Make frogs like hot or cold water

Boiling Frog Syndrome: Reacting Before It's Too Late

Do you know the story of the frog in the pot? Also known as "Boiling Frog Syndrome". The parable goes like this: If you try to put a frog in hot water, it will immediately jump out again. Although frogs are cold-blooded and adapt their body temperature to their surroundings, they immediately feel the danger to life and limb. Quite different if you put a frog in a pot of cold water and slowly heat it up. Although it becomes more and more uncomfortable for the frog, it remains seated, adapts and perseveres - until it is too late to jump and it scalds. Quite a few behave like a frog: Once they have acclimatized and come to terms with their surroundings, they hold out - although they notice that the conditions are getting worse and worse ...

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

Boiling Frog Syndrome: Dangerous Resistance to Change

This frustration tolerance or resistance to change, described in the Boiling Frog Syndrome, can be transferred to numerous areas of life:

  • On the job
    We may notice that our employer's sales are continuously shrinking, counter-strategies are missing and working conditions have been deteriorating for years - and yet we remain passively in the lazy hope: “Someday things will go up again!” But what if it is not about an economic cycle, but rather is a transformation process? What if the company soon becomes uncompetitive and your own position becomes useless?
  • On the expertise
    Everyone has heard of lifelong learning. And yet there are always phases in which we believe that this is not the case. Shortly after university, for example (“I just got it over learned, now I have to apply that too. ") or with a view to retirement (" My know-how will still be sufficient for the next ten years. After me the flood! ") Fatal if it doesn't work out. In the high-tech sector in particular, the half-life of knowledge has been falling dramatically for years. But not only there!
  • On relationships
    In this case it is rather the other way round: We feel love cooling off and passion for one another less and less blazing - and yet we do nothing about it. Until the partner jumps off.

Boiling Frog Syndrome: What remains is change

The insidious thing about Boiling Frog Syndrome is that it is never a revolution. This usually announces itself with great fanfare, with dramatic changes and, in history, sometimes with a lot of bloodshed. Dictators are overthrown, new ones claim power, money is no longer worth anything, personal freedoms are restricted. Even the dumbest goal will notice that.

With the frog in the pot, however, the change comes very slowly, little by little. It is comparable to the Internet: The World Wide Web did not come about as a result of a revolution. It was born from an idea and grew faster and faster. It offered more opportunities - in communication, in consumption, in generating and sharing knowledge. It has spawned numerous new business models and created companies that we never suspected would one day exist.

Or would you have thought ten years ago that an online search engine would one day be one of the most valuable (and perhaps most powerful) companies in the world? Or that the concept of a year book connects more people than the third largest country on earth? We look at all these changes with fascination, but do not notice that the ground beneath our feet is getting hotter and hotter.

Nothing is more constant than change

Because that also happens in parallel: Numerous traditional business models no longer work today, the web is destroying markets, overriding rules and creating completely new ones of its own:

  • Why do you need CDs when you can buy, sell, and swap music online?
  • Why are video libraries needed when we can download films at any time (and they are then no longer out of stock)?
  • Why do we need newspapers when they just retell yesterday's live news and put it on paper?

Criticism of Boiling Frog Syndrome

The boiling frog syndrome is largely based on (rather cruel) experiments carried out by the physiologist Friedrich Leopold Goltz in 1869. However, later experiments also showed that if the water is heated too quickly, the frog tries to escape the danger and hops away. In an experiment by William Thompson Sedgwick in 1882, however, the water temperature was only heated by 0.002 degrees per minute. Effect: The frog didn't notice anything - and was dead after two and a half hours.

Besides the ethical concerns Modern researchers now doubt the meaningfulness of the Boiling Frog Syndrome. For example, the former zoologist and professor at the University of Oklahoma, Victor H. Hutchison, was able to show by means of experiments in 2002 that every amphibian would notice a temperature increase of only 0.5 degrees per minute and would jump away accordingly. Apart from the fact that a frog wouldn't just sit still in a pot anyway.

In short: one shouldn't take history too literally. The frog is more likely not to stay in the pot. And heating a pond to boiling temperature very slowly could work - but we don't want to find out. Rather, the syndrome is a “useful metaphor”, as the Nobel laureate in economics Paul Krugman noted. Similar to that of the ostrich, which sticks its head in the sand.

The frog in the pot: all lazy excuses

Leave the beaten track, dare to try something new, be at the forefront - that's what many talk about. Especially a lot of managers. Hardly anyone would admit that he is still trying to muddle through somehow and in truth continue as before (with small cosmetic corrections). For example because he lacks the courage to go bigger - or even the idea. So don't let that fool you. But more than that: do not deceive yourself!

If you find outthat you (in your job) are sitting in a saucepan on a hotplate that is switched on, then you do not fall into classic explanations for staying there. Many of these typical explanations only sound smart and plausible at the beginning. At second glance, however, there are excuses - like these:

  • "I am loyal." - It's a good quality. But is that your employer too - especially when sales collapse or you ask for a legitimate pay increase?
  • "The grass isn't greener anywhere else." - Right. Every company has its problems. But each his own. You may find it easier to cope with each other's deficits.
  • "If I quit, my boss has achieved what he wanted (the bastard)!" - So what? If you stay, he can annoy you even longer. Which is more important: your career or your pride?
  • "I won't find a new job anytime soon." - Have you tried it yet? And did you try right? You may be looking in the wrong place or making impossible demands.
  • "If I quit, I lose my severance payment, my income, my company car, my status." - Why do you work there: for the money or out of passion? Do not confuse cause with effect: money is the result of your passion and performance. If you persist in your current state, you may lose your reputation as well. Just not your motivation, you are already quit.
  • "The job is simply paid too well." - This is called a pain allowance. Obviously you have already reached your pain threshold, otherwise you would not think about changing jobs.
  • "I've just invested too much in this project so far." - But is that also rewarded? And is it worth it in the long term?
  • "Quitting now looks bad on your résumé." - Staying and failing or even being fired looks even worse.

Changes start with small steps

Please don't get us wrong: this is not a call to quit immediately. Because you can also see the principle of change differently. A jump like in the frog parable always has the effect of a large, all-changing step or hop. It is not uncommon for a small thing to be enough: Imagine that you would only change a tiny thing in your life - a habit or a constant in your job - but that over a period of days, weeks, months, years. You'd end up at a very different point in your life.

In the beginning, the differences may be smallso that they are hardly noticeable. But in the long run, it's a dramatic change of course. As with navigation in space: Even a minimal deviation - and you end up light years away in a completely different place. So if you want to make a difference - in your job, in your relationship, in your life - then just start. Big or small - the main thing is that you make a jump. Especially when you feel like you're sitting in a saucepan.

Frog hopping: a parable about suffering

Five frogs want to jump to the lake to swim. They also ask the smallest frog in their group if they would like to come with them. “Sure!” He says. And so they all set out together. But as they cross the street, the little frog falls into a pothole.

The other frogs say: “Come on, jump out! Come along!"

The little frog jumps and hops, but to no avail. He says: “The pothole is too deep! I can't jump that high! "

The others cheer him on even more. But there is no point. The little frog gives up and the other frogs keep hopping to the lake.

An hour later, the little frog suddenly follows. The others ask him in astonishment: “How did you do that? Wasn't the pothole too deep? "

Then the little frog says: “A truck came thundering. I had to."

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[Photo credit: Karrierebibel.de]