Designer Buckminster Fuller used “Trim Tab” as a metaphor for leadership and personal empowerment.

“Something hit me very hard once, thinking about what one little man could do. Think of the Queen Mary—the whole ship goes by and then comes the rudder. And there’s a tiny thing at the edge of the rudder called a trim tab.

It’s a miniature rudder. Just moving the little trim tab builds a low pressure that pulls the rudder around. Takes almost no effort at all. So I said that the little individual can be a trim tab. Society thinks it’s going right by you, that it’s left you altogether. But if you’re doing dynamic things mentally, the fact is that you can just put your foot out like that and the whole big ship of state is going to go.

So I said, call me Trim Tab.”

— Buckminster Fuller
The official newsletter of the Buckminster Fuller Institute is called “Trimtab”.

Fuller’s metaphorical use of the trim-tab mechanism received considerable media attention in January 2019 when actor Jeff Bridges appreciated it in his Cecil B. DeMille Award acceptance speech at the 76th Golden Globes: ‘Bucky made the analogy that a trim tab is an example of how the individual is connected to society and how we affect society. And I like to think of myself as a trim tab. All of us are trim tabs. We might seem like we’re not up to the task, but we are, man. We’re alive! We can make a difference! We can turn this ship in the way we wanna go, man!’



Designer Buckminster Fuller used “Trimtab” as a metaphor for leadership and personal empowerment.