From Harvard Magazine:
In the professional world, what separates greatness from mere competence? Why is a cystic fibrosis treatment center in Minnesota miles ahead of a similar program in Cincinnati? Why are certain teachers getting first-rate results in the classroom when others are merely getting by?
Atul Gawande, a Harvard Medical School professor, surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and New Yorker staff writer who has traveled the country researching answers to this question, says the answer has little to do with income level, education, or high intelligence. The key to being great at any given profession, he says, is the ability to recognize failure. “What I found over time, trying to follow and emulate people that were focused on achieving something more than competence, is that they weren’t smarter than anybody else, they weren’t geniuses,” Gawande told an audience at the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Askwith Forum on Wednesday. “Instead they seemed to be people that could come to grips with their inherent fallibility—fallibility in the systems that they work in, and with what it took to overcome that fallibility.”