How To Understand And Use The Power of Incremental Change (and why most people don’t)

0 Flares Facebook 0 Google+ 0 Twitter 0 Buffer 0 0 Flares ×

incremental changeI’ve often had the bad luck of being trapped in the same room with irritating flies.

This really annoyed me. . .

. . .Until I learned a really smart method for killing those bastards.

And it works flawlessly every time.

What’s that?  You want to know my method?

Ok sure. I’ll tell you. It’s no big secret.

To become a good at killing flies you must think like a ninja: You can’t let them see you coming. This might seem difficult, seeing as how flies have a 360 degree field of vision (pun not intended).

But it’s not difficult at all — it’s actually very simple.

Here’s what you do:

You pick up a newspaper — or something else to smash the fly with — and you move it very slowly, incrementally, towards the fly. Then, when you get a couple of centimeters away from the fly, you thrust the object towards the fly and crush it.

They never see it coming, not even the fastest and nastiest of flies. I promise, they don’t stand a chance against you when you use this method. Do you know why?

It’s because flies don’t understand. . .

The Concept of Incremental Change.

Their brains aren’t complex enough to perceive it. They only react to sudden changes — movements with an accelerating speed that goes past a certain sensory threshold.

Insects have only around 100, 000 cells in their entire nervous system. Humans, however, have billions of cells in their brains alone.

So, if I wanted to kill you (not that I would, I’m a nice guy) and I picked up a knife and tried to use my fly-killing method, you would probably just laugh at me.

However. . .

While insects — with their limited brain capacity — cannot sense the incremental change over the course of  a few seconds. . .

. . .Most humans cannot sense incremental change taking place over the course of minutes, hours, days, and years.

Why is this?

Is It Because Our Brains Suck?

Well, not really.

Our brains don’t necessarily “suck”. They work just fine considering what they’ve been used for up until recently.

Our brains do what they’ve been fine-tuned to do through evolution, via the Darwinian process of natural selection.

The problem is that the world has changed a lot over the past few thousand years — but our brains have NOT.

Culture and technology evolves MUCH faster than our genes (and brains) do.

It’s one thing to say this, but it’s another thing to really understand the implications of what I’m talking about here. So, let’s put things in perspective, shall we?

Let’s Review the History of the Human Race in Less Than a Minute

  • Humans have been around for about 4-7 million years.
  • The human race has spent the vast majority of its time living as hunter-gatherers. It’s in this environment our brains evolved.
  • Homo sapiens — which is what you and I are — first came around 200,000 years ago. We are the last surviving human race. Hobbits were the last human species to go extinct.
  • 10,000-12,000 years ago we invented agriculture. This led to a decline in hunter-gatherer and tribal living. People started settling down at fixed locations instead of living like nomads.
  • From that point on until around 2000 years ago we became a lot better at growing food, and survival became easier. We created communities which eventually grew into villages, towns, and sometimes even cities.
  • Then in the last 400 years we’ve seen rapid technological progression, especially during the industrial revolution. Cities have grown in size tremendously. Tokyo now has 13 million inhabitants and New York has 8.5 million.
  • We now live in the information society since around 1980. And the rate of technological progression is speeding up — the world is changing faster than ever before.

We are now knowledge workers living in the information society

We are now knowledge workers living in the information society

 

Let’s talk more about the information society.

Here’s the Wikipedia definition of an information society:

An information society is a society where the creation, distribution, use, integration and manipulation of information is a significant economic, political, and cultural activity. The aim of the information society is to gain competitive advantages internationally, through using information technology (IT) in a creative and productive way. The knowledge economy is its economic counterpart, whereby wealth is created through the economic exploitation of understanding.

So, the big thing here is that to thrive in the information society, you need to be good at handling a lot of information. You need to be good at learning things. You need to understand what the information means — and how you can use it.

As the economist Tyler Cowen says in his book Average is Over:

The more information that’s out there, the greater the returns to just being willing to sit down and apply yourself. Information isn’t what’s scarce; it’s the willingness to do something with it.

And “to do something” with it requires what? Willpower. Motivation. A goal.

But, wait.

There are some other aspects of the information society I “forgot” to mention.

. . . For example, there are new types of behavior such as:

  • Spending lots of time indoors — in cubicals and such
  • Sitting in front of computer screens
  • Using smart phones — with unlimited access to the Internet
  • Getting text messages and email
  • Having unlimited access to social media sites
  • Having unlimited access to porn

And other ways to get instant gratification.

Of course, you know this just as well as I do.

The question then becomes. . .

Do You Think Our Brains Have Adapted to This?

I’ll tell you: In the 34 years we’ve been in the information society, there’s no way in hell our brains have adapted to these things!

But the scary thing is that most people don’t reflect about any of these things. Not even about the social networks which they so happily spend waste several hours per day on.

Social networks have turned the world on its head. Because of this, life for most people has changed dramatically in just the last 10 years; the way business and marketing is being done has changed.  The way we connect with people has changed. And much more. . .

But still, most people don’t even think about it. Why is this?

Yeah, I think you can guess the answer by now. It’s because these things — these technological progressions — happened incrementally over an extended period of time.

And by default, our brains are NOT made for understanding these things; just the same way the fly that doesn’t understand that the newspaper is moving towards it until it’s too late — and has its intestines smeared all over my wall. The question is. . .

Are You Smarter Than a Fly?

Yes?

I should hope so.

However, even if we humans are smart enough not to fall for the fly-killing method we will often be tricked by slightly more advanced methods that operate by the very same fundamental process — the process of incremental change.

For example. . .

. . .The magician David Copperfield invented a famous trick for disappearing the Statue of Liberty. He had placed a group of seated onlookers upon a platform. And right in front of them was the Statue of Liberty, situated between two pillars. Copperfield then placed a large screen between the two pillars to block their view of the Statue of Liberty for a minute or two.

When he removed the screen, the onlookers could no longer see the Statue of Liberty.

It had “disappeared”.

How did he do it?

David Copperfield's "disappeared" the Statue of Liberty by incrementally rotating the platform the onlookers were seated upon.
David Copperfield “disappeared” the Statue of Liberty by incrementally rotating the platform, until it was blocked out of sight by a pillar

 

Copperfield had placed the onlookers on a stationary platform, which was then rotated at a speed below the sensory threshold.

