Book Notes

Can a simple checklist save lives?4 min read

12/04/2020 3 min read

Can a simple checklist save lives?4 min read

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Can something as simple as a checklist save lives? In his book “The Checklist Manifesto“, Adul Gawande makes a point about the impact of checklists on high-risks fields like aviation, surgery, engineering, and so on. Not surprisingly, I decided to dive into this book and make my own researches. Here is what I took out from them.

Summary | The Checklist Manifesto

In a society where complexity is everywhere, from flying an airplane to building a skyscraper or performing a difficult surgery, we cannot just rely simply on pure talent anymore. Surgeon by day, writer and researcher by night, in his compelling book “The Checklist Manifesto“, Adul Gawande builds a strong argument for the power of… checklists. 

For the author, as simple as they seem to be, checklists have the power to prevent what seemed like unavoidable failures in most fields and bring us one step closer to excellence and safety. 

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Can checklists really make a difference?

In the last couple of centuries, our daily life has became amazingly more complex. Today we send rockets to space, we transport hundreds of thousands of people every day in planes, cars, buses, yet… as smart as we became we are still just humans. And, as the latin saying remind us : “Errare Humanum Est”, humans are faillible, so the best way to survive and avoid making mistakes is through systems and you guessed it, checklists.

It is common to misconceive how checklists function in complex lines of work. They are not comprehensive how-to guides, whether for building a skyscraper or getting a plane out of trouble. They are quick and simple tools aimed to buttress the skills of expert professionals. And by remaining swift and usable and resolutely modest, they are saving thousands upon thousands of lives.” — Adul Gawande

Surgeons practicing a surgery, following a checklist
How can surgeons make sure they do everything right to save their patients lives?

I personally believe that checklists, as long as we can trust them, can be applied anywhere and in any field. For example, right after writing this post, I personally intend to build my own checklists for fields where I know I would need the help :

A girl writing a checklist, next to a computer.
Checklists can be amazingly useful in most fields.

I might write a more detailed post on how to write effective checklists in a near future, once I master the skill myself.

Review | The Checklist Manifesto • 5/5🌟

Although rather short (around 225 pages), I found the book absolutely passionating. The author, Adul Gawande, brings us alongside him in his anecdotes as a surgeon as well as his researches and experiences for the World Health Organization. 

I’m neither a doctor or pilot, yet I was absolutely fascinated to read about how something as simple as a checklist can help pilots save countless lives in plane crashes, or how architects and engineers work together to build complex buildings or skyscrapers and avoid them from falling on our heads. 

As the name itself suggest, The Checklist Manifesto is not an actual checklist on how to make checklists (although it gives interesting insights), but rather a fascinating and enlightening argument of their impact on our world and maybe, in your field!

A plane flying in the sky | Review of The Checklist Manifesto by Adul Gawande.
How can pilots make sure they do everything right to save passengers ?

More ressources on checklist and productivity

  • [Book] : “The Checklist Manifesto” by Adul Gawande
  • [Video] : “This productivity system can save your life” on Matt D’Avella’s YouTube channel (the video that inspired me to read this book)

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  1. […] To prevent being confused about what is functional and what isn’t, sometimes, I use checklists. […]

  2. Marie

    Ahh this is so interesting. I'm a fan of checklists especially when I'm working, I kind of love crossing things off my list once they're done haha. I also feel like having checklists and schedule help me in getting organized for some things, both in my work and in my daily life sometimes, too. This sounds like such an interesting read! I'd be SO interested in reading a blog post about effective checklists, if you feel inspired to do one later on :D

    • Mathieu Céraline

      It's the best feeling, right? I mean they make us feel a bit organized and crossing them off makes you feel productive in itself haha. I'll dive more into that as well as experiment on my end and maybe one day write one! Because the hardest is not necessarily to make checklists, but rather to make effective checklists that you actually follow... Anyway, thank you so much for reading and commenting!

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