Almost three years ago, in Febraury 2010 (yeah, I know – three years!) the Economist ran a supplement called “The Data Deluge“, about Big Data and how it was transforming businesses all over the world. In the middle of the supplement was an article called ‘Clicking for Gold‘, in which there’s a quote from Tim O’Reilly, who says that companies like Google, Amazon and Facebook ‘…are uncomfortable bringing so much attention to this because it is at the heart of their competitive advantage. Data are the coin of the realm. They have a big lead over other companies that do not ‘get’ this.’ For the intervening time, I’ve been quoting this to telcos all over the world, and they nod their heads, and – for the most part – don’t do much about it.
I think the strength of the book comes not just from the numerous real-life evidence based examples but how the author shows how checklists are not just for simple problems anymore but can also be applied in complex situations, where the focus is not on tasks to-be-done but on communication and sign off. Turns out this social media stuff aligned with something as mundane as a checklist can be very very powerful.
It is an easy read and I would recommend it heartily to anyone with any outsider experience of complex medicine. For example, did you know the average clinic-based doctor in a single year diagnoses over 250 different conditions and prescribes over 300 different types of medication? No wonder it is so hard to prevent complications.
So where does Einstein fit in to all this. One of my favorite Einstein quotes is
It can scarcely be denied that the supreme goal of all theory is to make the irreducible basic elements as simple and as few as possible without having to surrender the adequate representation of a single datum of experience.
or as it is often paraphrased
Make things as simple as possible, but not simpler.
Turns out that his quote is one of the fundamental constructs for a good checklist.