On my morning bike ride today I rode up on a chunk of concrete that had fallen off an overpass onto the bike path. Somehow I've lost the picture of it, but no matter. I used WichitaReport to report it, and that got me thinking: the app is great, but simple. So much of what we get out of government is accomplished by compassionate, competent, experienced people--not stereotypical "whiz kids"--who obsess over solving difficult problems. Their work proceeds in spite of who leadership is (though the current EPA may be an exception). The result is that life gets better for the rest of us.
Relevant quote: "When innovation does occur in city and state government, it looks small, boring, like the parts of life you don’t really want to think about. In some cases it doesn’t even look like innovation."
I don't think it ends at government. In medicine, the care that ultimately saves the most lives is routine (some would say boring) care delivered in anonymous health departments and clinics: immunizations, blood pressure control, diabetes screenings, eye examinations, and others. It's easy to do all these things poorly and astonishingly hard to do them well. But those of us who are lucky get the care of obsessive, compassionate nurses, doctors, pharmacists, and others who pay attention to details and competently treat around all the obstacles that come between us and good care.
This observation is so powerful that people have (rightly) started to think that we should put values other than raw intelligence, like emotional intelligence, at the top of our list of qualifications for medical school. It's worth a thought.