It Can Be a Great Organizational Change Tool or a Cultural Slippery Slope

This started out as a missive on the “boiling frog syndrome.”

You may have heard of it. In an experiment, a live frog was dropped into boiling water and it jumped out, because it wouldn’t tolerate the heat. But another frog was put in tepid water, which was slowly heated until it was boiling. The frog never leapt out because it couldn’t sense the incremental changes and know it was in danger.

A little research indicates this is an urban myth — with the opposite outcome. Drop a frog into boiling water and it will cook him so quickly he’s unable to jump. The other frog will leap away when the water starts to heat up.

What I came across along the way was the concept of creeping normality. It turns out this can be very effective for leading organizational change — or evoke the dark side of the force. Here’s what you need to know.

You could say that all of 2020 was an exercise in creeping normality. At the end of 2019, if you’d said that most of us would be working from home, our children wouldn’t be attending school, and going to the grocery store would be our main entertainment — you would have faced a furor.

 We’ve seen the positive and negative effects of this. Let’s pay attention to the places where small changes will lead us in a good direction, and not remain silent when we notice this could be that slippery slope.