In a time where problems with governance can be overwhelming, governments are frantically searching for a solution.

There is a constant debate about how exactly a government should go about facilitating change, whether that be with incremental improvement or radical change.

There is no guide for how a government is to approach change, as the actions taken depend on the situation that is presented. It is an unfortunate stereotype that governments are aloof to the innovation and technology that match the ever-progressing novelties of modern society. Governments must analyze the conditions and urgency of the problem they face and have an open-minded and innovative approach toward solving it.

But what’s best? Gradual, incremental improvements that ‘grease the machine’? Or radical, back-to-the-drawing-board change that has the potential to turn things around immediately? This infographic explains the difference between the two:

Slow and steady wins the race: incremental change

Incremental change attempts to solve problems with small, systematic steps that provoke change over time. By using incremental means, a government can reduce the risk and focus on trying to improve the system they already have in place, rather than starting from scratch and creating a new one.

Incremental change is a good tactic when there are problems related to the functionality within a government. The point of incremental change is to grease the machine, making a more efficient model than what existed prior to the change. Gradual change is a more stable approach to problems that do not require sporadic change and allow for sustainable and continuous improvement.

In cases where there is a divided government, smaller, incremental changes are often the only way any change can occur. This is shown in the United States in the state of Pennsylvania, after embodying a term of radical decision making, Republican Governor Tom Wolf has begun his second term displaying compromise and incremental change with policies regarding things such as raising the legal minimum wage of the state.

A new road: immediate, radical change

In contrast to how gradual changes improving a preexisting system, radical change calls governments to move past a current practice and create a new one entirely to better suit the obstacles presented. Depending on the urgency of a problem, radical change can be a good tactic to promote instantaneous change.

It has been argued that, with trust in government on the decline, radical change could further injure how citizens feel about how their government is acting. Additionally, contrary to other sectors, there are often roadblocks to speedy change in the public sector due to disagreements between the parties that are involved in the decision-making.

For critical issues such as climate change citizens are demanding that politicians see the urgency and act in radical ways. New data is constantly surfacing stressing the urgency of the crisis, and governments cannot come forward fast enough with new and innovative policies that cater to slowing the human destruction of the environment such as becoming free of carbon emissions by 2030.

The opportunity for local leaders

On a large scale, any kind of change is difficult to facilitate. Typically, more people plus more opinions equal slower results.

Radical, incremental change?

Can we reach a happy medium that incorporates both radical and incremental change? There is no black or white solution to overcome the obstacles that governments face.

Instead of looking for a single solution to a plethora of diverse issues, governments must think outside of the box, combining problem-solving tactics in order to develop adaptable solutions. We live in an extremely fast-paced society, making it possible for incremental change to be lethargic and easily outdated. However, we also live during a time of extreme division within governments, making it difficult to reach rapid agreement to allow for radical changes to occur.

These truths lead to the need for a hybrid of radical, incremental change. Decision-makers must radically change their perspective in order to implement effective incremental innovation that will facilitate change that is needed.

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