The Old and The New

I was at a meeting the other day with some fellow  disability/aging advocates and an astute foundation director. We were there to pitch a project we call "Age (all) Friendly Community." It is actually an initiative of the World Health Organization (WHO) designed to promote an accessible, and hospitable community so that all people (including seniors and people with disabilities) can be a natural part of the mix.

In the conversation, our foundation friend said that often they hear ideas today that were initiated years earlier. She said something like "what is old can often become new" and this statement got me to think. When we look to advance some innovative idea, often they are rejected, not because the idea is flawed, but because the current system may just not be ready for the idea.

There are countless examples of this phenomena - when the system is just not ready for the new idea. In his book, "The Innovators," Walter Issacson articulates this to a tee.  He looks back in history and the literature to find the very first reference to a personal computer. He discovered that in 1837 Lady Byron of England wrote about a personal "analytic machine."  Remarkable not only because of the date, but also because it came from the writings of a women - very rare in the scientific field at that time. Still, this was some 135 years before the initiation of the personal computer.

I am also called to reflect on this phenomena in my own writings. Back in 1990, in my first book, "Interdependence," I attempted to articulate a macro perspective in human services. It amazes me that the themes I wrote about in that book, some 26 years ago, are now being taken more seriously.

So the moral to this story is to go back in time, find some of the ideas you were pitching years ago, and see if the system might be better suited today for these ideas. It might be that your rejected ideas could be ready for prime time. Remember, what is old can become new - especially if it was too innovative when you introduced it to the world.