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Incremental or Exponential Change?

Updated: Apr 21, 2021

Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF): Change is inevitably challenging. Incremental and exponential change both have pros & cons and require discipline. Small changes take more time and may face prolonged resistance, while significant change can shock people and organizations. Either change type can be handled, and good leaders must learn to forecast and respond.


"Be the change that you wish to see in the world."


Incremental change can be more challenge execute than exponential change. A slight change fosters a little better or a little different. The issue with small change is that most of us naturally choose short-term gain delayed gratification or long-term results. Since change often uncomfortable, even small changes can disrupt and cause perceived problems. When a change is incremental, it doesn't require one to get too far outside of our current universe -- the autopilot drive uninterrupted and with minor course correction. Ultimately, no change. Here is the key: baby steps are the conditioning for the long strides. Whether it is IT infrastructure in a corporation or uniforms in the United States Army, incremental change is challenging, but sometimes can be the best compromise for a transition.


Abrupt changes like:

  • retiring or transitioning from military

  • going to or back to college

  • a recent increase in business

  • getting married

  • moving to a new location

  • starting a faith journey

  • committing to a new daily routine

or starting a business, are forcing functions and raises incremental change with a gut punch. As leaders, we know there are changes in all aspects of life, and I am telling you how we forecast and navigate them is critical to our lives and the people we are lucky enough to lead.


The true challenge is finding a counter-balance that leads to peace. We can not overlook the need for a change because of the incremental or exponential challenge. So if you commit to the gym a few times a week or recently got laid off, success doesn't judge when you take two weeks during a fitness slump, or you are overly concerned about finding that next opportunity doesn't make you a failure. A true change champion recognizes the need for change, sets milestones, reflects on shortcomings, and measures results to maintain the new norm.


Stay Inspired.



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