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Focus and Discipline Lead to Success

Posted on November 15, 2011

John A. Ovretveit (bio) maintains that focus, discipline, and an organized approach helped him achieve success as a researcher.


As a researcher, how did I get to be doing what I'm doing?

Well, for better or worse, the title of my job description is Professor of Implementation, Improvement and Evaluation, and at the Karolinska Institute, which is a kind of high end medical research university, our unit was set up really to be able to put some of the research into practice.

I've achieved a lot of the things that I wanted to achieve. How did it happen? How did I do this?

A mixture of luck and just a disciplined, organized approach. First of all, I never really did a career plan and say, "Okay, it's two years, I've now got to switch and go sideways and get that experience." It was all pretty chancy, and I went with the opportunity, but I think one of the things is that I spotted the opportunities. And I sensed the times and the climate, and I said, actually, that's going to be really important in the next five years, and occasionally I got that right. And I chose a subject or an area that was going somewhere and was going to develop and be important.

A second thing is I won a prize for a book I did early on, and that opened many doors.

The other thing is just to be incredibly disciplined and organized about writing papers and delivering results, and I hate it because I'm not naturally that sort of person. But one has to learn methods of organizing your work, keeping focused, and really making big separations between private life and work and really being focused and relentless.

So a lot of it is about creating conditions in your life that allow really concentrated focused work and organizing your life a way to do that. It's bad news, but it's the only thing that worked for me, and I'll tell you why: because I'm just not that bright. Basically, I just have to work harder.

You see, I'm an ordinary bloke that somehow got doing this job, but a lot of it was just focus and discipline, really.

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Excerpted from interview with Dr. Øvretveit at the 2011 Global Implementation Conference in Washington, DC.


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