The onlookers did not feel that the platform was being rotated 45 degrees to the side– because it happened incrementally. When Copperfield removed the screen the Statue of Liberty was “gone”. It was now blocked behind one of those pillars.

Pretty cool trick, huh?

Speaking of magic. . .

Another guy I think is really entertaining and charismatic, and someone who also knows how to use the process of incremental change. . .

Is The Illusionist David Blane

David Blaine recently perfected a trick where he sticks a needle through his hand, or through his arm (as seen in the clip below).

How the heck does he do that?

What is the trick?

The trick is that. . .

. . .There is no trick!

He’s really doing it.

But how can he stick a sharp object through his hand or his arm without bleeding, and without crying out in pain?

Well, the reason it doesn’t bleed is because David went to an MRI scan 12 years ago to find the perfect spot. He then practiced sticking acupuncture needles through those spots for a few years. [Take a second to imagine how badly he must’ve wanted to pull off this trick to go through this.]

Eventually, when the acupuncture needles got too easy for him, he started using sharper objects, and began pushing deeper. Until he got all the way through his hand/arm.

Eventually he produced scar tissue all throughout his arm and his hand on these specific spots — sort of like a permeable membrane — which he could then use to put sharps objects through.

David is really proud of this trick.

And the reason for that is because everyone thinks it’s “magic” — when it’s not.

People can’t explain what’s going on. So they’re left wondering. . .

. . .How did he do that?

And most people simply can’t figure it out, even though the answer is right in front of them.

It just doesn’t enter their mind that someone might sit around for years and practice piercing himself with sharp objects. It’s too bizarre.

But, more importantly, the reason they can’t figure it out is because they’re not familiar with thinking about the process of incremental change. And this is normal. The brain — by default — does not understand incremental change.

But it can learn to understand it — and start thinking in terms of it — through practice. By practicing what, you ask?

Two things:

1)

You must regularly engage in the mental practices of long-term thinking and imagination.

For example by mentally projecting yourself into the future and:

  • Imagine being 70 years old giving yourself advice.
  • Imagine what your life will be like 1, 5, 10, 30 years from now — given that you do some specific thing.
  • Imagine being much older, looking back at your life, and thinking about what you regret the most in your life.

2)

You must practice putting things in perspective.

Studying history is a fine way of doing this. The reason you want to put things in perspective is because it gives you a reference point which you can use to compare things with.

Our brains are made for comparing things, and without putting things in contrast to each other, we will miss changes. This is why tracking your results by writing or taking pictures is a good idea.

Let’s take the example I gave earlier about human history and put it in perspective by quantifying it. We assume the human species has been around for 4 million years:

This means that humans have spent more than 99% of their evolutionary history in the hunter-gatherer environment. If we compress 4 million years into 24 hours, and if the history of humans began at midnight, agriculture made its appearance on the scene 23 hours and 55 minutes later.

–Peter Bevelin, Seeking Wisdom

Let’s take that one step further by considering how long we’ve lived in an information society. How long would those 34 years be, in terms of the 24-hour analogy?

It would be 5,1 seconds!

Do You Think That’s Enough Time For Our Brains to Have Become Adapted to The Information Society?

Yeah. . .

Maybe. . .

Not!

5,1 seconds is NOTHING.

In other words, there’s a big problem going on here — and that problem is that. . .

. . .Our brains are NOT fit for modern society.

Not by default anyway.

If you want to grow beyond that — by practicing higher levels of thinking — then that’s up to you.

Let’s take a look at a couple of big areas where incremental change is put to use. Starting with. . .

Politics, Power, And Freedom

Have you ever heard someone say that if you put frogs in a pot of water and turn on the heat, they will eventually let themselves be boiled to death?

This is supposedly so because the frogs can’t sense the incremental increase in temperature.

Well, don’t believe everything you hear. It’s not true.

But, it’s still a very memorable anecdote for conveying one aspect of incremental change.

And if you look through history, in any given culture where some group of people came to power, it has usually happened in an incremental way.

Nazi Germany is a good example of this. When people look back at WW2, one of the most common questions is: How could people allow the Jews to be treated like that!?

You already know the answer:

. . . Because it happened incrementally.

The Nazis didn’t just wake up one day and say: Let’s exterminate the Jews. It took them many years of negatively influencing the public perception about Jews before they were able to get away with treating them like they later did.

The order of events went something like this. . .

The Nazis started with blaming the Jews for everything that was wrong, then they made it harder for Jews to get into university, then they created a national Jewish boycott, then they started confiscating their belongings, and finally they started turning them into slaves and putting them in concentration camps.

The Nazis (Hitler & Goebbels) came up with the idea to boycott Jewish goods, after they had

The Nazis (Hitler & Goebbels) came up with the idea to boycott Jewish goods,  shortly after Hitler became Chancellor in 1933

None of that happened suddenly.

The lesson is this:

You don’t take away someone’s rights or their freedom over the course of a night.

But you can do it over a longer period of time. Incrementally. By tiny imperceptible steps.

All smart politicians know this — they know that most people don’t understand the process of incremental change.

Smart politicians know that most people have the memory of an ant, with little ability for doing any type of long-term thinking, and that they do not study history.

Brands And Advertising

You probably can’t tell me all of the world’s top #100 brands — at least not off the top of your head.

But you probably can recognize most of them if you look at their logos.

Why is this?

It’s because the big companies have spent incredible sums of money on advertising over the course of many years. You’ve been unconsciously exposed to them in movies ever since you were a kid.

Companies do this because they want to give you a feeling of familiarity. And if they do a really great job at it, their brand may end up becoming part of your Dunbar’s number and identity. This is why there are lots of people who see themselves as “Apple people”.

But, what if a big brand decides it wants to change its logo?

Well, if they’re smart, they’re going to do it incrementally. Very slowly, by making tiny changes each year. If they do a great job, you won’t even notice the change.

And if they don’t do a good job?

Then they do a bad job. (Sorry, couldn’t stop myself)

No, but seriously. . .

. . .If they do a bad job — then they completely and suddenly change their logo beyond recognition.

Which means that many of the positive long-term effects they gained from years of investing in advertising have gone down the drain.

