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March 2010

Surprise! Checklists are not the Antithesis of Creativity (or Progress)

As an "idea person", I'm somewhat averse to checklists (except maybe for the pre-flight packing checklists from TravelSmith). After reading Atul Gawande's The Checklist Manifesto, however, I'm starting to think that Checklists may be for both thinkers and doers.

A practiced surgeon, Gawande has proven that checklists in the operating room save lives. He has observed how other professions benefit from this approach, and has brought back field notes from multiple markets, including the aviation industry, the source of the safety checklist.
Checklist manifesto

Putting a process in place to manage the details can facilitate teamwork with an "ensemble cast" of players. The "Miracle on the Hudson" story of US Airways Flight 1549 last January was more than covered by the media. Gawande, however, walks through little known details. The pilot and co-pilot had never worked together before, and the rudimentary pre-flight checklists enabled them to discuss their respective skill sets, meet with the crew and smoothly handle the baton pass when things went awry. I walked through this section of the book with a team of 6th graders prior to their Destination Imagination tournament on Saturday. They were tired after six hours of tournament day, but they found the story fresh and relevant.

I misplace ideas regularly, many of them lost forever on errant sticky notes. I'm planning to take more notes in "checklist form" to make sure they're put to better use.