Thursday, 1 May 2014


‘A journey is not so much about the destination as it is about the company you keep along the way'   Anon

If I support this notion you will no doubt remind me that in an earlier BLOG I argued that one must know where one is going when setting out on a journey ‘…. lest part way through your journey you find you are travelling in the wrong direction or, worse still, you complete your journey only to find you have arrived at the wrong place.'

Nevertheless, whether you know where you are going or not, the journey is better undertaken in good company.

We are taught, and in turn we teach others, that planning is paramount, that it is everything, that nothing should be left to chance. But is it?

Jack Welch, one of the better known CEOs, has his doubts:

‘Willingness to change is strength, even if it means plunging part of the company into total confusion for a while’

And if you are a Rolling Stones fan you will not be surprised to learn that Mick Jagger would not see planning as essential to success, and successful he has been:

Anarchy is the only slight glimmer of hope’

And why is it that surgeons still insist that surgery is both a science and an art?

Where am I going with this? I am arguing that whatever one’s endeavours one must not try to eliminate any possibility of the unexpected completely. Referring again to an earlier BLOG, the one where the composition of Jeffrey Smart’s painting was decided by a wood shaving falling onto and adhering to the canvas; leave room for the intervention of chance; it is a power beyond those one can muster oneself.

You may well ask are these views not an anathema to one who manages an organization that strives to enhance quality? But I am not arguing against seeking to eliminate errors, improve systems, increase knowledge and skills and enhance quality, rather I am saying be aware that on your professional journey your companions from time to time might be the unexpected, the unplanned, and when they join you on your journey, embrace them if they are good and you can learn from them.

The best example in healthcare of the benefits of the unexpected for me is the discovery of Penicillin. Fleming puts the date of his discovery as September 28, 1928. He considered it to be a fortuitous accident: in his laboratory Fleming ‘….noticed a Petri dish containing Staphylococcus plate culture he mistakenly left open, was contaminated by blue-green mould, which formed a visible growth. There was a halo of inhibited bacterial growth around the mould. Fleming concluded the mould released a substance that repressed the growth and lysing the bacteria. He grew a pure culture and discovered it was a Penicillium mould, now known to be Penicillium notatum.’ (1)

Why the BLOG title ‘Chauncey Gardner’? The answer is a movie starring Peter Sellers called Being There. If you haven’t seen it I recommend it to you. It makes my point cleverly.

Peter Carter

Chief Executive Officer


May 2014

1.     1. Wikipedia

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