Coca Cola have changed their logo incrementally, over the period of many years.

Coca Cola has changed its logo incrementally, over a period of many years.

Let’s look at Coca Cola. They’ve understood this aspect of incremental change as good as anyone. They’ve made very incremental changes in their logo over the course of a long time.

That was smart of them.

But, Coca Cola was not smart enough to understand another aspect of incremental change when they. . .

Changed Their Flavor to New Coke!

Big food and beverage companies like Coca Cola spend enormous sums of money in coming up with better-tasting formulas and flavors. So that they can put in chemicals and potent additives that taste much better than natural ingredients would. Why do they do this?

Well, first because it’s cheaper than buying real ingredients. But more importantly, they want their products to be as addictive and stimulating as possible, which is why they’re always loaded with stuff like caffeine and sugar.

Once you get used to drinking a soft drink like Coke, it becomes hard to stop because, other than the fact that it’s physically ADDICTIVE, your brain also forms all sorts of positive associations with the drink. You link these positive associations to the Coca Cola brand, and to the flavor of the drink.

So, when these companies come up with a new flavor that tests really well, and outperforms everything else it’s tested against, should they replace the old flavor?

Yes?

That’s how Coca Cola reasoned in 1985 when they decided to use the new flavor — New Coke.

But this turned out to be a HUGE mistake. . .

. . .Which caused a minor national disaster. Just think about it: imagine that you have millions of people addicted to your product, which they consume several times per day, and then — suddenly — without warning, you take it away from them!

Bad idea.

People don’t like it when you change things too quickly.

And they also don’t like it when you take away things from them which they have grown familiar with — or even grown addicted to.

So that was a bad move by Coca Cola. . .

And in doing that, they also made another big error: They lost all the positive psychological associations they had created and linked to the old flavor.

They lost their hard-earned sense of familiarity, which they had spent billions of dollars creating.

They panicked and quickly went back to using the old familiar flavor again.

If they had instead made the change incrementally, people wouldn’t have noticed a thing.

Key Takeaways on Understanding And Using Incremental Change

In this article I wanted to give you an understanding of how powerful the concept of incremental change is — how wide its application is  — and why most people don’t understand it.

Summary:

  • For 99 % of the time that humans have existed we’ve lived in a hunter-gatherer society. This is the environment where our brains have evolved.
  • We now live in the information society, and our brains are not made for this environment.
  • For multiple psychological reasons, the human brain has trouble understanding the concept of incremental change.
  • Our brains do NOT grasp the concept of incremental change by default. It’s a higher level of thinking, and it requires practice.

The way to become a better thinker — and understanding incremental change — is by regularly engaging in the mental practices of:

  • Putting things in perspective (for example by studying history or quantifying things)
  • Using your imagination as much as you can
  • Practicing your long-term thinking and projecting yourself into the future (for example by thinking about your legacy)

And don’t think these things don’t apply to you — because they do.

Next time, I’m going to show you one of the most powerful ways that you can use incremental change to boost your personal development and become more motivated.

Talk to you soon.

 

Questions:

Do you know any useful ways for thinking long-term or for putting things in perspective?

Do you have any good practical examples of incremental change?


Resource:

Interactive timeline of human species by the Smithsonian.

Photo credit:

1, 2, 3, 4, 5

0 Flares Facebook 0 Google+ 0 Twitter 0 Buffer 0 0 Flares ×

BOOH Coming soon

Join the waiting list for exclusive bonuses. . .
Click for more info:

Comments

  1. Cool stuff Ludvig.

    By the way, what would you say that the value of a brand is? Ofc other than that of being easily recognised.

    • Mike, you’ll want to check out a post I wrote about branding here: “How To Create A Killer Brand” – https://medium.com/p/899b91b26dcf (when I talked to Markus Kramer, former Global Marketing Director for Aston Martin last month)

      In my opinion, a brand’s REAL value is that it’s a group of people trying to live in a better way. Real brands are the ones to which people pay attention; Apple being one of the most prolific examples of recent times. In essence, a real brand is one which people will happily get tattooed on their body (the Swastika being a somewhat notorious example)

      More brands will come, but NOTHING replaces the underlying “gravity” a great brand brings to whatever they’re doing. Ironically, you generally find the “best” brands are the ones which don’t actually aim to “make money” from what they’re doing (although they generally attract the lion’s share of revenue) (caveat — yes, brands do aim to generate revenue BUT it’s not their “sole purpose” for existing). Great brands focus on helping their community grow. They identify & work with the people they actually CARE about

      The art of branding is very simple, yet very deep. Simply, it’s ALL about what you actually DO as a company. It’s HOW YOUR COMPANY DOES STUFF. Everything you put out under this guise, is what attracts the type of people you are then happy to serve

      A great example of this is Victoria’s Secret. Many people think they sell “sex”, but in fact, Victoria’s Secret is there to help women confidently express their femininity. It’s there to help them CELEBRATE being a woman, hence the “Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show”. Please note how Adriana Lima was a virgin until she was 27 (when she got married) – prime example of branding in action

      You see, when you commit to “doing things YOUR way”, as a brand, you have to work out EVERYTHING that entails making your experience the very best for your community. This is where “innovation” comes from – you have to go against the grain in many instances to make what you’re doing “right” for your crowd; by far the most difficult & alluring aspect of brand-centric marketing.

      When you take a brand-centric approach to marketing, you begin to see things differently. You see that the people in your stores are not mere “employees” – they are representatives of your company, and have to exemplify the ideals you extol. You begin to realize that your products are there to SERVE A PURPOSE; and your company is there to take people from point A to B. **HOW** you do that is entirely up to your company (hence why some brands are loved much more than others; the “more loved” brands are ones who take obsessive care about making their product the very best for their community (Howard Hughes))

      The Adriana Lima example is a prime showcase of this — she might be a symbol of femininity, but her values & ideals are grounded in that of all women – to be virtuous, have fun & commit themselves to a husband, so they can enjoy the rest of their lives together. Her being hot as hell is just a by-product

      Of course, what I’ve mentioned is based in my own experiences & ideas. Many brands are simply a sticker they think they can put on as many products as possible (Microsoft / HP / Oracle etc). But if you want to achieve greatness, as a brand, and attract the revenue which comes with that, you have to embrace a more holistic way of thinking & **DOING** (the most important part)

      Hopefully that helps you out,

      Rich

      • Wow, I like what you’re saying here. Reminds me of Simon Sinek’s Start With Why. Great insights.

