What Healthcare Can Learn From the Queen’s Gambit

I recently watched this film on Netflix. While I barely know the rules of chess, I believe healthcare can learn a lot from the fictional events experienced and the actions taken by the Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy) character in this story.

First, it seems that high level chess is played by learning and applying opening, mid-game, and end-game strategies used by chess masters of the past. Beth, however, often eschews these strategies and instead relies on her instincts to play a very intuitive style that makes her (spoiler alert) the most unique and accomplished player in the world.

Second, even the highest level players in the world (at least as depicted in this film) have a team of “seconds” who help them learn new strategies and tactics. Top players collaborate with these teams between important matches. In the end of this picture, Beth’s team is instrumental in helping her beat the reigning world champion and Soviet grandmaster Vasily Borgov (Marcin Dorocinski).

In brief, the lessons that healthcare leaders should take away from The Queen’s Gambit’ is that applying traditional approaches to current problems (which are many and very complex) may not work and we need to innovate, based on science of course, but also based on our own intuitions and experiences. Further, healthcare leaders need to learn how to collaborate with others and turn to those often left out of decision making conversations, i.e. physicians and other clinicians, when determining how to move forward effectively.

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Ellis Knight

Semi-retired physician and healthcare executive / consultant spending my time advocating for value-based care reform in the US healthcare system.