It’s been a decade since passengers have died in the crash of an airliner carrying more than 100 people, and there hasn’t been a deadly crash of a plane with more than 10 seats since … 2009. Its a dramatic turnaround. From July 1994 to January 1997, an airliner crashed at least once every three months, killing a total of 805 people. … The federal government intervened, but not with sweeping laws or regulations. Instead, a series of seemingly mundane, incremental changes, many recommended by the industry itself and put in place at little cost, have gradually made the skies safer. … “[T]he things that had the biggest impact were base hits.” Bloomberg Businessweek, Jan 30-Feb 5, 2012 Yes, Flying is a Pain. But It’s Safer Than Ever.
It is great to find that innovation or produce that product that changes the whole industry (e.g. iPhone). I’ve been fortunate to have been associated with businesses that have had these kind of successes (e.g., Motorola). But what keeps us going — allowing us to survive — between these home runs, is getting the job done and improving things incrementally every day.
A few percentage points improvement in productivity each year, for example, compounds into significant improvements that can readily keep us a step ahead of our competition (e.g., Toyota does this). Continuous small gradual improvements might not be as exciting as saving lives or creating the next killer product, but it keeps us in the game with the opportunity to hit one out of the ball park — at least on occasion.
Are your projects trying to change the world all at once or are some of them making continuous incremental improvements?