Recommended ReadsJune 26th, 2019

Spreading slow ideas

Reuben Stanton
Reuben Stanton, Managing Director

Some innovations spread rapidly, without friction, but others – just as transformative – can be much slower to spread. I've recently seen the re-emergence of the idea that ‘social diffusion’ (i.e. people talking to people) is the only way that some types of change can happen.

I’m reminded of this excellent article by Atul Gawande, which beautifully explains the importance of social diffusion for transformation. It uses two examples from the history of medicine: anaesthesia – obvious, immediate benefit for everyone, easy to administer, and quickly adopted; and sterilisation – not instantly beneficial, a major change in practice, hard to administer, technically complex, and very slowly adopted despite its overall benefit to society.

“Every change requires effort, and the decision to make that effort is a social process.”


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