Three frogs are sitting on a log.  One decides to jump off. 

How many are left?

You might think two, but the answer is three. 


One has decided to jump off, but he hasn’t jumped yet …

Adapted from:  Can Your Company Actually Execute Its Strategy? by Lawrence B. MacGregor Serven, published in the Harvard Management Update.

I’ve thought a lot lately about those three frogs.  “What’s there to think about?” you say?

Let’s start with the idea that deciding, and doing, are two very different things.

We see the space between deciding and doing as sometimes so short and uncomplicated — like that of the frog deciding to jump off the log, and actually jumping — that we make the assumption that the doing has happened.

But, the longer we don’t see action, the more we wonder if in fact the decision was really made.  Did the one frog really decide to jump?  I’m not so sure now!  Maybe we’ve made the assumption there was a decision in the first place!

And what if we in fact confirm that the frog did indeed decide to jump, but hasn’t yet?  What might that mean?  A lack of commitment?  A loss of confidence?  A forced decision?  Fear?  Why the procrastination?  Second-guessing?

Wait a minute; what if the frog can’t jump?

How about this … maybe the space between deciding and acting is not so short, nor uncomplicated.  In fact, maybe there is a large difference between what we perceive and what the frog really feels?  Maybe, for the frog, timing is everything, and distance, height and speed need to be carefully calculated … or else!  Ahh, for us, little to no consequences; for the frog, considerable!

And speaking of consequences… do you think the frog is cognizant of the consequences from delaying the jump?  Is he able to gauge his vulnerability as he delays his jump?

Wow; maybe he is delaying his jump until he reaches some threshold of vulnerability, where the threat of inaction suddenly tips larger than the jump itself, and that realization propels the reflex and whoosh…

Let’s review, more generally —

  • we might assume the action happened after the decision to act was made;
  • as we wait for the action after confirming a decision, we start inferring all kinds of reasons why the action didn’t follow the decision to act;
  • we consider the possibility that there isn’t the capability of taking action;
  • we realize that perceiving a quick easy route from decision to action might be very far from the reality of the decider and actor;
  • we wonder if the vulnerability of inaction is part of the decider/actor’s calculus;
  • we consider that it might be the threat produced by the inaction that was necessary for the action to happen.

“What’s there to think about?” you say?

You and two friends are having coffee, talking.  You decide it’s time to take action, to go after that dream; you know, that one that involves  _________________________________ .

Why do I see you still having coffee, talking?   Maybe … maybe … what if … I wonder … perhaps …

Why are you still with your friends, having coffee, talking?