the tweaker

Yesterday, I came across this Atlantic article about the value of big ideas and small ideas in innovation. The author, reflecting on the contents of the magazine’s Secrets of Innovation special report, posits that the secret of innovation is that nowadays, and perhaps historically, “the best ideas are small.” He highlights Malcolm Gladwell’s New Yorker review of a Steve Jobs biography – looks fascinating, by the way – which argues that Steve Jobs was a tweaker, someone who takes things that exist and makes them more perfect.

“The visionary starts with a clean sheet of paper, and re-imagines the world. The tweaker inherits things as they are, and has to push and pull them toward some more nearly perfect solution. That is not a lesser task.”

This discussion about innovation made me think about the equity and social justice work that is so essential to my organization’s mission and vision. We are constantly debating the merits of taking the visionary’s approach versus the tweaker’s approach to health equity. On one hand, deep, meaningful, fundamental changes need to occur in order to achieve health equity. On the other, it seem much more feasible to get there through incremental, thoughtful adjustments to the way things are done. Which way is better? I’m not so sure.

If you are curious about what I mean by health inequities and social justice, check out the Unnatural Causes series. Family, I’ll be screening this over the holidays. My middle name is Intense for a reason.

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