Continuous Improvement

Continuous Improvement is a mindset of applying small, consistent changes in order to achieve big results. For how similar ideas apply to business world, also see 01 Inbox/Kaizen.

It can be a little unintuitive to see why this approach is so effective, so let's try to lay down some ideas and examples to make it clearer.

Direction vs Distance

Big goals in our life wouldn't be so big if they were easy or quick to achieve. If you think of a goal as a place you need to come to eventually after a long period of time, the most impactful thing to consider would be whether you are moving in the right direction or not.

Over longer periods of time, the distance you travel each day matters much less than whether the direction you are heading is good - let's take two options as an example:

a) move a great distance every day in a wrong direction, or don't move at all b) move just a bit in the right direction

It's clear which one of these will lead to our destination. We should make sure that we are moving in the right direction and focus on consistently moving in that direction, no matter how big or small the movements are.

Compounding Interest

Continuing on the previous example, it's often easy to think: "Yeah, it's important to move in the right direction, but I need to invest a lot of effort into this in order to accomplish it - my goal is very, very far away! I don't want to fool myself into thinking that small improvements will get me anywhere."

Let's look at a flight of an airplane as an example of something crossing great distances. In air navigation, there is a rule (called 1 in 60 rule) used by pilots and navigators to determine how a small correction of course will impact the final destination of the flight.

It states that if you change your course by just 1 degree, for every 60 miles (~96 km) you go, you will end up 1 mile (1.61 km) further from your destination. In other words, it states that if you are flying from San Francisco to London (5354 miles (~8,616 km)) and you change your course by just one degree, you will end up ~90 miles (~145 km) away from London.

1 degree difference == 145 kilometers difference, let that sink in.

The same idea is behind how small changes make a big impact on our big goals. A small positive HabitHabit
A habit is a behavior that is performed regularly, sometimes automatically, often unconciously.

Our brain evolved to "implement" habits to reduce the cognitive load of problems that arise over and...
that brings you closer to your goals, will compound over a large amount of time to bring astonishing results.


Where this idea becomes even more important is when we realize that we as humans are inherently lazy species. If something is hard, we just won't do it:

  • we look at a huge goal
  • we vizualize how hard it is to achieve
  • we procrastinate or quit

If we instead realize that how hard our goal is doesn't really matter that much as long as we put in small, consistent effort over a long period of time, we can instead:

  • set the direction
  • focus on making small steps every day that lead us in that direction
  • since these steps are small, there is less resistance to actually doing them, so we don't procrastinate this time
  • from time to time we remember our big goal and ensure that we are still going in the right direction

Status: #💡