Tuesday Teamwork

Researchers from Harvard Business School studied the learning curve of surgeons. The new technique was a delicate but minimally invasive heart operation. The researchers followed 18 separate surgeons and their teams. The teams had to work on 15 separate cases and learn and display their proficiency after 3 days of practice.

After 3 days, one of the researchers compared the surgeon who diplayed the highest proficiency and the surgeon who displayed the lowest proficiency. Interestingly, one of these surgeons was only a few years out of medical residency; the other a surgeon with many years of experience. Which one was more proficient? The younger, less experienced doctor.

The researcher determined that the younger doctor was unencumbered by  Napoleonic delusions. This young doctor was still a bit unsure of himself, so he surrounded himself with the same assistants for each procedure. He studied each patient in detail before the surgery and had a “team meeting” after each surgery to discuss what went right and what they could improve.

The least proficient surgeon was a man of great experience but little tolerance for a “team.” In fact he used different attendants and nurses for almost every surgery. He did not hold any meetings before or after the surgeries and refused to listen to feedback of any sort.

The study can be found here.


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