My Favorite Quotes from Atul Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto

The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande.

Some weeks ago I published an article about what investors and traders can learn from Atul Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto.

I like to take notes when I read (see my notes on the pic to the left, excuse my eight-year-old handwriting). I believe this is a fantastic resource to revert to later. Better, though, is reading a good book twice. and Atul Gawande is certainly a book I will reread later.

Below you find my favorite quotes from The Checklist Manifesto:

Whether running to the store to buy ingredients for a cake, preparing an airplane for takeoff, or evaluating a sick person in the hospital, if you miss just one key thing, you might as well not have made the effort at all.


Even the most expert among us can gain from searching out the patterns of mistakes and failures and putting a few checks in place. But will we do it?

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…..checklists seem able to defend anyone, even the experienced, against failure in many more tasks than we realized. They provide a kind of cognitive net. They catch mental flaws inherent in all of us – flaws of memory and attention and thoroughness. And because they do, they raise wide, unexpected possibilities.


On centralization:

It was a lack of understanding that, in the face of an extraordinarily complex problem, power needed to be pushed out of the center as far as possible…..No, the real lesson is that under conditions of true complexity – where the knowledge required exceeds that of any individual and unpredictability reigns – efforts to dictate every step from the center will fail.


…they improve their outcomes with no increase in skill. That’s what we are doing when we use checklists.


…however, was that in a period of enormous volatility the checklist gave his team at least one additional and unexpected edge over others: efficiency…..using the checklist did increase the up-front work time. But to his surprise, he found they were able to evaluate many more investments in far less time overall  (interview with Mohnish Pabrai).


We don’t like checklists. They can be painstaking. They’re not much fun. But I don’t think the issue here is laziness. There’s something deeper, more visceral going on when people walk away not only from saving lives but from making money. It somehow feels beneath us to use a checklists, an embarrassment. It runs counter to deeply held beliefs about how the truly great among us – those who aspire to be – handle situations of high stakes and complexity. The truly great are daring. They improvise. They don’t have protocols and checklists.


Discipline is hard – harder than trustworthiness and skill and perhaps even than selflessness. We are by nature flawed and inconstant creatures. We can’t even keep from snacking between meals. We are not built for discipline. We are built for novelty and excitement, not for careful attention to detail. Discipline is something we have to work at.


The same can be said in numerous other fields. We don’t study routine failures in teaching, in law, in government programs,in the financial industry, or elsewhere. We don’t look for the patterns of our recurrent mistakes or devise and refine potential solutions for them.  

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