Change as a skimming stone

I often come across people who want to change the world, or create ‘large scale change’. A noble aim indeed. Yet I wonder about this. To scale things we create systems and programmes that can be ‘rolled out’. Such roll outs almost always fail or falter, or produce unintended consequences that exacerbate the very issue they were aiming to address, or create a new one. The best programmed change (e.g. Positive Deviance) doesn’t seek to roll out solutions but allows people to discover things for themselves.

However, it seems to me that change (or changes) often happen in other, completely un-programmed ways. Like a stone skipping across the water, ideas and actions often leap and skip in unlikely ways, from one place to another. A doctor in Sussex tries something new that a jet lagged Canadian hospital CEO sees at five in the morning on a regional BBC news show which he mentions to his medical staff, which sparks off an inquiry that wouldn’t otherwise have happened. No one can track, or even see, the path the idea has taken. But does it matter?

I don’t think it does. I think I know when I am involved in something that is rich and fecund and that is going to give rise to all sorts of seeds of ideas, actions and initiatives that I will never be party to (like The Creative Tapas Experiment or the Do Lectures). That ought to be enough but I suspect that one of the reasons it doesn’t get much attention is because nobody gets the credit for this kind of change…