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Thursday, October 14, 2010

James Wilk, Oxford don can change any workplace with minimalist interventions - what's the secret???? I want to know

OK I want to know -what's the secret??? how do I take his course? read his work? (he doesn't seem to publish much)

Excerpt from

By Tom Cheshire, 7 Sept. 2010

Philosopher James Wilk claims he can transform any workplace with his "minimalist interventions". Big firms pay him handsomely. But is he for real?

Patrick Borgen took the post of chief surgeon at Maimonides Medical Centre in Brooklyn, New York, in January 2009. His brief: to cut surgical errors. It was a big task: the 30-day mortality ratio -- the ratio of observed to expected deaths -- had rocketed to 1.43 in 2008, earning Maimonides “high outlier” status. (The ideal score is 1 or less.) Borgen knew that the culture of the surgical department had to change, but he didn’t know how.

Hospital president Pamela Brier suggested that Borgen meet James Wilk, a 54-yearold Oxford philosophy don who teaches a course on Wittgenstein at St Edmund’s Hall when not running Interchange Associates, a five-person think tank.

“I didn’t see how someone with no intimate knowledge of an amazingly complicated hospital could accomplish this,” says Borgen. “He had no background in healthcare politics or finance.” Borgen met Wilk that March in a quiet room at the New York Academy of Medicine, where he began to outline his problem, the same way he had done many times before for management consultants. So he was surprised when Wilk said he didn’t even want to hear about the problem. Instead, Wilk asked Borgen to describe, in fine detail, how his department would look if he were to come back from a holiday. Two four-hour sessions later, the two men had their solution. One element was geographical: over the years, surgeons had landed wherever there was office space. Borgen identified a hallway in the hospital and started by clustering six heart surgeons together on the same corridor.

Wilk also proposed developing a protocol for handovers between anaesthetists supervising an operation, and those on duty in the ward. Borgen taped a list of back-up surgeons, with their pager numbers and specialities, to the refrigerator in the common room. “It sounds simple,” admits Borgen, “but it immediately established a team culture.”

Within a year, Borgen reckons, surgical errors at Maimonides reduced tenfold. The 30-day mortality rate dropped to 1.08, cancelling the “high outlier” tag. Borgen estimates that 20 to 30 lives have been saved as a direct result. In January 2010, the hospital received the Distinguished Hospital Award for the first time from Health Grades, a healthcare-ratings company, putting it in the top five per cent of hospitals in the US.

For the advice, Wilk charged a flat quarterly fee of £150,000. “I couldn’t have imagined that the return on the investment would be as much as it was,” says Borgen. Wilk’s solutions were examples of what he calls “minimalist interventions”. He says he has executed 750 of these interventions since the late 80s, mostly for major companies including Shell and Prudential Financial, plus the NHS and others whose identities are confidential. Wilk says that he can solve any problem, no matter how large or longstanding, with an easy, custom-designed and entirely personal consultation. He claims he can do this from scratch, usually in four hours, no matter what the sector. He has spent 35 years researching the methodology behind interventions, he explains, completing postgraduate work across philosophy, psychology, social science and cybernetics.

“Everybody’s had experiences where they’ve had some big success in their life. They look back and realise it was down to one or two small things that they did,” Wilk says at his Georgian townhouse in Bath. “If they’d known to do them early on -- one phone call, a dinner with one person -- it would have saved a lot of effort. My point is, you can find those things in advance.”

Read the full article:

Posted via email from Siobhan O'Flynn's 1001 Tales


Memory Man said...

did you manage to find any of his work to read?
i am also looking out for what he does.
i am intrigued. do let me know if you see anything.

best wishes,

Jack Martin Leith said...

Hello Siobhan.

I have known James Wilk and his work since the late 1980s.

You can read about Minimalist Intervention here: His biography can be found at I hope this helps in some small way. Please email me if you have any specific questions about James and his approach, and I will do my best to answer them.

Best wishes from Bristol, UK.