What can we do better? Small steps to big progress

On May 11, 1947, the B.F. Goodrich Company of Akron, Ohio announced that they had developed a tubeless tire.  I know this sounds like a small thing, but it was a technological innovation that would make automobiles safer and more efficient.

Until then, pneumatic tires (which are tires filled with pressurized air) relied on an inner tube containing the pressurized air and an outer casing that protected the tube.  But in this previous design, if the inner tube failed, the tire would blow out quickly, putting the driver and passengers at risk.  Taking three years of engineering, the tubeless tire no longer required the inner tube and instead trapped the pressurized air within the tire walls themselves.  Within a few short years, the tubeless tire became a standard feature on most new cars, and was being touted as one of the most far-reaching changes to take place in the tire industry. 

I thought this story was a GREAT reminder of two important things:  The first is that innovation and advancement isn’t always glamorous, but it has the potential to change lives.  Engineers spent three years working on a tire – actually, just a TUBE in a tire to achieve something that changed automobiles forever.  They were thoughtful, relentless, and determined in their pursuit to do things better.  And not huge things, but relatively minor ones.  With Impact Network, this was a reminder to me that even the tweaks that seem the most mundane, the most laborious, and perhaps the most minor, have the ability to change things on a grander scale.  Change takes time, and usually happens on a much more micro level than the stories and advancements we hear about in the news.

The second reminder was that we can always do better.  Big improvements like shifts in achievement, attendance, and test scores can only happen if we take the time to make improvements to our model. Every time our team puts our collective brain power together, whether it’s on collecting data more efficiently or administering tests that are more rigorous – every time we do this, we are making a decision to do improve our practice. We believe this firmly and unwaveringly – it’s why we sit down together to discuss better ways of doing things, it’s why we commissioned American University to evaluate our programs and provide an external look at how we operate, it’s why I wake up every single morning to work for this organization and ask myself – What can we do better?   

- Reshma