makes some key points about failure that arose through contemplation about some stories about particular individuals who have faced increadible hardships, namely, surviving the Holocaust and then having to deal with some of the harshers aspects of being human and having to age. Gawande tells the story of Mrs. C. and her inherient value system that developed based on some of the events in her life that she has had to overcome. After surviving the Holocaust with her family, much of her self-worth was derived from her ability to remain independent and contribute to society. However, after reaching the age of eighty-seven, Mrs. C. suffered an episode in which she lost her vision and required an immediate surgery in order to have the possibility to regain her sight. The medical team was so focused on the primary health issue, the operation and following recovery, that they largely overlooked another major issue that nearly cost the patient her life.
The moral of the story is that virtually everyone in a professional position faces complexity and uncertainty in their work and therefore all face the risk of failure at nearly every corner. Although many professions have learned advanced skills and techniques that allow for the risks to be minimized, they are still there in many forms. Gawande further cites some research that offers some suprising insights into how the most competent professions with the best results are able to perform significantly better than their peers. While many would assume (as Gawande did) that some surgeons are just simply better at their jobs, are more competent, and subsequently have fewer complications that arise, the research conducted by a team at the University of Michigan suggests otherwise.
The research suggests that it isn’t the initial competencies that make the difference in the overall performance, rather it is the ability to deal with the problems that arise when things go wrong — and things always go wrong. Gawande further develops this concept that he refers to as the “failure to rescue.” The failure to rescue someone, or something, when things go bad is the concept that seperates the average performers from the exceptional ones. For example, the really great surgeons in the study were the one’s that were truly adept at rescuing the patients that experienced complications, rather than preventing the complications in the first place. Gawande states that his advice to the students is this:
“So you will take risks, and you will have failures. But it’s what happens afterward that is defining. A failure often does not have to be a failure at all. However, you have to be ready for it — will you admit when things go wrong? Will you take steps to set them right? — because the difference between triumph and defeat, you’ll find, isn’t about willingness to take risks. It’s about mastery of rescue (Gawande, 2012).”
This advice is directly relevant with the personal struggles that I have personally had recently in regards to academic intergrity. I took some major risks, even though I was unaware of the extent of these risks at the time in which I was taking them. By not properly citing someone else’s work, I was accused of plagerism and violating the school’s academic integrity policy. I understand why I took these risks. For example, I was pressed for time and was in a rush. Also, I did not really fully understand the proper way to paraphrase and cite someone else’s work and learning more about the proper way to do this seemed too time consuming when I was writing.
However, the lesson learned through this experience was invaluable on many differnet levels. So long as I am given another opportunity, it could be viewed as a master rescue in the sense that I now understand exactly how valuable proper citations are and exactly how large the risks are when not properly citing other’s work properly. It has often been said that the best lessons are the ones you learn the hard way. I think this applies to me in this situation given the fact that I’ve had to face the consequences of plagerism, which I now know are not worth the risks related to saving a few moments by not citing properly. Thus, if given a second chance, this issue will be one that I will never have to face again because of the perspective that I have gained.
Gawande, A. (2012, June 2). Failure and Rescue. Retrieved from The New Yorker: http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/failure-and-rescue
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