Not a Matter of Life and Death

One of my favourite TV shows at the moment is one called Grey’s Anatomy. The show revolves around a bunch of medical interns at a Seattle hospital training to become surgeons. It’s funny in a way I can’t justifiably describe, so I won’t.

The show focuses on the trials and tribulations of medical internships, and one particular aspect that I’ve never seen in other medical dramas is this fierce competition amongst the five interns to assist the surgeons during operations. This is because assisting during operations is their only means of gaining practical surgical experience. In his awesome book, Complications, Atul Gawande talks about how few the opportunities are for medical interns to gain actual experience. Informed patients and their carers tend to prefer the surgeon over the intern, for obvious reasons. Hence, interns have to grab any opportunity they can to gain practical experience before they complete their internship.

The way the five interns on the TV show fight to assist during surgical ops always makes me think of my own learning journey as a KM consultant. I don’t need to fight with my colleagues to participate in client engagements. There’s enough work at the moment to go around. But even when there wasn’t, I don’t recall the same zeal to participate in engagements as the Grey’s interns. Why not? Maybe it’s because I’m a slacker. Maybe it’s because what KM consultants do is not a matter of life and death. But what if what we do makes a difference whether an organisation lives or dies? Wouldn’t KM consultants then all have to go through the same intensity of training as medical doctors before we practice? Wouldn’t junior consultants like myself then have to fight for opportunities to take part in client engagements so that we could become better at “operating” on our clients? Wouldn’t KM consultants then get the same respect as medical doctors? Wouldn’t there then be a TV show about the trials and tribulations of five interns at a KM consulting firm? Wouldn’t that be something?

7 Comments so far

Michael Cheng

A writer from referenced Cirque Du Soleil as an example of what you’ve observed, Edgar..."life or death” passion.  As an intern myself, let me tell you I can identify with your feelings.  Passion is such a powerful and yet complex thing… misdirected, or too little of it can lead to dire consequences… don’t think the problem is in having too much passion though, just ‘misdirected’.

Posted on June 16, 2006 at 09:18 AM | Comment permalink

I paused for 2 seconds to wonder if I should admit this in blogosphere, but to hell with it. Having too much passion is definitely not one of my problems. Above my desk is a picture of Gil Shaham the violinist with the word “PASSION” emblazoned across it. I hang it there to remind me that passion is probably the single most important thing that separates the mediocre from the good. But of course being reminded is not enough. One has to find passion and let it possess you. How one does that still eludes me though.

Posted on June 16, 2006 at 10:17 AM | Comment permalink


Borrowed an interesting book this evening titled “Raising Your Child to be Champion in Athletics, Arts and Academics” by Wayne Bryan.  It had a chapter titled “Pushing the Passion Button with Side-Door Motivation”.  My takeway from it is that we can only help children (and adults if I can loosely extend the context) find their passion and to make sure that it is a positive one. It seems like you cannot make someone passionate about something, they are either inspired or not. We can only open them to possibilities - side-door motivation as the book calls it. Examples include taking them to simple, neighbourhood events (ball-games, street performances, etc), having magazines on the subject delivered to your home, and then progressively moving on to more “serious” professional stuff. Posters were mentioned by the way (author’s children had Agassi posters all over their bedroom walls). Yes, they became junior tennis pros. So your poster of Gil Shaham may be a step in the right direction - for being a violinist.

Whose poster could we put up to inspire us in KM?

Posted on June 20, 2006 at 01:28 AM | Comment permalink


I have to admit I’ve become sceptical about the over-use of the word “passion”. (Perhaps it’s my age) I know it’s important, and I feel [passionate myself about certain things… but it’s like the “l*ve” word, it’s over-used. I’ve seen too many recruitment ads looking for “passionate” people. Actually, when I have been charged with recruiting colleagues, I’m much more interested in people who care. Passion can carry you away… in unexpected directions. Caring is more consistent.

Posted on June 20, 2006 at 10:15 AM | Comment permalink

Michael Cheng

I understand the reticence to embrace a single word as the panacea for complacency or lack of motivation.  Any word that’s overused will eventually loose its impact.  That’s one of those mysteries, I think, in our temporal existence:  How to express the ineffable; how to represent simultaneous realities in linear discourses; how to communicate shared meaning without jeopardizing gravity of intent when resorting to conventional references (short-hands, as it were). 

We can’t “throw the baby out with the bath water” though, since in our temporal existence we depend on these very methods, even with all their understood limitations, to create and share meaning.  To make it even more complicated, we perceive meaning quite uniquely as individuals.  Words that might be blasé for one might actually resonate with someone else.  So whether it’s from a poster hanging on our wall, or the use of a word/phrase, or the avoidance of the same, there is a quality that serves to keep us from sinking into mediocrity. 

Passion, as Patrick noted, can and does carry us away, sometimes in unexpected directions.  That can prove fatal, or it can be the very life-giving quality that’s needed at just the right time.  By itself, passion is not sufficient; within a mature context, however, passion is not lessened but directed towards “life-giving” ends.

Posted on June 20, 2006 at 11:01 PM | Comment permalink

Stories are and will be told of men whose passion proved fatal (eg, Icarus, Romeo, Martin Luther King) but not about those who merely care. Give me unbridled whatever-you-call-it any day, just for a life less ordinary.

Posted on June 22, 2006 at 12:28 PM | Comment permalink


Interesting word, “merely” smile

Posted on June 22, 2006 at 12:31 PM | Comment permalink

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