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Big ideas: from silly to obvious

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 18, 2009

From the tail end of an article on a global guest-worker program, a quote by economist Lant Pritchett on how people perceive game-changing ideas over time.

Pritchett says he has a model of how game-changing ideas are received over time, and it works something like this: “Crazy. Crazy. Crazy. Obvious.”

And then the piece just leaves us hanging on that gem. It appears that Pritchett hasn’t written too much about that particular notion, but I did find a slide in a presentation he did that puts it a slightly different way:

silly, controversial, progressive, then obvious

Sounds about right. (via sam arbesman)

Update: Several people sent in Mahatma Gandhi’s related quote:

First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win.

Update: The Gandhi quote is disputed. A similar quote appears in the transcript of a 1914 US trade union address:

And, my friends, in this story you have a history of this entire movement. First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you. And that, is what is going to happen to the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America.

(thx, robin)