The boiling frog – the ideal metaphor for small changes

Everyone is happy in spring, when the sun invites to go for a walk. If you live in a climate zone that had harsh winters and a late spring, then maybe you feel climate change as improvement. If you overlook the fact that this climate shift is not getting to an end, but you are also happy about the warming, you easily fall into the trap of the boiling frog – when small changes lead to dramatic upheavals in the long term.

Not the large disruptions put us in an unwanted position, but the set of small, accumulating deviations that happen unnoticed. In order to be able to take timely countermeasures, an early warning system is needed in addition to the existing key figures, which also draws attention to small shifts. The following points can help.

  • Pay attention!
    These small modulations, which cannot be measured, only reach our subconscious. For this reason, we need to develop a sensitivity that makes us aware of it. The frog only notices the slow heating when it is too late.
    We should listen to our gut feeling that will show up in meetings with recurring little teasing’s, decreasing conversations with stakeholders or with imperceptibly fewer assignments.
  • Set priorities!
    Apathetic networking for not missing any signals, is the wrong way to deal with this creeping change. Since the thresholds must be established in our subconscious, we need a few areas to which we adjust our attention. An objective assessment of the water temperature could help the frog.
    Possible focal points are relationships with customers, suppliers, partners, the management level, colleagues, employees and above all family and friends, or developments in politics, business, society, technology and law.
  • Question the results
    Mainly, the small changes in the here and now sink unnoticed in the flood of sensual stimuli. We do not add up the many small, albeit continued increases and decreases. Our intuition does not recognize the accumulating character of many small mutations. The frog lives self-satisfied in his presence, which does not frighten him as long as the temperature increases by only 0.002°C per second.
    If you become aware of certain modifications and recognize a pattern, you should consider what it means – the continuous increases of fees; long-term small increases in consumption; slowly declining numbers of visitors.
  • Foresee the further development!
    After calculating the sum of the past experiences, we need a feeling for the further course. For this purpose, we need to perpetuate the developments out of the past into the future. Since these are preliminary assumptions, it is not enough to develop a future, but you should develop several future scenarios, which show alternative consequences. Despite his modest surroundings, we cannot expect such an abstract assumptions from the frog.
    In 1972, the Club of Rome demonstrated the limits of growth by extrapolating the measurements at the time into the future – even if, despite more evidence in the meantime, many people still doubt that global warming is happening. We also can investigate the future with simple questions: What happens, if the little teasing’s continue, if the contact to stakeholders gets lost, or if the funnel continues to shrink?
  • Initiate countermeasures!
    Since the challenges are gradually growing, only small countermeasures are required at an early stage – but they are unavoidable, if you don’t want to fatalistically surrender to the development. If the changes are big enough that the frog notices them, he will get to safety in time.
    We can refresh our relationships through regular contact or investigate, evaluate and keep in check conspicuous internal and external developments.

Bottom line: If we turn away from the noticeable, big disruptions, to the innumerable small changes, which rain down on us everywhere and at any time, then we quickly realize that not only the thunderstorm, but also the long-lasting drizzle drenches us completely. In order to be able to better assess the possible consequences of the small fluctuations, it helps to develop a personal early warning system: Observing attentively, following centers of gravity, questioning results, anticipating the future, setting up countermeasures. The metaphor of the boiling frog comprehensibly conveys the long-term trap of small changes, which turns small changes into mature difficulties.