NYTimes: Talking about Failure is Crucial for Growth

This is great, and timely, and something I want all my readers, my colleagues, my family to read. I need to read this again, too. This NYTimes article is about vulnerability, and the human condition, and ME not being embarrassed when (yet another) presentation or project, or idea that I have goes down the tubes.

It is particularly relevant now, as our team prepares to give a talk at the upcoming annual Epic UGM (User Group Meeting) for our Electronic Health Record. We’re going to be speaking on being “Terrified to Terrific” and our growth towards Physician Builders — physicians who are trained to develop custom content and templates for use in our EHR. It is a way for practicing docs to actually do significant customization to improve efficiency, effectiveness and teamwork in the care of patients. The RISK is: will we give a BORING presentation about establishing our team of physician builders, and then list all the BORING accomplishments over the past few years? Big deal. Instead, how do we share our vulnerabilities, our failures; the same fears that our audience will likely have about physician builders?

In short, our journey began about 5 years ago, when our IT (information technology) leaders were very hesitant to allow “those renegade doctors” into an IT shop and “hand them the keys to an expensive car” and “let them build stuff and potentially ruin everything.”

One great moment happened when our IT manager of ambulatory applications in our EHR realized that our physician builders were actually taking ownership of the EHR improvements during our “war room” day-long conference and helping to test each component of the software and ensure that things worked well. She said to me: “Who DOES that?!” meaning that she did NOT expect busy physicians to take the time and be part of the testing team and be full partners in improving the EHR software code.


CMIO’s take? It is “aha!” moments like this that make the journey worth it. We make assumptions, sometimes we’re wrong. It is vulnerable moments of letting others see when we’re wrong, when we fail, that we see each other as human, and we are more likely to help each other out. This sort of vulnerability builds our team. We are always stronger as a team.

Author: CT Lin

CMIO, UCHealth (Colorado); Professor, University of Colorado School of Medicine

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