Berwick Speaks about Red Beads and a Return to the Basics of Improvement
Dr. Don Berwick took a risk in his keynote at the BMJ/IHI International Forum Quality and Patient Safety in Healthcare in Gothenburg, Sweden — he went back to the roots of the science of improvement.
He began with The Parable of the Red Beads, a famous exercise Dr. W. Edwards Deming used in his four-day workshops. Also known as the Red Bed Game or the Red Bead Experiment, it’s a simulation that teaches key lessons in improvement.
The setup was simple: Dr. Berwick is the leader of a fictional organization that makes “blue beads.” He hired four new “willing workers” and taught them the exact process to follow to produce the needed beads. With each day’s work that followed, workers presented their beads to an inspector (played by Göran Henriks, Chief Executive of Learning and Innovation of Qulturum in Sweden.)
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