FHC #107: Amy C. Edmonson on ‘failing well’ in medicine

It’s no secret that doctors hold themselves to incredibly high standards, driven by a dedication to patients and a desire to save lives. It’s also understood that, in medicine, self-imposed high standards are fully reinforced by colleagues, administrators and an endless chain of performance metrics.

However, less commonly understood (and almost never discussed) is how the pursuit of 24/7 perfection creates an environment where people are afraid to admit their wrongdoings, failures and limitations. The fear of making mistakes or acknowledging uncertainties frequently deters healthcare professionals from voicing concerns or proposing innovative solutions.

This kind of psychological safety vacuum has adverse consequences, says Amy C. Edmonson, the Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management at the Harvard Business School and a nationally recognized expert in leadership. She is the author of the new book “Right Kind of Wrong: The Science of Failing Well.”

In this episode of Fixing Healthcare, Edmondson discusses:

  • The two situations in medicine where it’s both okay and desirable to fail.
  • How inclusive leaders can make medicine a journey of continuous learning.
  • The need to create environments of psychological safety.
  • The failure of the medical education system to create a ‘teaming’ mindset.
  • The benefits of hierarchy in medicine and the conditions necessary for it to succeed.
  • Much, much more.

Tune in for the full interview and join the conversation on social media.

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Dr. Robert Pearl is the author of a book about medicine’s invisible yet highly influential physician culture. Check out “Uncaring: How Physician Culture Is Killing Doctors & Patients.” All profits from the book go to Doctors Without Borders.

Fixing Healthcare is a co-production of Dr. Robert Pearl and Jeremy Corr. Subscribe to the show via Apple, Spotify, Stitcher or wherever you find podcasts. Join the conversation or suggest a guest by following the show on Twitter and LinkedIn.