When we’re thinking about change, we often get focused on the big changes. As I’ve written before in The Two Dynamics of Change, there are actually two change-states to be aware of: incremental changes (stepping) and disruptive changes (tipping).
The story of the tip is alluring. One day, a caterpillar is a legged worm crawling around on plants. The next day, it’s a beautiful winged creature fluttering in the breeze.
Or at least, that’s the story we tell ourselves.
We forget that there are days when the caterpillar is in a cocoon doing nothing but eating itself into a ripe DNA soup that creates its butterfly form — just as we forget that the overnight successes and big change states follow some type of cocooning. (Note: Butterflies actually come from chrysalises, but work with me here — ‘chrysalises’ is hard to say and use.)
Here’s the deal, though: we’re all in some form of incremental cocooning right now, despite how it may feel. The thing is, we’re focusing on the butterfly moment, so it feels like we’re not getting anywhere. We’re metaphorically crawling around on plants and running from ants.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently because I’m in the middle of cross-training the team on how to build metrics reviews into their daily workflows. A major part of this work is not just paying attention to metrics and stats, but really noticing changes. And though it’s alluring to focus on the big changes, it’s just as important to notice that, say, the work we’re doing on SEO is scooting us “up the page” by .2 steps every week. We may not be #1 on the page yet — the big win — but we’re getting there.
It’s also been top of mind for me as I’m on a new fitness program with Jonathan Mead. Of course I want the 15 pounds I picked up from the car accident to fall away yesterday, but I have to pay closer attention to things like my shorts being a little less tight, or being able to do one more pull-up than I was able to do earlier this week, or my hip flexors not being as chronically tight. I’m not going to be The Rock in two weeks, but I’m better than I was two weeks ago. And today is two weeks from two weeks ago.
Big wins make great stories. Small wins make great lives. (Tweet this)
So, over to you:
- In what ways are you incrementally improving?
- How are you tracking and measuring those incremental improvements?
- If things happen to be getting incrementally worse, how might you disrupt and reverse the trend?