Atul Gawande, an American surgeon, public health researcher and author of Being Mortal, The Checklist Manifesto and others, was recently appointed as CEO of the much anticipated healthcare joint-venture between Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and J.P. Morgan Chase.
I’ll start by saying that I have no idea as to any specifics of the appointment process, but I find it understandable that Gawande, despite having no experience running a commercial business let alone one of such a scale, might be able to demonstrate the requisite clarity of thinking and track record of independent voice that could attract the great minds of Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett and Jamie Dimon. All three of these chiefs are known for their proclivities for the written word; all three regularly write memos and annual letters that are read world-over, not to mention that all three have been known to have unorthodox habits regarding written thought throughout their daily routines (Bezos, Buffett, Dimon). I don’t think it’s a bold assertion that these three believed that Gawande’s communication ability, particularly as evidenced by his written works, will be a great asset in the steering of this complex, hopefully revolutionary, new venture.
So with this in mind, I wanted to put one of Gawande’s written works under the microscope and analyze how he writes, and by extension, what we can learn from how he seems to think. And what better place to start then the essay he penned in 2009 Getting There From Here in the New Yorker on healthcare reform? Disclaimer: this is a sample size of one, somewhat outdated, and frankly one of my first deliberate stab at breaking down someone’s writing style outside of an academic english literature class… Let’s hop in to his essay.