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What is... gain traction?

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Change is painful for all of us, and organisational change can bring out the Luddite in the most congenial of colleagues.

But if you are to manage effectively at a senior level, not only do you have to live with change, you have to push it forward, too. And coming up with innovative ideas will mark you out as a dynamic force.

There’s just one problem your idea may not be accepted right away. The group tendency to keep things as they are, though doomed to failure, tends to slow down the process of innovation. Thoughts or suggestions you have planted in the minds of colleagues may take a while before they ‘gain traction’.

What is the genesis of this phrase? Perhaps it is useful to jargon aficionados because it is a mechanical image. Rather than making an idea seem airy-fairy and insubstantial, the notion that it must ‘gain traction’ suggests it is a solid, scientific proposal, which can be cranked into life once the timing is right and the ground has been prepared.

Remember those huge traction engines, which dragged the Victorians into the industrial age? This is what your idea can do for the 21st Century local authority. So put your laptop away, get out your oily rags and start tinkering with your brilliant idea until it is ready to hit the open road.

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