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Big Vision or Relentless Incrementalism?

Posted on December 8, 2016
By Elayne Greeley

I am really struggling this week with the competing strategies. In one moment I am running for and supporting Big Vision and the next I am supporting the evolutionary systems approach of Relentless Incrementalism.

Terms like big vision, big picture, big change, risk, innovation excite me. I am not risk averse, I’m happy to try different and I’m really ready for impact. All of this said, I’ve learned to be weary of how I prefer to think. I love to think intuitively and imaginatively and truth be told they are the thinking muscles that I’ve investing the most mental workouts on for 25 years, so of course they are strong.

When I hear Big Vision, my blood pumps and I can feel my internal motivation race – the “sign me up” messaging from my brain.

The trap here is that my responses are those of innovators and early adopters that make up 16% of any given group. If I consistently caught in the excitement of working differently, I am taking the risk of leaving 84% of any group behind.

I’m wondering if relentless incrementalism is the hook that brings everyone along?

How much am I working on big vision and how much in a relentless incremental manner?I know that I start by choosing my audiences wisely. I’ve identified colleagues who have zero interest discussing theoretical approaches and those who are inspired to imagine working differently to solve wicked social problems. Here are the 5 questions I ask myself every day.

  • What is the birds eye view, big picture, systems lens?
  • Am I convinced that what I am hearing, reading, witnessing is true?
  • What am I seeing, touching, hearing in this moment?
  • What do I understand based on my experiences?
  • What theory or evidence am I considering in this instance?
  • And the brokering question to end all questions.


Articles, Elayne Greeley

Elayne Greeley

By Elayne Greeley

Elayne Greeley is a community developer and partnership facilitator through the Community Career and Employment Partnership (

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