Thursday, January 3, 2013


SLOW DEATH - A Teaching Story

I once read a teaching story called Slow Death which encapsulates the art of change management. 

Here is the story for you to read:


If you try to place a frog in a pot of boiling water the frog will immediately try to scramble out.

Now try this.

Gently place the frog in a pot of water which is at normal room temperature and don’t scare him.

The frog will stay put and remain in the water.

Now place the pot of water with the frog on a stove on a very slow fire so that the temperature of the water starts changing very very gradually, so that the rise in temperature is hardly discernible.

You may observe something very interesting happening.

As the temperature rises slowly the frog will do nothing.

At first, the frog may show every sign of enjoying himself.

As the temperature gradually increases, the frog will start becoming groggier and groggier until he is unable to climb out of the pot.

Though there is nothing restraining him, the frog will sit there and peacefully boil to death in the water.


Because the frog’s internal apparatus for sensing threats to survival is geared up to react to sudden changes in his environment. The frog cannot discern slow, gradual change in temperature.

It’s the same with us, isn’t it? 

Whereas we can easily detect sudden and large changes we sometimes cannot perceive gradual incremental changes in a situation.

We react to sudden big changes but tend to accept slow small changes. 

For example, take the fuel price hikes - sudden large changes in cost of LPG, Petrol and Diesel has everyone up in arms, but small incremental changes at regular intervals achieve the same results without much reaction as most people do not even discern the change. 


This story is generally narrated to illustrate the concept that change management must be a slow gradual process.  This concept is the key to implementing Change Management - for harmonious change management you must bring in the change slowly, gradually and seamlessly so that the change is almost imperceptible. 


But there is a much more interesting inference from this story. 

Do you believe in the concept of LEARNING FROM EXPERIENCE? 

You do? 

Then, better be ready to change your ideas.

Conventional wisdom says that one learns from experience but this story debunks this theory and in fact highlights that the fact that the concept of learning from experience is in fact a delusion.

Yes, the theory of learning from experience is a fallacy. 

And as this story illustrates, in some cases relying on learning from experience may make you complacent, like it happened to the frog who comfortably boils to death. 

Sometimes, learning from experience can be dangerous and counterproductive. 

In fact, sometimes it is better to empty your cup and start afresh. 

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2012
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. 
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

Did you like this blog post?
I am sure you will like the 27 short stories from my recently published anthology of Short Fiction COCKTAIL
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About Vikram Karve

A creative person with a zest for life, Vikram Karve is a retired Naval Officer turned full time writer and blogger. Educated at IIT Delhi, IIT (BHU) Varanasi, The Lawrence School Lovedale and Bishops School Pune, Vikram has published two books: COCKTAIL a collection of fiction short stories about relationships (2011) and APPETITE FOR A STROLL a book of Foodie Adventures (2008) and is currently working on his novel and a book of vignettes and an anthology of short fiction. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories and creative non-fiction articles on a variety of topics including food, travel, philosophy, academics, technology, management, health, pet parenting, teaching stories and self help in magazines and published a large number of professional  and academic research papers in journals and edited in-house journals and magazines for many years, before the advent of blogging. Vikram has taught at a University as a Professor for 15 years and now teaches as a visiting faculty and devotes most of his time to creative writing and blogging. Vikram Karve lives in Pune India with his family and muse - his pet dog Sherry with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts.

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