Change can happen through revolution or evolution.
Revolution is when things turn around abruptly. It is usually a sudden change, one that is often associated with extreme measures. It creates fracture and discontinuity. The origin of the word is Latin – revolvere, literally “roll back”, “revolve”. Despite the current accepted meaning, therefore, it does not delineate a move or a push forward, a progression.
Evolution, on the other hand, is a slow and ongoing process. It is change, but over a considerable amount of time. So much so that one could possibly identify the different stages and find some kind of continuity. It also comes from a Latin word – evolvere, literally “unrolling”, “opening a scroll”, “revealing”. In its most profound sense, therefore, it does portray a discovery, and only later on it got associated with development and betterment.
Both are needed in certain situations.
Think of a company that has been badly administered for years, and is now on the verge of bankruptcy. The newly appointed CEO will most likely want a revolution in the way of doing things, a sudden change that could turn around and save the business.
On the other hand, if a company is not achieving the expected results with their marketing campaigns, it is auspicable that the new CMO would like to proceed by evolution, slowly bringing tactics in alignment with strategy.
The next time we see that something is not working around us, it is important we consider whether what is needed is a revolution or an evolution. The latter will work in most of the circumstances. Despite our sense of urgency and often misplaced understanding of what is important.
And often, when choosing it, we start building consensus and gathering appreciation, that also helps us “discover” in which direction we want to take the change.