Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Big Ideas versus Incremental Steps is a False Choice

A key takeaway message being reported from yesterday’s Democratic Town Hall in Iowa is the divide between big ideas and incremental steps. In general, I don’t like mutual exclusivity. (I’ve addressed this before in my book, Camelot, Inc.) Of course we need big ideas and bold moves. But small things can be out-of-the-box and innovative, too. The answer is we need both vision and execution, the large goals and the little objectives, and the short-range and the long-term views.

I know it’s hard for politicians to get elected on a platform of incremental steps. We’re conditioned to expect the big idea, to go big or go home, or to swing for a homerun. But it’s certainly not going to happen with our largest and most complex problems.

This applies beyond our politics and social ills. In the world of medicine, for example, Cy Stein, M.D., Ph.D. and Chair of Medical Oncology at City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center said, "One advance leads to another. Although the advance might be incremental, it's a step beyond." And, "If we are only interested in revolutionary therapies, patients will miss out on the improvements in care that smaller advances offer.”

As we approach another Federal election, it’s worthwhile remembering that our Founding Fathers were believers in the proverb “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” Our country is nothing but a timeline of incremental advances. Many in the Continental Congress wanted to abolish slavery, while others insisted it remain.There would be no United States of America unless they could agree. So, the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the Constitution in 1787 were compromises. They were steps. We had to wait nearly a hundred years for the Emancipation Proclamation and then another hundred for the Civil Rights Act.

Small strides can sometimes add up to a completed marathon. We should embrace and celebrate the completion of each step along the way.

Between blog posts, I invite you to follow me on Twitter @pauloestreicher.

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