I’m just coming off of an immensely satisfying business gathering that I’ve not missed over many years. It’s a gathering of some of the smartest, most emotionally connected people I’ve ever met. (How I ever got invited, I don’t know – but they’re stuck with me now.) One of our many topics was the question of creating revolutionary change versus incremental improvement. The example given was that of developing highways (revolutionary change) versus adding rest stops (incrementally better).
Ultimately, our group rejected the question as a false choice. We said that you see revolutionary change only in hindsight. In other words, you wake up one day and recognize that things are fundamentally different – but they’re only a little different from yesterday, and yesterday was only slightly more progressed from the day before that. For example, while the U.S. Interstate Highway System got started under President Eisenhower in 1956, it was preceded by many laws, failed projects, and various other related efforts going back to the early 1900s. All those attempts to make incremental improvements led to a bigger attempt at improvement – and, in hindsight, a revolutionary idea.
Our group eventually wondered whether there had ever been a revolutionary change that was initiated as such.
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