Cowboy on Horse Lighted Sign

Cowboys, Pilots, Surgeons, and Interior Designers

Photo by Jakob Owens

What do cowboys, pilots, surgeons, and at least one interior designer have in common?


Years ago I heard Atul Gawande interviewed on the radio. He talked about his then-new book, The Checklist Manifesto. Gawande - a surgeon, writer, and public health researcher - was tapped by the World Health Organization to help reduce the rates of complication and death in surgery. 

Gawande and his team didn't think that surgical outcomes could be improved with more education or better technology. After all, surgeons are among the best-trained and highly specialized professionals out there.

So, the team looked outside of medicine at other high-stakes industries. In aviation and skyscraper construction, they found the wide-spread and effective use of the checklist. And, with the help of Boeing engineers, the team put together a short checklist that decreased surgical complications by an impressive 35% and deaths by a staggering 47%. That's without additional training or technological improvement. Amazing.

That caught my attention. I read the book and started developing checklists for my interior design practice. My staff and I broke down every step of the design process, start to finish. We created checklists. 

How checklists helped me and my team manage our design and remodeling projects

We critiqued our performance after every project. We talked with our clients. Where did we fall short? Where were we unexpectedly brilliant? Each and every insight we gained was added to a checklist. 

Why am I so passionate about project management? Why did I want to bring professional-level project management to DIY interior designers? Because it makes me a better designer, and I believe it can do the same for others.

I am more focused, creative, and productive when I am supported by a solid project management system. 

Now you know that surgeons, pilots, and interior designers benefit from checklists. It turns out today's cowboys do too. That surprising story is part of this short TED talk by Atul Gawande. 

P.S. This brief blog post doesn't do justice to Atul Gawande's work. So, here's a link to the book, The Checklist Manifesto.


Jackie Lopey, Certified Interior Designer & founder of Wide Canvas
She didn't know it, but Jackie Lopey's days as an advertising executive were numbered when she bought and renovated a 1950's bungalow. She soon went back to school and started her own design studio. Jackie is an award-winning, certified interior designer and the founder of Wide Canvas, a kitchen and bath design studio in Reno, Nevada.

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