Our human intelligence is our ability to cope with change. In the era of always-on transformation, we have to be fit for change. Making the change a partner in life requires a scalable intelligence cultivated by compounding everyday small improvements in each dimension of our holistic being. We often overestimate what we can accomplish in the short term, but we greatly underestimate what we could accomplish in the long term. Let us see it in this way: if we can get 1 percent better each day for one year, we’ll become thirty-seven times more intelligent by the end of the year.
How could you do it much better over and over again? When Dave Brailsford became leader of British cycling in 2002, the British riders had only won a single gold medal in its 76-year history. That quickly changed under Dave’s leadership. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, British cycling won seven out of 10 gold medals available in track cycling. Four years later, when the Olympic Games came to London, the Brits raised the bar as they set nine Olympic records and seven world records. That same year, Dave began to lead Britain’s first ever professional cycling team and Bradley Wiggins became the first British cyclist to win the Tour de France. During the ten-year span from 2007 to 2018, British riders won 6 Tour de France, highlighting the 4 victories of Chris Froome.
What made Dave Brailsford different from previous coaches was his relentless commitment to the method of marginal gains to cycling, which come form the idea that if you broke down everything of that goes into riding a bike, and then you improve each element by 1 percent, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together. So they worked in small improvements everywhere such as training, aerodynamics, bike maintenance, nutrition, hygiene, personal care, mattresses and pillows.It’s about focus on progression, and compound the improvements. The same way that money multiplies through compound interest, the effects of small improvements multiply as you repeat them. This is why Albert Einstein is said to have called “the power of compound interest the most powerful force in the universe.”
Becoming the best version of ourselves is the by-product of compounding small but continuous changes for the better. But, are we fit for change in such scalable way? Stress is a normal response to dealing with changes in life when our change load is greater than our capacity to adapt. There is no doubt that change, transformation, innovation, disruption, or startups are about hustle. But long experience has taught me that too many people burn themselves out in the journey of changing. If we are not fit for change, the stress of changing can have a horrible personal impact. So if we’re prepared, we’ll be calmer, more energized and less stressed.
While it may not always be obvious, we are biologically prepared to cope with it. In fact, Stephen Hawking famously said, “Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.” There is no intelligence where there is no change and no need of change. Intelligence is an inner power that translate our intents into impact, it connects dreams with reality. Once the intent is ready with the impact, then it is easy to use the intelligence power to make them happen. But it’s not easy when it is irregular. The power of scalable intelligence only comes when it gets perpetual practice and we capitalize on the exponential benefits of capitalizing tiny, continuous improvements. Our intelligence rises exponentially if we can get 1 percent better everyday. Here is how the algorithm works out: if you can get 1 percent better each day for one year, you’ll become thirty-seven times more intelligent by the end of the year. This universal force creates exponential impact and it allows us to achieve things we never thought possible.
Intelligence is often understood as our intellectual potential, but to cope with change on a daily basis, we have to act in a holistic manner. A holistic approach to scalable intelligence touches every dimension of our being: physical, mental, and emotional. All dimensions interrelate one another and an improvement in one of them has immeasurable effect on the others. The more physically, mentally and emotionally fit you are, then the better you will weather the inevitable difficulties of changing your life for the better.
Physical dimension is basically reflected in our state of health and physical form. It’s hard to cope with change and endure high levels of stress if we’re not physically well. We don’t have to become an olympic athlete, but eating a healthy diet, taking regular exercise and getting plenty of good-quality sleep at night are going to help us tremendously.
Mental dimension is reflected in our cognitive abilities that affect how our brain functions. The mental dimension has to do with things we normally associate with explicit thinking, our ability to solve problems, to follow rules, to achieve goals. It’s also the kind of creative, intuitive thinking that rewires the brain to invent new categories of thought, that creates new patterns, new language. Therefore, our brain will be more fit for change if we always keep our mind active by reading books, honing current skills and learning new ones, exploring new environments, seeking out learning opportunities and problem solving practices that challenge our neurons. Learning one new idea won’t make you a genius, but a commitment to lifelong learning can be transformative. As Warren Buffett says, “That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest.”
Emotional dimension is reflected in one’s ability to self-regulate emotions and manage relationships. It’s also having a high level of empathy as the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. Being empathetic improves our ability to lead and motivate others. Maintaining strong, healthy social ties is critical to our emotional intelligence and well-being.Self-awareness, self-acceptance, empathising, networking and forming relationships are only one part of supporting our emotional intelligence and social health. The more we help others, the more others want to help us.
Understanding each component of holistic intelligence is only the tip of the iceberg. People must learn how to connect all of the components in a daily basis. Fortunately, some great companies are taking a holistic approach and providing their employees with education and resources to foster better individual habits, and thus, better organizational culture. For example, it’s no secret that Google is great firm that attracts, develops, excites, and retains exceptional people. How Google care for Googlers? Google employees enjoy perks unheard of in many corporate environments. Google’s on-site cafeteria provides free food with plenty of healthy choices. Google is actually encouraging physical activity both with fun things such as ping-pong tables as well as through more traditional ways like on-site gyms or subsidized gym memberships. In some locations, they also offer onsite wellness and healthcare services, including physicians, chiropractic, physical therapy, and massage services. Google also keeps employees mentally active. They can pick up new personal and professional skills by taking cooking classes, coding degree programs, or guitar lessons, to name a few of the cool classes Google offers.
At the end of the day, scalable intelligence means properly cultivating both personal habits and organizational culture to harness the extraordinary benefits of compounding small improvements in each of the three dimensions of holistic intelligence. Great infinite thinkers, both individuals and organizations, have patience because they know that what they are really doing is creating a system to capitalize on change. The longer we play the infinite game of change, the more the benefits compound and the greater the rewards are.
This is the fourth in a series of four articles that details the Infinite Thinking approach to change our relationship with change and make it a partner in both our professional and personal lives.
- Infinite Thinking: Making the change a partner in life
- The WHY of Change: Singular Intent
- The WHAT of Change: Sustainable Impact
- The HOW of Change: Scalable Intelligence