Thinking Small to Think Big

Image of stack of colorful blocks

By: Ed Jubenville, Kathleen's husband   |    Read time: 2 minutes

I am most proud of the software programming code I throw away. Every once in a while I have a reason to look at old code, and I may see a small improvement to simplify, clarify, or otherwise enhance the code. I especially like it when I can delete a good size chunk of code and simultaneously improve the functionality or performance. 

The concept of making small continual improvements is called Kaizen (or kaisan).  It has an interesting history that helped the Allies win World War II, while later helping the Japanese auto industry cause a near collapse of the U.S. auto industry.  

Kaizen has been scientifically proven to work because our brains are hard-wired to resist change. It is a survival and safety mechanism. Kaizen circumvents that mental block by reframing a big change into a bunch of tiny problems with tiny solutions. It is especially helpful when there is a goal that seems so distant, so ambitious, so unattainable that paralysis sets in and no action is taken for days, weeks or months. Choosing to “just do something” will more often than not have a positive effect. Making a 1% change may not seem like much, but stringing 25 or 50 of 1% changes can be transformative.

If you have ever have thoughts like  “I can do X, but it won’t make much difference”, rethink it.  Maybe you should do X. Any step in the right direction is momentum gained.  Think small, then small again, then small again, and it will lead to big thinking.

The Fearless Climbers

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