LISTEN: Systems thinking and medicine — brilliant lecture on systemic problem-solving

The lecturer for the BBC's 2014 Reith lectures is Dr Atul Gawande, a celebrated author and MD whose book The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right is a classic on how to think about systemic problem solving (which pays attention to how different people and activities come together to make and solve problems).

In the second lecture, The Century of the System (MP3), Gawande recounts an incredible case-history of an Austrian child who was successfully revived after spending 30 minutes at the bottom of a frozen pond, not breathing — a complex feat involving the perfect performance of several daunting surgeries and procedures that had to mesh together to manage this feat.

Gawande uses this as a jumping-off point to describe the "age of systems," in which great discoveries can only improve the world if the systems around them work, and in which the discoveries themselves arise out of systemic approaches that combine the creativity and intelligence of lots of different people all working together.

This isn't just about medicine, it's about everything in the 21st century (where our networked computers are at the center of so many systemic problems and solutions).

The Reith Lectures continue on the BBC, and are all available forever as MP3s on the 2014 Reith Lectures download page.