Complications, by Atul Gawande
This book ranks high in my list of great reads. (Thanks Venkat). In Complications, Atul Gawande writes about his experiences as surgical resident in a Boston hospital. His main intent is to show how medicine is really practiced -- the story behind the story. And in doing so, he highlights the messiness, the ambiguity and the uncertainties under which surgeons have to make decisions (usually tradeoffs).
This book is also one of the best books on organizational learning that I've read. It gives an in-depth look at the learning demands in a complex environment -- the risks, the fallibleness, the mysteries and the uncertainties of it all. The first chapter -- Education of a Knife -- should be a must-read for all of us in the learning industry. Here's the gist of the chapter:
"The thing that still startles me is how fundamentally human an endeavor it [medicine] is. Usually, when we think about medicine and its remarkable abilities, what comes to mind is the science and all it has given us to fight sickness and misery... But we rarely see how it all works. You have a cough that won't go away -- and then? It's not science you call upon but a doctor. A doctor with good days and bad days. A doctor with a weird laugh and a bad haircut. A doctor with three other patients to see and, inevitably, gaps in what he knows and skills he's still trying to learn."
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