Saturday, March 18, 2006

in baby steps, giant leaps, and breakthroughs ...

Just last Wednesday I had an earful from my climbing partner during a rock climbing session for failing on an "easy" overhang. She (yeah, *she*) said, "You know what the problem was? You didn't even try!"

Harvard Business Review, February 2006
Take a Giant Step

The motto 'Evolution, not revolution' became bumper sticker fare when a faltering economy took out more upstarts than the battle of Camden. Tweaks, refinements, and enhancements to existing products rarely looked so good. You can cover lots of ground with a series of small steps, many companies realized. But in a race, competitors can usually match each small step. What's tough to beat are those giant, muscle-straining strides that take innovators off the well-trod path and drop them miles away on a different road where no one else is ... It's hard to spot opportunities for innovative leaps when you're preoccupied with baby steps. Iterative improvers believe that 'every day in every way, I get better and better'. Probably they will get better. Probably they won't get great.": Don Moyer

"On an overhang you can't just hang in there thinking and hoping you'd make it by making too many moves that don't get you anywhere. Your arms will get tired. You'd have to reach over and pull yourself out of there as quickly as possible. If you don't make it, then you fall and try again. But you didn't even try! That is why you did not make it--not lack of skill!"

Ouch.

It's true that most things start small. Nevertheless, when we talk about the world's most successful organizations, people often find less than half dozen big reasons why they succesful. People often forget that it is the big leaps--not the collections of small steps--that really makes up the difference. And it is true that it's the giant leaps that normally would take years to copy.

The problem is--just like climbing an overhang--sometimes we can't really see where we are going when we want to make that giant leap. So we'd reason that baby steps will get us there ... just a matter of time and patience. Therefore the excuses of "well if we take it one baby step at a time, we won't fall as hard".

But not necessarily less painful. We probably would not fall by taking baby steps. But we might fail to reach the top (or get there too late) for spending too much energy contemplating the next baby step. Usually, competitors don't give an earful. They just drive us out of business.

This being said, remember this post?

1 comment:

Mike said...

Wow, I just stumbled onto this Blog and it's my cup of tea... or coffee... You seem to have a good grasp on life, it's all about the steps you take. Each baby step will change how you get to where you are headed, an possibly how quick and easy you get there. As long as you don't waste all your time pondering the small steps you will end up on top in the end.