Revolution

These days everyone seems to be in the business of revolutionising businesses. One marketing statement after another claim to revolutionise their industry. In healthcare, many technology companies will say they are revolutionising medicine. We seem to imply that revolution is good and it’s the radical change that we need. We also seem to assume that out technology in itself is sufficient to revolutionise the system or the industry.

In effect we romanticise the word revolution, but do we understand what we mean beyond marketing ploys? Revolutions is not just about making change and disrupting the status quo, it is also about sacrifice. In real revolutions people die – they sacrifice themselves for the common good in a radical way. Business is rarely about sacrifice, it’s about gain (in fact, calculated gains). What are we sacrificing? Is our skin in the game?

This is also true in international development, where many [typically young] want to radically change practices and lifestyles in traditional societies or the resource constrained settings. However, many try to do so from their air-conditioned offices, never immersing themselves with the local people by renting rooms in the village. So the idea is you change others without sacrificing your comforts.

Historically, most advancements in medicine and other industries have been through incremental change, by constantly tinkering at what we do to make it work better. This process is not about revolution, it’s evolution. Yet evolution is slow and laborious, requiring attention, patience, engagement. It is about putting soul in the game, and that’s much more difficult. It seems where the revolution really needs to happen first is in our minds, including our assumptions and understanding the way the world works.

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