Ardent Audible listener with a long commute!
Sheri Fink, MD, PhD, published "The Deadly Choices at Memorial" in the New York Times on August 30, 2009. I read it on line, and, when I found an abandoned copy at a Starbucks, I read it again. It was a great article, and I wished for more details - why did the hospitals generators fail? - why didn't the hospital's emergency plan have procedures in place for a catastrophic failure? - why didn't the doctors who administered fatal injections wait for rescue that, in hindsight, was just hours away? That article won a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting; and this lengthy book (576 pages on paper) answers those questions, and more.
Fink has the rare gift of understanding how complex systems work and fail, and the ability to explain them in a lively, intriguing narrative that weaves history, culture, engineering, medicine, medical ethics and people and companies together into a compelling story. She doesn't draw conclusions: she gives the conclusions reached by the government; the American Medical Association; the people that survived Memorial and the family members of those who didn't; law enforcement; expert witnesses; criminal attorneys and civil attorneys; and ethicists.
As a reader/listener, I reached my own conclusions about why Memorial failed as a physical building, and how and why Dr. Anna Pou, did what she did - she apparently euthanized patients, and was arrested for second degree murder. A grand jury declined to indict Dr. Pou or the two nurses that helped her, years after Katrina.
Would I have made the same kind of decision in an analogous situation? It's easy to pass moral judgment sitting in my comfortable backyard, well rested, enjoying a Sunday croissant and strong, black coffee. I don't think I would have, especially as to patient Emmett Everett, Sr., but I really don't know.
Fink's epilogue makes a strong recommendation: guidelines need to be in place for medical priorities when medical resources are short, and those decisions need to be made well before natural or man made mass casualty events happen, not in the middle of a catastrophe.
The book was so well narrated, I realized I was up at 1 a.m., after repeatedly setting the Audible sleep timer, listening. I had to switch to a book I'd already heard so I could sleep.
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Fans of Malcolm Gladwell (especially “The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make a Big Difference,” 2000 and “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking,” 2005) will appreciate Ori Brafman and Rom Brafman’s “Sway: The Irresistible Power of Irrational Behavior” I have all of Gladwell’s books. In hardback. And I really liked “Sway”. Actually, “Sway” was an easier read/listen. “Sway” has a lot more anecdotal stories to illustrate the points the Brothers Brafman are making.
My favorite chapter was Eight, “Dissenting Justice.” The Brafmans have the most thorough and easy to understand discussion of how the US Supreme Court reviews cases it decides to hear. The purpose of Supreme Courts conferences is to determine how the Court will rule, and the process – honed over hundreds of years – is to make rational decisions, and to respect the voices of dissent. Very few organizations, business or government, would have the time or discipline to engage in the same process – but a modified procedure, encouraging similar careful consideration of the facts, would be well applied used in corporate decision making processes.
Chapter Seven, “Cocaine and Compassion” was a close second to Chapter Eight. In “Cocaine and Compassion”, the Brafmans discuss the difference between pleasure center motivation (money, cocaine) and altruistic motivation. The bottom line is that people are more likely to cooperate and perform well for altruistic reasons – and, for biological reasons, the motivation is going to be either pleasure or altruism, but not both at the same time.
Altruism is discussed extensively in Adam Grant’s 2013 “Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success.” “Sway” was easier to understand, and I think I would have had an easier time with “Give and Take” if I’d read/listened to “Sway” first.
I liked parts of “Sway” so much, I listened to parts of it more than once.
The narration was good, but I could have done without the random music – I wasn’t sure what sections it was setting apart.
Margaret Heffernan's "Willful Blindness: Why we Ignore the Obvious at Our Peril" (2011) is in Audible's Nonfiction:Science & Technology:Social Science, along with Malcolm Gladwell's books, including "Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking" (2005) and "The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make a Big Difference" (2007). Jefferson's "Willful Blindness" is definitely on par with Gladwell's work, but without the publicity Gladwell has, I'm worried that not enough people will find out just how great this book is for people who want to understand what individual and organizational psychological problems can cause monumental failures.
Heffernan begins with a dramatic description of a tragic British Petroleum disaster - but not the 2010 Deep Water Horizon blow out that killed 11 workers and badly harmed a great deal of the coast of the United Stated. She describes the 2005 Texas City Refinery explosion that killed 15 workers and wreaked havoc on a vital part of the economy. Some of the factors that made the workers blind to the problem that caused the explosion were lack of sleep caused by long shifts with not enough time off; not enough workers; and poor design of equipment. Management at the local level didn't have the power to change the situation, and executives determined to cut costs refused to hear them. What's surprising to Heffernan is that when BP's Deep Water Horizon blew, people were astounded. The management and the corporate culture hadn't changed. Why wouldn't it happen again?
Heffernan's book is full of similar case studies, some well known - like the federal government's disastrous handling of Hurricane Katrina. Some are not well known - like the installation of pumps that will not work in New Orleans after Katrina.
Once again, I do wish Audible had a true table of contents. Since it doesn't, here it is (with thanks to Google Books): Introduction; 1. Affinity and Beyond; 2. Love is Blind; 3. Dangerous Convictions; 4 The Limits of Your Mind; 5. The Ostrich Instruction; 6. Just Following Orders; 7. The Cult of Cultures; 8. Bystander; 9. Out of Sight Out of Mind; 10. De-Moralizing Work; 11. Cassandra; 12. See Better. Chapter 11, which starts with the myth of Cassandra, who was gifted with knowing the truth and the future but cursed not to be believed, is a powerful discussion about encouraging those in an organization who know the truth to speak up.
Heffernan narrates the book herself, and it was hard to get used to her unusual accent. I checked her bio, and she was born in Texas, raised in the Netherlands, and attended college in England. No wonder I couldn't place it.
I definitely recommend this book for managers and executives who want to strengthen their teams.
[If you found this review helpful, please let me know by clicking the helpful button. And Audible, how about adding this one to the Business section also???]