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Written by Lisa Shepherd
on September 21, 2011

For as long as I can remember I have started off the day by creating either a mental or written checklist of what I need to accomplish. Some days, of course, do not always pan out the way I would like, and I end up starting the next day with practically the same list as the day before. But regardless, a checklist system keeps me from forgetting anything.

So when I received a recommendation to read the book ‘Checklist Manifesto’ by Atul Gawande, I was keen to learn about the history behind my daily habit.

I was not surprised to discover that checklists originated in aviation as a result of the highly complicated dashboard that pilots need to operate. Surprisingly, it has taken years for the healthcare industry to take checklists seriously and incorporate them routinely into surgeries and other much needed procedures. It is astounding to read how many people have died as a result of human errors that could have been prevented with a simple checklist.

As Atul Gawande pointed out, there is still a lot of resistance with the use of checklists in hospitals and they are not as widely used as one would think. But when healthcare professionals were asked if they themselves were in hospital having an operation would they prefer that their care was being managed via checklist, an overwhelming 93% reported yes!

As the author points out, there is virtually no business or industry that would not benefit from use of checklists. I enjoyed reading how many venture capitalists use a checklist when determining whether or not a company is worth investing in. The notion behind the saying, ‘if it looks good on paper than it is’ definitely rivals the notion of just going with your gut. There has been increasingly a trend in just ‘going with your gut’. But when Atul Gawande recounts numerous examples of how checklists repeatedly prevailed among gut reactions it really makes you ponder the balance between gut reaction and following a sequential proven process.

Given today’s fast paced lifestyle and the incredibly busy and complex world that we live in do we need something more concrete than our guts to get us through our days?

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