Incrementality

Inchworm

The following post is part of a project to share reflections about all 28 of the core elements of InterPlay.  For background information about InterPlay or this project, read What the Heck is InterPlay?!.

Last week I spied a teeny inch worm gracefully maneuvering across the top of my laptop screen.  Its miniscule body curved up and then flattened itself, advancing a millimeter each time.

Curve up. Flatten down. Curve up.  Flatten down.

I was entranced by it’s slow, steady — even artful — progress.

The idea for my MuseCubes business came to me last August.  Since then I‘ve received a lot of advice from well meaning friends:

It’s cheaper to manufacture them in China.  Sell the idea to a game company. Distribute them to Barnes and Noble.

These suggestions used to stress me out.  I heard them, and felt pressured to grow my business Bigger! Faster! Richer! Now!

Lately, however, I’ve decided to learn from the inch worm. One graceful little step at a time. I don’t want to grow this business faster than I’m able to nurture it…and myself.

I’ve also been learning from InterPlay’s philosophy of incrementality.

Incrementality is the process of breaking a task down into small, manageable steps.

We have learned many of the important things we know incrementally — how to walk, talk, read, use a computer, play an instrument, learn a language.  We accept that these skills are learned in many small steps, over a long period of time.” (Phil Porter and Cynthia Winton-Henry, Self Study Handbook)

The philosophy of incrementality gives me permission to apply this same wisdom to the big things I want to do — like start a product manufacturing business.

In a culture that pushes me to work harder, faster, and better than the competition, InterPlay recommends the opposite. It’s perfectly acceptable — even downright healthy! — to build my business at the speed of my own body.

Now I ask myself, “What’s the next easiest step I can take?” And I take it.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t set big goals. Or push myself. But I do so with balance. I give myself permission to pursue the lofty goals one little, slow, easy, fun step at a time.

Interestingly  — (Huh! I’m just putting this together right now! I love how much I learn when I write) –the MuseCubes are a practical tool to help people remember incrementality.

So often when we feel stuck, the real problem is that we’re trying to do too much.

For example: (1) Why can’t I just finish writing this paper!? (2) Arrrrgggggh! Reconciling this whole spreadsheet is driving me crazy!

The MuseCubes remind us to — quite literally — shake ourselves free from the tyranny of Too Much.  Once we’ve moved our bodies and voices around a bit, we’re better able to see the whole picture. We can then recognize the next, easiest action to take in service to that larger goal.

For example: (1) How about I write for 5 minutes without a single edit, and just see what I produce? (2) Maybe I’ll plug in 10 more numbers into the spreadsheet and then see where I stand.

So  now I’m curious.  What about you? What’s the next easiest step you can take to get you where you want to go?!

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