Little Progress Is Good, Big Progress Is Better

Lately, many books have been released about how the only way to create lasting change is to move in tiny increments. I beg to differ.

Books like Tiny Habits espouse the currently trendy movement which pushes this theory – which is that you can change, but the best way to change is slowly, over time, in small ways. While this is true to some extent, and for some things, I would suggest that it is much more useful to leverage disruption to change. A big change is like ripping off the band-aid instead of peeling it off slowly. Which would you prefer? (Hint, I’m a rip-it-off guy 😉

For example, we have been inching towards full-blown telecommuting for the longest time (did you know that it was invented in the 1970s) .-We now have the most amazing tools to collaborate remotely, connecting every human to every other human. However, most companies made their employees jump in a car or on public transit and drive an average of 45 minutes in traffic, each way, leading to damaging relationships and health outcomes. We’ve had the capability for a long time; we didn’t have the trigger to change.

COVID-19 was our ticket to change.

I’d say that most, if not all of the time, we only experience lasting change is when a crisis triggers that change – and that the crisis goes on long enough to maintain that change in people until it becomes a habit. When do most people decide to lose weight and start exercising? Is it right after their doctor has told them umpteen times that if they don’t do those things, they will have a heart attack – or is it right after the heart attack?

This is human nature – we are lazy – and we will only change if we are forced to change. Something needs to trigger that change – and then once that change is triggered, we need to use that change to continue the behavior we’ve wanted to emulate. The other way we can effect change – and this works very well in conjunction with the disruptive event to kick it off and keep it going – is to put systems in place to reduce drag, which helps us maintain the change.

For example, if you want to take your bike for a ride each day, instead of storing it in the garage, maybe keep it right outside your door in your yard so that you have to walk around it to get to your car. It pre-filling up the Waterpik so that all you need to do is to pick it up and use it.

Eliminating any drag that slows you down towards exhibiting the new behavior will help you pick up the new action. Make it super easy to do the thing – and if possible, make it harder NOT to do the thing – and you will likely be able to stick to the change every time.

The only way for lasting change to occur is to leverage a crisis to trigger the new behavior, then reduce the drag to keep it going.

How can you use this to your advantage the next time you try to change your corporate culture or move a new product from idea to launch?