    • Yo Mike!

      I would say that it’s TRUST. Trust takes a long time to build and it requires a certain degree of consistency. But it can be broken very fast.

    • Just wow — Richard. Thanks a lot for the extensive and detail-packed answer!

      I see the value of trust also. Thanks Ludvig

      • No problem Sir! Are you involved in marketing currently? It’s truly one of the greatest ways to spend your time :)

    • Guys now that I have your attention, another quick question:

      Why would you want to change a logo? For example, if you want to build trust, wouldn’t it be smarter to be very consistent over time and just keep it the same?

      • IMO a logo is a the epitome of a brand – although it’s not a deal-maker/breaker, it *does* illustrate the core essence of what you’re trying to achieve.

        Apple, again, is a good example here. In the 80’s, Apple’s ID was their famous “rainbow” logo (http://thinkmarketingmagazine.com/index.php/apple-logo-evolution-story/). The reason? They were the only ones in the “colour screen” game – their systems (Apple II & then the Mac) were being adopted by design folks, and consequently they wanted to give people a clear indication of where their values lay.

        You must remember that the 80’s was one of the biggest land-grabs in the history of capitalism – much bigger than the iPhone / iPad landgrab of recent times (bigger numbers recently, but the ideas were conceived in the 80s). The 80’s is what BORE Microsoft, Apple & Oracle, and although they still earn MASSIVE revenues, the 80’s was the “proving ground” for each of them. Indeed, even Microsoft’s 1995 dominance held its foundations in the work & team built in the 80’s. And btw Gates became a billionaire in 86 – 9 years BEFORE the Mongol rampage often called “the launch of Windows 95”

        Conversely, the Swastika is another example of an incredible logo. Such a simple emblem – the Swastika has held pride of place in MANY traditions around the world, most notably in Hinduism as a sign of PEACE. Hitler & the NSDAP adopted the Swastika for its occult origins / meanings (IMO).

        It was an ensign of the Thule society (http://5z3udk.assets-01.cdndrive.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/The-Thule-Society.jpg), and was used throughout many Germanic cultural communities for a variety of reasons (need to research this a little more). Anyway, the Swastika is important as a “logo” because its a demonstration of what the NSDAP was all about – bringing the values of the “old world” back to re-energize Germany, making her strong again.

        No catchy slogan (like Deutschland Erwache) has stood the test of time as much as the trust old Swastika. Obviously its simplicity is the reason, but its deeper than that.

        One of the reasons Hitler is so revered, even today, is that his “message” was actually rooted in some of the deepest & most occult ideals. Whilst I’ve not read this directly, it could be argued that their anti-Semitism was a direct result of their occult leanings, although I don’t have the experience or research to quantify that statement.

        The Nazis were seriously obsessed with the occult. Not so much politically, but certainly ideologically. Check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wewelsburg and especially the significance of the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Sun_(occult_symbol) that Himmler had installed. It was also no accident that the SS went on many “missions” to the likes of Tibet, in order to discover “evidence” of historic occult-centric cultures: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1938%E2%80%9339_German_expedition_to_Tibet

        Long winded explanation aside, the Swastika represented EVERYTHING that the NSDAP stood for, including the bad stuff. This is partly why it’s still a potent symbol to so many around the world, as is why you get “figerheads” who represent brands; Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Steve Jobs, Ghandi, Jesus, Mother Theresa, Bill Gates, etc etc

        The bottom line is that the deeper the purpose of a company, the more “potent” their logo. So when you ask why people would considering “changing” the logo – it will happen if their VALUES change. This is why I mentioned in my original comment about how a brand is HOW a company does things – if you root the company’s existence in your own values, the logo becomes a mere representation of those, and not some magical way to get people to buy your shit.

        Great brands are built on VALUES; not money or markets. Values determine why a logo looks the way it does – the truly incredible brands have simple, but very DEEP logos. If you ever look to create a brand, never think about the logo – just let it “come” to you; that way, the values representing the logo do the talking

        Rich

      • Further to my latest comment, you also want to look into what the “Aryan” race REALLY meant.

        The origins of the Aryan race were actually in “The Secret Doctrine” by HP Blavatsky (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Secret_Doctrine) – basically the “occult” bible. The Secret Doctrine was apparently Einstein’s favourite book (although I’ve only seen scant references to this – http://theosophy.net/profiles/blogs/what-everyone-should-know)

        Ever wondered “who” the Aryan’s were? Now you know –
        “Blavatsky asserted humanity was presently in the fifth root race, the Aryan race, which Theosophists believe to have emerged from the previous fourth root race (Atlantean root race) beginning about 100,000 years ago in Atlantis. (According to Powell, when Madame Blavatsky stated the Aryan root race was 1,000,000 years old, she meant that the souls of the people that later physically incarnated as the first Aryans about 100,000 years ago began to incarnate in the bodies of Atlanteans 1,000,000 years ago”

        So if the Aryans are the “reincarnations” of Atlanteans….. couldn’t that be interpreted as making them the “master race”? Obviously, I am not advocating any of these ideas, just giving you some insight into the depth of the Swastika’s “meaning”

        Read this:
        “Blavatsky also asserts that “the occult doctrine admits of no such divisions as the Aryan and the Semite, accepting even the Turanian with ample reservations. Semites, especially the Arabs, are later Aryans — degenerate in spirituality and perfected in materiality” (The Secret Doctrine, Vol. 2, p 200). She also connects physical race with spiritual attributes constantly throughout her works:”

        (Interpret as you will, but she seems to be saying Semites & Aryans are similar in stature. I wanted to show the fact she mentions Semites and Aryans specifically)

        The “Aryan” ideal of the “white man”, to be brutally simplistic, is what laid at the core of the NSDAP. Indeed, some very interesting patterns emerge if you look at this; including the epitome of outer “beauty” being that of the Caucasian complexion (look at Chinese cosmetics companies – their aim is to make Chinese women appear more “white” / “Western”). The most prolific example of this can probably be seen in the bust of Nefertiti: http://content.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1883142_1883129_1883119,00.html

        The beauty of Nefertiti’s bust is nothing short of magnificent (especially considering she’s 3,300+ years old). What intrigues me, though, is how “white” she is. This is coupled with new evidence that all of Egypt’s royalty were predominantly “white” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fZ_SJt9gMMg

        I don’t hold an opinion on this matter, but IF you were easily swayed, you could definitely see, especially in a time before the Internet, how you could draw the conclusion that a race called the “Aryans” are the true masters of the world, and that its their duty to ensure their survival & proliferation; to “save” humanity from the degradation of “untermenschen”

        Oh yeah… and Hitler read “The Secret Doctrine”.

