Saturday Morning Coffee

International Affairs Specialist by day, Blogger Enthusiast by night. This is a sneak peek into my world that should be enjoyed with ample time and a good and very strong cup of java.

The Inadequacies of Language

As a new member of the Quality Assurance Committee at my community Children’s Aid Society, I not only get a chance to learn more about the organization, meet new people and brush up on my skills, but it’s also a chance to hear stories that I wouldn’t have otherwise.

This time, we heard from one of my colleagues, who happens to be a nurse, describe a short documentary that she’d seen, ‘Just a Routine Operation,‘ narrated by a British man who had dropped his wife off at the hospital for a routine procedure and expected to pick her up later on in the day. However, the procedure did not go quite as planned and resulted in her loss of oxygen, brain damage and eventual death. The story itself is entirely heartbreaking. The irony of it was that this man has built a career on behalf of airlines to identify communication gaps, prevent human error and provide clarity where it may not be aparent in order to avoid tragedy in the air. 

Similarly, as reports out of Italy describe, human error is the cause for the capsizing of the cruise ship, ‘Costa Concordia’ and causing the death of too many. These two incidents really makes me think just how many lives could be saved by effective communication and cooperation.

In our culture, we’ve been lead to believe that experience should not be questioned and to do so is an insult and could lead to unemployment. By following this norm, though, those nurses did not question or intervene on the doctor with 30 years experience. No one did. Out of fear? Inexperience? I wonder what the co-captain of the Costa Concordia was thinking when it chartered off course; chancing fate or impressing the tourists?

Whatever the reasons for the team’s failure to intervene, both instances drive home the fact that they had the trust of their patients or passengers to lead them through to safety, be it the recovery room or the resorts. Such responsibility should be due cause for a questioning thought or an assertive action to ensure their destination and yet there was silence.  Language is one thing to master, understanding and overcoming culture, however, is more difficult.

In learning a bit more about culture and its influence on communication, I came across a corporate training organization, VitalSmarts, which seeks to help firms address the discrepencies that language sometimes highlight and particularly so in a multi-cultural environment. By making more of an effort to bring the same sort of clarity to organizations that the air industry currently employs can only lead to greater collaboration, understanding and responsibility and hopefully result in fewer human errors.


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This entry was posted on 24/01/2012 by in communications, Culture, Diversity, Education, Ethics, Health and Body, leadership, security, Uncategorized and tagged .

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