Ideas are good, but you need action too

Ideas are good. And we need good ideas. But even the very best of ideas are useless if we don’t put them into practice. And this means action. It means implementation. It means a long, hard slog of plans, processes, tasks and budgets. Of bureaucracy, even. Tedious? Maybe. But it’s the price we pay to get things done.

Take, for example, the COVID-19 vaccines. To develop not just one but several viable vaccines in such a short period of time was nothing short of heroic. And it required scientists, pharmaceutical companies and regulators to work together in a way that they’d never done before. And to do so at a pace that was hitherto unheard of.

But epic as that was, it was only half the story. Perhaps even a little bit less. Because while it gave us millions of vials of COVID-19 vaccine, we still needed to get them to where they could make a difference. In people’s arms.

This is where the bureaucracy bit came in. And boy, did it play a blinder.

In the UK alone, scores of central and local government, NHS, public health and community bodies worked together – at essentially light speed and under huge pressure – to find ways to get jabs (some of which, if you remember, needed to be kept at specific temperatures and used within strict timescales) to rapidly-established vaccination centres in every part of the country.

These agencies also made sure that there were people to administer the jabs and, crucially, queues of people waiting to receive them. This required a mobilisation of people, equipment and resources that hadn’t been since, well, basically forever.

I’ve focused here on the COVID vaccine rollout, but I could equally have chosen from other aspects of our collective response to the pandemic. Or from numerous other examples of when a great idea only became reality with massive and sustained effort from a huge number of people and organisations working together.

My point is that great ideas are, well, great. But they can only actually achieve something if we put them into practice.

And this means implementation. It means making plans, setting targets, managing resources, wrangling logistics, having meetings, sending emails, monitoring performance, celebrating successes, addressing problems, motivating exhausted members of the team and all the millions of other tasks that make things happen.

Implementation isn’t glamorous. It won’t get you a Nobel prize. But it’s how we translate great ideas into a real and tangible impact on people’s lives.

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