        Food for thought. Prepare to forget everything you thought was real…

        Also, there’s something else to consider. The book “The Power Of The Coming Race” is another NSDAP favourite. I’ve read it too – very interesting; talks of a civilisation that lives in the centre of the Earth who have mastered their existence due to a force called “Vril” (black sun anyone? – http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/sociopolitica/sociopol_vril07.htm — check out “The Vril Force And The Black Sun”)

        Vril is the “life force” which no one can explain. You may balk at the idea that science cannot explain something, but it’s true. Try explaining how your nails grow. Moreover, try replicating that in a lab. You can’t.

        Human “technology” right now is laughable. We only take what already exists & turn into something different. The magic of life is in creation; which is the true power of VRIL – the ability to procreate with “original substance”

        Original substance lies at the core of all the great discoveries throughout history. First extolled by Hermes (Thoth) with his “Emerald Tablets”:

        “3) And things have been from this primal substance through a single act. How wonderful is this work! It is the main (principle) of the world and is its maintainer.”
        http://www.sacred-texts.com/alc/emerald.htm

        Prima materia is at the core of Alchemy (of which Isaac Newton played a huge part), and is also the core idea behind many of the “new age” theories & cultures around the world. I believe it to be true; but we simply don’t know.

        Here are some great videos on the issue:
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vymz86vIHtE
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=58pPExu4GAw

        The Nazis wanted to harness VRIL energy. Check out “Die Glocke” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Die_Glocke for some serious fucked up shit about VRIL energy (although this thing was probably going to be used to generate weapons-grade uranium, it *could* have been used as an anti-gravity device in much the same way as the Virmanas of the Sanskrit epics) (http://www.unexplained-mysteries.com/column.php?id=224661) – birthing the numerous theories of Nazi “UFO”s

        The bottom line is that logos are much deeper than a sticker. American business is very transient (here today, gone tomorrow). You might make $$ by playing to the crowd; but if you want to create a GREAT company, you have to consider who you REALLY are, and why you REALLY do things.

        That’s what makes a great logo / brand.

        R

      • Mike,

        I think Richard (very informative comments!) has it right when he says:

        “it will happen if their VALUES change.”

        Here’s my own answer.

        Tough question, but one reason could be because you want to associate your logo with certain characteristics — a personality of sorts.

        If we take Coca Cola as an example… They want to associated with “fun” “having a good time” “partying” “social” “alive”, and things like that.

        If their logo was old school, black and white, it would be inconsistent with the values and characteristics of the “personality” they NOW want to represent.

        And Apple, in the 80s they wanted to be Hippie-like and to be “the computer for regular people”.

        Now they want to be more artistic/sophisticated.

      • Guys great input , i REALLY appreciate it. Its like getting a free business coaching session or something.

        And no Richard I’m not working with branding or marketing. Just curious as I happen to be working on a sideproject where ill use this down the line hopefully :)

  2. Jeremy S. says:

    Ludvig,

    I came across SGM from Good Looking Loser a while back and have been enjoying your content. You have a new subscriber in me.

    I did not make the connection between design and incremental change until now. For a good example of how changing a logo design too quickly can backfire, check out what happened when Gap changed its logo. While it was crappy no matter how you look at it, it drew public outrage and they changed it back after a couple of weeks. In the span of five years it could have evolved and nobody would have cared.
    Also, as someone who has casually studied history and been interested in this incremental change, I always wondered how one could tell if something major WAS going to happen, or whether that same person was just using the slippery slope fallacy for a non-issue. For example, a [annoyingly] common topic in American political discourse is over gun control–the gun lobby is very strong and makes itself highly visible to oppose any effort to limit gun usage, no matter how tiny. People say the government’s going to take away all of our guns if, say….a law closing loopholes to get a gun illegally is passed. It’s painfully obvious to many that a law like that is not there to confiscate Hillbilly Willy’s guns, but at the same time it’s impossible to refute the argument “well, what’s stopping Obama from passing even more draconian laws?” I wonder if there is a way to tell in the present whether someone is exploiting incremental change, or if it is baseless worry.

    Anyways, I like where this is headed and am looking forward to the next installment! Take care!

    • Hey Jeremy,

      Awesome to hear — I’m featuring this. I appreciate learning about the Gap example.

      “It’s painfully obvious to many that a law like that is not there to confiscate Hillbilly Willy’s guns, but at the same time it’s impossible to refute the argument “well, what’s stopping Obama from passing even more draconian laws?”

      –Great example. It’s very hard to know, but depending on where you go, you’ll find people taking all sorts of positions on things like this. Go to a site like Zerohedge and you will see one thing, then go to some mainstream media site and you will it interpreted completely differently. Heh.

  3. Ludwig as always my friend you have blown my mind with this one! It’s true the the majority of the people today do not understand incremental change.

    I slowly came across it when I would read my history books during my younger days. I have learned what to look for. Since then I tend to look at life and the things going on it a little more deeply than most.

    It’s true that our brains are not made to handle so much information and the speeds they travel. I guess which is why the majority of people cannot understand the computer. I know because I deal with this everyday with users at work. Change something too fast an the users react negatively.

    I’m going to have to find out about incremental change some more!

    Again great post Ludwiq!

    • As a webdesigner I found to be great lesson in there. I was thinking about radical redesigns of some websites lately, but now I think that it could be a mistake in some cases.
      I really don’t understand how can you always write such a good stuff. What to do to be able to do it ?

    • Hey Jose!

      “I guess which is why the majority of people cannot understand the computer. I know because I deal with this everyday with users at work”

      — Yeah, especially older people. I was going to put in a long segment in the article about this, but cut it. Perhaps later.

