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What is Continuous Improvement?

Let's define continuous improvement. Continuous improvement is a dedication to making small changes and improvements every day, with the expectation that those small improvements will add up to something significant.

The typical approach to self-improvement is to set a large goal, then try to take big leaps in order to accomplish the goal in as little time as possible. While this may sound good in theory, it often ends in burnout, frustration, and failure. Instead, we should focus on continuous improvementby slowly and slightly adjusting our normal everyday habits and behaviors.

It is so easy to dismiss the value of making slightly better decisions on a daily basis. Sticking with the fundamentals is not impressive. Falling in love with boredom is not sexy. adidas Adidas Crazy 1 ADV Core / Off White/ Ftw White OXtS2vjHVG
isn't going to make headlines.

There is one thing about it though: it works.

How Does Continuous Improvement Work?

So often we convince ourselves that change is only meaningful if there is some large, visible outcome associated with it. Whether it is losing weight, building a business, traveling the world or any other goal, we often put pressure on ourselves to make some earth-shattering improvement that everyone will talk about.

Meanwhile, improving by just 1 percent isn't notable (and sometimes it isn't even ). But it can be just as meaningful, especially in the long run.

In the beginning, there is basically no difference between making a choice that is 1 percent better or 1 percent worse. (In other words, it won't impact you very much today.) But as time goes on, these small improvements or declines compound and you suddenly find a very big gap between people who make slightly better decisions on a daily basis and those who don't.

Here's the punchline:

This is why small choices don't make much of a difference at the time, but add up over the long-term.

For much more on this concept (and an example of a coach who used it achieve huge Olympic success), read this: This Coach Improved Every Tiny Thing by 1 Percent and Here’s What Happened .

Continuous Improvement Tools

Now, let's talk about a few quick steps you can take right now to start focusing on continuous improvement.

Step 1: Do more of what already works

We often waste the resources and ideas at our fingertips because they don’t seem new and exciting.

There are many examples of behaviors, big and small, that have the opportunity to drive progress in our lives if we just did them with more consistency. Flossing every day. Never missing workouts. Performing fundamental business tasks each day, not just when you have time. Apologizing more often. Writing Thank You notes each week .

Progress often hides behind boring solutions and underused insights. You don’t need more information. You don’t need a better strategy. You just need to do more of what already works.

Step 2: Avoid tiny losses

In many cases, improvement is not about doing more things right, but about doing fewer things wrong.

This is a concept called improvement by subtraction, which is focused on doing less of what doesn't work: eliminating mistakes, reducing complexity, and stripping away the inessential.

Here are some examples:

In the real world, it is often easier to improve your performance by cutting the downside rather than capturing the upside. Subtraction is more practical than addition.

One of the best ways to make big gains is to avoid tiny losses.

Step 3: Measure backward

We often measure our progress by looking forward. We set goals. We plan milestones for our progress. Basically, we try to predict the future to some degree.

There is an opposite and, I think, more useful approach: measure backward, not forward.

Measuring backward means you make decisions based on what has already happened, not on what you want to happen.

Here are a few examples:

Measure backward and then get a little bit better. What did you do last week? How can you improve by just a little bit this week?

Essential Reading on Continuous Improvement

Best Continuous Improvement Books

Want more great continuous improvement books? Browse my full list of the best self-help books .

All Continuous Improvement Articles

This is a complete list of articles I have written on continuous improvement. Enjoy!

Best Articles on Related Topics

Or, browse my best articles .

If you get one percent better each day for one year, you'll end up thirty-seven times better by the time you’re done.

Finance

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The technology underlying cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin is already starting to make its mark.

Based on insights from , Caitlin Long and Peter Cherecwich

Lisa Röper

Since its creation in 2008 by the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto, Bitcoin has fascinated the technical world and bedeviled law enforcement. The digital cryptocurrency gained notoriety for fueling Silk Road, a marketplace famous for selling illicit drugs, but subsequently won commercial acceptance from outlets like Expedia and Overstock.com. More recently, Bitcoin has been the object of much attention for its wild price gyrations and the introduction of Bitcoin futures.

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While Bitcoin and competing cryptocurrencies have captured headlines, many industry experts believe the underlying technology that makes Bitcoin possible —known as “blockchain”—could have a profound influence on the future of global finance.

In its most basic form, a blockchain is a computer file that serves as a digital ledger, recording transactions and acting as an authoritative record of past transactions. Importantly, the blockchain is encrypted. Thus, it can be copied and shared widely. As transactions occur, it can be securely updated to reflect the latest transactions. The Bitcoin blockchain, for example, is maintained by computers around the world competing to process the latest transactions. Bitcoin’s blockchain works like a public Google Doc in the sense that everyone who wishes can view updates as they occur – except that there is no Google (in other words, no central administrator) involved in Bitcoin, as the network is fully decentralized.

Because a blockchain does not rely on a central authority to approve transactions, proponents believe it offers a faster and more transparent way to record and track the movement of assets. Ironically, the fact that copies of a blockchain can be distributed across numerous computers potentially makes it more secure against cyberattacks than a single master copy of transactions.

Given its attributes, blockchain could radically alter a global financial system that remains surprisingly slow, asynchronous, and error-prone, says Bob McDonald , a professor of finance at the Kellogg School.

“There are many inefficiencies in the way banks and other financial institutions work. The inefficiencies have to do with recording and retrieving information and accessing definitive records of transactions among banks, or between banks and customers, or between companies and shareholders,” he says. “Much of the plumbing in the financial system is devoted to having a common, authoritative, up-to-date database of who owns what and who has what obligations to whom. That’s what blockchain can provide.”

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Consult the formatting guidelines to prepare your paper for publication. Exact adherence to the guidelinesis not mandatoryat the review stage, but you will be asked to reformat your paper if it is accepted.

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