A friend at work recently told me about the parable of the boiled frog. Here it is: If you place a frog in a pot of boiling water, it will immediately try to jump out. But if you place the frog in room temperature water, and don’t scare it, it’ll stay put. If you gradually turn up the temperature, the frog will do nothing. As the temperature rises, the frog will become groggier, until it’s unable to climb out. Though there is nothing restraining it, the frog will sit there and boil. Why? Because the frog’s internal apparatus for sensing threats is geared to respond to sudden changes in the environment, not to slow changes.
What inspired me to this post was a discussion at work about services disrupting our beloved e-mail, such as Slack. And then the frog story felt like a revelation.
So how does one make a change since we are very much the same as the frog? Al Gore used a version of the parable when talking about the climate change and how no one cares. Just like the frog, we’ll just stay put until the world is boiling.
Consequently, gradual change can be a good thing as it doesn’t scare anyone off. Taking the target group on a journey they can easily digest, for example, the constant small app updates. Although, if you are in need for them to actively do or change something that might require some effort from their side – don’t go easy on them because nothing will happen. In that case, the “step by step” philosophy surely can be discussed. But of course, it’s important to remove barriers. Malcolm Gladwell calls it “The Tipping Point” – a small alteration that tips you over from making excuses to taking action. It can also be put as removing the habits making it harder to follow through with your new ones.
But wait, we’ve almost forgotten the most important of all – reward! What’s the benefit from performing that new habit? The more it’s enlightened, the more dopamine the brain sets free when proceeded. It can be a fake one like pigeon superstition, or simply the targets verbally telling themselves they’re awesome or how you consequently are being more effective at work. Just remember – work that dopamine, and it will all get easier.
Okay so to sum up, when wanting people to actively form a new behaviour, don’t go easy on them! (hint hint) But give them the tools to feel fulfilled from doing it.