      Marek,

      “I really don’t understand how can you always write such a good stuff.”

      –Thanks a lot man. The key is that we share a common interest. I used to write and speak about stuff for people just a year ago, and get dissed or misunderstood. It’s all about who’s the recipient.

  4. Very interesting article!

    One more example how our brain is not really adjusted to living in information era is computer games. They can give you a sens of achievement by playing them. You even get “rewards” (like new title: Super-Duper-Mega Orc Slayer etc.) that might fulfill your need for real achievement, so they might destroy your real life progress. That’s why I stopped playing games as it makes me more hungry for real success.

    The incremental change could be sometimes working against us (like for the fly you mentioned). For example when over hundreds of years ecosystems are being degraded. That’s what pretty much happened to North Africa, that during ancient Rome times was an exporter of quality wood. Over time, because people were cutting the trees and grazing animals in a uncontrolled way they landscape changed. It was a very sudden, so the people literately couldn’t see it, because “it always was like that”.

    • Hey Wojciech,

      “that might fulfill your need for real achievement, so they might destroy your real life progress. That’s why I stopped playing games as it makes me more hungry for real success.”

      –For sure. This was the story of my life up til I turned 20.

      Interesting to hear about North Africa. I did not know that. Thanks!

  5. A great way to put things in perspective I learned is when you’re in a boring/messed up situation, close your eyes and imagine yourself jet-packing way up into the sky, above the earth and then even outside the galaxy. Look at the galaxy. Look how small it is. Look how small your problems are.

    Another good one was taught to me by my good buddy when a girl broke up with me a long time ago and I was angry and feeling down. He set his lighter down on a bar and said…”You see that bar? That’s your life. You see that lighter? That’s the time you spent with that b****!”

    It made me feel instantly better :)

    Thanks for the article Ludvig. You knocked it out of the ballpark once again!

  6. “This isn’t a trick, you’re just stickin a needle through your fuckin arm.”

    Lol, that video was hilarious.

    Very insightful article anyway, Ludvig. I particularly loved how you started off with that very relatable analogy of killing flies. I’m glad I keep learning new and cool stuff from SGM. Or at least you do make these concepts sound cool, haha.

    I remember you talked about starting to become a little more personal in one of your articles, and that you started off just providing value without a “face”. Would you say you are using this concept of incremental change to keep yourself identifiable to the readers in the process?

  7. Incremental change strongly reminds me of the T Rex visual abilities in Jurassic park series.
    Good old journal is indeed a mighty effective way of looking at things from a long term perspective. I am still experimenting with it.
    But incremental changes have worked quite good for me – in changing my diet , and properly timing my sleep schedule.
    To properly maintain the circadian rhythm ( wake up early ) , a weekly incremental change of 10 minutes works wonders.
    Cheers

    • Good to hear, Yash.

      “properly timing my sleep schedule.”

      –I’ve always struggled with this. I’ve been experimenting with polyphasic sleeping recently.

      • How many times do you aim for in polyphasic sleep ?
        I used to do it in 2 parts – 2 hours and 6 hours. But it left me feeling lazy for much of the later part of the day

      • I went from monophasic (1 time) to Everyman3 — 3 hour core, 3x 20 min nap. I did that for little over a month, but I wasn’t able to maintain it.

        Now I am going back and forth between:

        4.5h + 1.5h

        and 6h
        or
        6h + 20 min nap.

        If/when I get this down, I’ll do an article on it.

  8. Heathenwinds says:

    Great article. I really liked the part about projecting.

    I think that your picture of the Jewish boycott had the caption cut off.

  9. Heathenwinds says:

    Great article. I really liked the part about projecting.

    I think that your picture of the Jewish boycott had the caption cut off.

  10. Thought-provoking as per usual lately. Keep em’ coming.

    I have a mental practice for putting things in perspective:
    + Beware of first impressions during business meetings, important decision-making, and when you buy things for the business.
    To get a better perspective I will therefore find out as much as I can before meeting people so that I am able to get an idea of what they’ve done over a long period of time.

    This example may not apply for your concept of “incremental change” per se, but it has worked well for me so far.

  11. The Matrix says:

    Are the Jews using the same techniques on the Palestinians I wonder or is it more direct?
    Anyways Thanks Jews!

    –http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dMniFQCyqTg —

  12. 2 things I would like to ask you:

    1. i don’t get how projecting myself in future will help me in information society.

    2. another think is you say is that information society is changing faster then ever before, yet we cannot understand all aspects of this incremental change over the past 34 years.

    but how does it affect my life if I reflect on this?

    Is it a *lifestyle* that should be more natural and similar to what people are adapted to, because evolution doesn’t adapt our bodies and minds as fast as technological and lifestyle changes happen (what makes our life not as enjoyable as it should be)?

    Or should one use power incremental change for self improvement, business and so on?

    if flies would know that newspaper are coming, fly would fly away. What can we do differently when we would understand incremental change better?

    • Heathenwinds says:

      I can field the first question, I think.

      The primary problem of living in an information society is that there is a SHIT TON of information on every topic you can imagine. This is good if you want to be an expert on something, but it is very easy to get sidetracked by some useless information or mindless stimulation (porn and websites like Cracked and CNN are good examples of this). It becomes extremely difficult to stay focused on what you’re doing when so much information is being thrown at you from so many different directions.

      The benefit of consistently projecting yourself into the future is that it:

      -sets a baseline of what you should have achieved

      – forces you to think through your goals, which will keep you more focused on what you need to be doing. This helps me a lot. I tended to spend a lot of time on interesting but useless Wikipedia articles, but now I very rarely do that.

    • Hello Marek,

      I see what you mean.

      First. You’re not going to “magically” become a genius by projecting yourself into the future. But over time — incrementally — it will result in giving you the mental habit of long-term thinking and better understanding incremental change. Like how compound interest works — and why guys like Warren Buffett have got so rich.

      “but how does it affect my life if I reflect on this? ”

      –Two big things:
      1.
      It helps you understand that most people have a very poor understanding of incremental change, and how it adds up over time. So they are psychologically averse to doing hard work and practicing a skill over many years of time in hopes of becoming great at it.

