Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Foolishness revisited

In a post last month, I talked about Dr. James G. March's ideas on the value of foolishness in business. In the Harvard Business Review interview (link - $$) that served as the basis for that post, Dr. March cited one bit of foolishness that can have good consequences for business: that of borrowing ideas from another domain.

Today's Wall Street Journal illustrated just this concept in its front-page article on how one British hospital is borrowing processes from Ferrari's Formula 1 pit crew to improve its operating room to intensive care transfers, and thereby reduce fatalities.

The teams compared their processes, which, as March would point out, have far more differences than similarities. That's the foolish part. Yet within those differences, several similarities stuck out, one more than any other: small mistakes could accrue into serious problems (for the F1 team, that meant a slow pit stop; for the surgeons, a much worse result).

Defining a shared goal of identifying and rooting out the tiny mistakes allowed the doctors to determine which of the F1 team's processes to copy and how they should copy them.

Resulting in lower error rates (40% lower), and, over the long run, likely a lower fatality rate. All from some foolish thinking.

(Picture: cover of "Ferrari Formula 1: Under The Skin of the Championship-Winning F1-2000" via motorsportscollector.com)

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