The Boiling Frog Syndrome

If you place a frog in a pot of boiling water, it will immediately jump out to save its life. However, if placed in cold water that is slowly heated, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death. This is known as the boiling frog syndrome.

The boiling frog is a great metaphor for why successful companies die. They don’t die suddenly. They did gradually.

Gradual changes in our environment are often not perceived on a daily basis. Yet, their effect is continuous and cumulative to the extent that the overall impact of these changes are not recognized until it has reached a critical level.

Small opportunities are missed, customer complaints are being ignored and critical questions not being asked. We don’t notice the slipping standards, because there is still a profit. Profit can mask a lot of problems.

But then one day once the culture is rotten and the customers are leaving rapidly, it all falls apart. At the time, it feels like a big shock, but actually it started a long time ago with slowly slipping standards. This is the principle of gradualism. Changes that are incremental over a sufficient period of time will go unnoticed.

The continued success of an organization depends more than anything on its willingness to address problems when they are visible, not waiting until they become obvious.

Posted on 28th Jan 2015 by Rasmus Ankersen

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