      2.
      It helps you understand why a lot of people lead very unconscious lives, just following their primitive ‘reptilian instincts’. For example, the Internet is a freaking WEALTH of information and opportunity. Yet, what is the most popular use of it? Porn. Then gaming. Then mainstream news that add zero value, but a lot of quick entertainment.

      —-
      And yes, incremental change should be used for your building your own success over a period of many years. Consistent learning/practice is key. I believe that THIS is one of the reasons why people are in awe — emotionally enraptured — by elite athletes. Because these athletes practice like crazy. But you don’t notice them until they’re really damn good.

      Like this basketball kid now turned a skilled teenager:
      -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BIqVvRh_cEY
      -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B1E1eQQcuiU

  13. Even though it has only been 34 years, our society has adapted to an amazing degree to an information society. I prefer the term “post-industrial society” because it indicates that not only our information and social situations have changed, but also that our labor, political, and economic situations have been altered by the widespread changes in IT. There is a lot of good literature on this.

    If we assume that human creativity and innovation stays constant through time, then it would make sense that we will continue to change our society at an ever increasing rate, one which we cannot keep up with evolutionarily. The innovations that would have once taken seven generations of a billion people to come up with will now happen in a single generation. So, history is accelerating, but our bodies aren’t. This is why I am in favor of transhumanist technological aids to our bodies. Otherwise, we will be left behind by our society.

    • Hey John,

      The reason I use the term “information society” is because I read a bunch of Peter Drucker essays when he uses it. Plus I think it’s more catchy.

      “This is why I am in favor of transhumanist technological aids to our bodies.”

      –Never heard about this before. Would you care to explain your thoughts more?

      • Transhumanism is a philosophy that argues that we should supplement our own bodies with the technology we develop. While options are limited right now, in the future, there are hopes for immortality, nanotechnology, and things like exoskeletons to increase our physical abilities. Currently, things like Google Glass and supplements are getting us closer. I recently made a magnetic ring to see if I want to get a magnet implanted in my finger, which would allow me to sense magnetic fields, such as those given off by electrical currents.

        It is pretty closely related to meliorism, which holds that progress is improvement.

        For a final for school last year I wrote an essay on the subject, arguing for continuous self-improvement. You can find it here:

        http://tri-nab-tu-we.blogspot.com/p/prometheus-reborn.html.

        I hope you enjoy,
        John

  14. That David Blaine trick reminds me of the scene in The Prestige when Angier and Borden are trying to figure out how the Oriental guy pulls off the fish tank trick.

    Their only possible conclusion is that he carries the tank between his legs from the time he enters the building to when he leaves. A feat that requires strength and is impossible for an elderly man, which leads them to conclude that he isn’t an elderly man after all, but a younger man pretending to be old. In effect, he’s in character 24/7 – and they refuse to believe anyone will go to such lengths for just 1 trick – but that’s the trick.

    Brilliant film.

    I love Ricky Gervais too. Great article btw.

    • Haha — loving the Prestige example!

      It’s one of the best movies I’ve ever seen.

      • I just want to point out the other day, I was giving a guitar lesson when my student rolled up a piece of paper and was about to whack a fly.

        “Stop.. stop.. wait” I cried…

        “bring it down slowly… slowly… easy….”

        SPLAT!

        Evergreen content right there Ludvig. The ultimate guide to swatting flies.. lets hope Google rewards you for your gold! :-)

      • Haha!
        Funny you mention that, I got a bunch of emails from people who were genuinely happy to learn about this fly-killing method.

  15. Hi Ludvig,

    Your example of incremental change really reminds me of the way politicians behave and how they gradually sneak in certain policies and no one seems that bothered.

    Maybe this ‘information society’ is being created on purpose so that we can’t understand it properly and though fore don’t question it or like you said don’t even realise it’s happening. Then we’re all in a position of vulnerability by not understanding the world we live.

    Sorry to go all conspiracy theorist!

    Lastly David Blame is no magician in my view – He has just learned to cope and handle physical and mental self-inflicted abuse. Like the Box and Ice Tomb”trick”. It’s just practice like what athletes do.

    Incredible effects go into making his “tricks” work (as was shown on that particular program, some “tricks” took years to perfect) but I do just feel like I’m watching another person simply abuse/harm themselves.

    Honestly, he just creeps me out

    Naomi

    • Hey Naomi,

      Haha yup. Those politicians know when people get bored or stop paying attention, and make important decision then and there.

      I don’t believe there’s any “information conspiracy” going on. But you make a good point. Science is probably going to end up like that in the future — really complex; something similar to religion, where you have experts who become like priests. That’s what guys like Tyler Cowen think anyway.

      “but I do just feel like I’m watching another person simply abuse/harm themselves. ”

      –Haha. :)

  16. Understanding the power of incremental change is what separates us entrepreneurs from people pursuing dead-end careers. They take the easy way out. They settle for the immediate comfort of a job and the satisfaction of a paycheck every week. We’re thinking about the future. We’re thinking about shaping the future and making an impact in the long term.

  17. Human evolution is a topic i have studied a lot.

    One thing that I’m very curious about and think you should write about sometime is *singularity*.

    Thats kind of like when technology starts to improve on itself, like in the movie The Matrix. Because like you say, human technology is moving exponentially, like Moore’s law of microprocessors.

  18. David Blaine is awesome. I’ve been a fan for years. Love his card trick videos. It’s always funny when he plays tricks on black people, their reactions are the best. Speaking on incremental change & the human brain….. David blaine does something really cool, he will steal people’s watches and they never notice it because he is so fast. Perhaps he is so fast that the human eye/brain cannot register his movements?

    You should watch his TED talk if you haven’t already:
    http://www.ted.com/talks/david_blaine_how_i_held_my_breath_for_17_min

    • I have seen it years ago. It’s inspiring. Thanks for the recommendation Dave.

      Regarding the watch-stealing:
      –No I don’t think so — though I’m not saying he’s not fast. But I think he’s just diverting their attention. That’s what magicians do.

  19. Yo there’s a book called The Talent Code by a guy named Dan Coyler. Its about incremental change when it comes to practicing stuff, its all about pros and how their brains are mad efficient for their sports. You might like it

  20. Good practical examples of incremental change?
    Start any habit and keep it for a long time. It is as simple as that.
    Better yet, start dozens of them and the change will not seem just incremental anymore. It will be massive.

    Retrospection is a good way to put things in perspective. I like to reflect about my past and how much has changed since I was 5, 15 or 25.
    I sit down and write those reflections down in my journal. The output invariably amazes me.

  21. Ah man, great post. The David Blaine example reminded me of that film, The Prestige, there too people are unable to understand the illusion because they don’t consider that someone could have that level of commitment to consistently persist toward an aim over so long a period. Incremental change, consistently applied habits, is a powerful, powerful thing. As is it’s opposite – entropy, inactivity etc. When I go just a few months without going to the gym I know it’s going to be hell when I eventually get back to it. No matter how well conditioned my body was before the break (because of injury), the same weights I was tossing around with ease suddenly seem three times as heavy. In this same way incremental change can move toward positive outcomes or negative outcomes. The problem, often, is we allow ourselves to believe that mediocrity is comfortable, that we can just tread water, not grow or develop – when the truth is change is inevitable. The only thing we have influence over is what kind of change we’ll have – construction, or decay.

  22. Hmm don’t be so sure it was a mistake by Coca Cola to launch New Coke. Some say that it was a ploy to replace sugar cane with HFCS which is cheaper. And because of New Coke, when they changed back to “normal Coke’ people didnt notice it!

  23. MR. VEINS says:

    Ludvig,

    How often do you practice this type of long-term thinking and what has it actually done for you as a person?

    Your man,
    MR. VEINS

  24. Curious Keith says:

    Where art thou, Ludvig? When is the next post coming?

  25. Great post Ludvig,

    I loved the countless examples man! It’s obvious you put a lot of time in researching these kinds of things. It’s adds a whole other layer of depth to your posts.

    (The magic trick was pretty interesting/disturbing though.. The dedication that David put into that trick is really a clear indicator of the passion he has for his craft. And also the reason why he’s one of the best at what he does. There has always been something fascinating about illusionists IMO.

    PRACTICAL;
    a application I’ve found for this method is by visualizing the goals you’ve set for yourself. (You’ve probably heard of the Law of attraction?) Basically what we think about most, we move towards. So by visualizing you achieving your goals, you can move closer in that direction every single day.

    Some ways I’ve tried;
    Cinema Visualizations
    > http://www.pluginid.com/improve-at-anything/ (Glenn Alsopp)

    Meeting Yourself
    > http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2005/08/my-favorite-meditation/ (Steve Pavlina

    Another way of broadening your view is by perceiving life as subjective reality (this one is a mindfuck). Basically what you’re trying to do is perceiving your life as “unreal”, like you are a character in a video game and that you are not the character in the game but actually a “bigger awareness” that’s playing the game. (a bit similar to “The Matrix”)

    Shifting between modes of perception has different benefits as discussed here (http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2007/09/subjective-reality-simplified/) Pretty abstract but fancy concept nonetheless.

    It’s fun to play around with, but I’ve found mostly impractical.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing Ludvig

    Take care,

    PS: Richard has great insights on business and logo’s, he should get a blog (if he doesn’t have one) haha!

    • Simon,
      Thanks for the advice on WP (your other comment). I will check this out now

      “The dedication that David put into that trick is really a clear indicator of the passion he has for his craft.”

      –Yes, totally agree. I’m awed by these people.

      • Update:
        Last week I met a guy who knows David Blaine in real life and has helped him with magic tricks. I spoke to him about this, and he basically said:

        “Yup, that’s David for you. He’s about as passionate about magic as a man can be about anything.”

  26. Hello Ludvig,

    This is by far one of the best articles I’ve read in a while.

    Incremental change is all around us. Aging, friendship, wealth, etc… All of these happen in such a slow pattern we don’t sense the change happening.
    I believe by creating milestones it becomes easier to notice the differences.

    Great to see someone who’s interested in health, history and science instead of pop culture and gossip.
    I have recently started a blog. It is about Influential People. I will soon send you an invitation to write a few words on influential people, hope you accept!

  27. Anonymous says:

    This is an excellent article Ludvig. We’ve talked via email messages and this is good advice to anyone who wants to own their own business and stop lining the pockets of other people. Keep up the good work!

    PS Cool tidbit about David Blaine!

  28. My 0,05 on post-rationalization:
    Girls do this like crazy. They’ll rationalize anything and stick to it forever. Guys are a little better, they may play along for the time being, but afterwards they will often admit to themselves that their behavior was strange. Also, girls don’t dare to “make a scene”, so as a man it is one’s own responsibility to lead the way.

  29. Haha here’s a shocking one no one has said so far (and I’m surprised I’m the first one!!): PENIS YELKING.

    And while I don’t FEEL any “winner effect” from doing it and “beating myself” for a long time I certainly LOOK like a winner ;) if you know what I mean ?8)

  30. Hey just found your site via google while searching for cumulative results and incrementals gains. Awesome stuff, really thought-provoking. Just subscribed!

  31. This is an incredibly fascinating read

  32. Hahaha i just killed a fly using that method

Trackbacks

  1. […] Let me give you the neurological  explanation for why the LoA works, as well as my personal strategy — the strategy that I have been practicing for a few years with incrementally improving results. […]

  2. 08/11/14 Morning Post | The Cabal says:

    […] One step at a time […]

  3. […] it’s usually best to use the process of incremental change to improve your life over the […]

  4. […] not saying Incremental change is bad. It’s a fantastic way to overcome your bad habits, to improve your skills and to become a […]

  5. […] have taken a similar approach to Adams. I base my long-term decisions on 3 […]

  6. […] have taken a similar approach to Adams. I base my long-term decisions on 3 […]

  7. […] you want to be successful, and you have a long-term oriented outlook, there are some basic — yet very serious — things you want to stay the heck away from. […]

  8. […] How to understand and use the power of incremental change 9 things you need to know to unlock your natural talents & succeed in life How I got ripped in 2 years by following these 13 principles Combine powerful psychological principles to boost motivation, build self-esteem, and be a winner every day 23 excellent books you should read The 11 maxims you should live by How to find people worthy of your time and get them to like you […]

  9. […] 37. How to Understand and Use The Power of Incremental Change […]

Speak Your Mind

*