Spirals

Spirals are a very powerful way to understand many real life phenomenon. They can be upward or downward, and only very rarely are they neither. In fact, there are often upward-downward spiral pairs that complement each other and knowing which one you're stuck in, and whether you need to change is very useful.

A spiral, in the sense that I mean, is made up of a few repeating states that connect to each other to form a circle. Once you go around the circle, you reach the initial stage, but at a higher (for an upward spiral) or a lower (for a downward spiral) level. The rate at which these levels change generally speeds up with each revolution.

Most phenomenon have a few major components that feed into each other. Understanding these interrelationships and knowing how to leverage, or break the spiral, as the case may be, is a powerful way of looking at things. Most mathematical models that attempt to explain and solve real world phenomenon are linear. Which is why I don't trust them. The model may shed some light on a problem, but if that light is colored by omissions, then the picture it paints must be used with caution.

If you're still wondering what the hell I'm writing about, as I'm sure you are, here are a few examples:

  • Economic strata (a spiral pair):
  • For a firm
  • Specifically, for a coaching institute:

What this means is that things have a tendency to diverge. Imagine a large number of people starting at the same point. Half of them then get into the upward spiral and the other half into the downward. Imagine next that there are several sub-spiral branches in each parent spiral and you begin to sense the source of diversity we see around us and the complexity of modeling it.

At an individual level, two people who start in almost identical positions can end up with entirely different outcomes because of just a slight difference in either their situations, environments, attitudes, ability or effort, which has set them off in diverging spirals. Which is why we all have the natural tendency to keep looking for that incremental factor which could set us off on a steep upward spiral.

What this spiral theory suggests is that we can hardly predict what the consequences, both good or bad, of any factor can be. There could be impossibly large effects of a minor factor, all because it happened to thrust you into an upward spiral, while large factors might not be sufficient to change the direction of a spiral, and hence become inconsequential in the long term. Its an important point to realize, because for better or for worse, those who know basic maths and use it to think about stuff, do so almost exclusively in linear terms. That is, large factors must have large effects while small factors must have smaller effects. What the spiral theory says is that the timing of these factors is often more important than their magnitudes, though magnitudes certainly matter as well.

As another application of the theory, consider breaking out of a downward spiral. Applying the theory we understand that whats required is a series of consistent synchronized factors over a long term to slow and then stop the downward spiral. Failure to have consistent factors during this phase would result in the spiral regaining speed and your efforts would have come to naught. In other words, the danger of a relapse is larger in the initial process of change and gets progressively reduced further along the process. Also, larger effort or factors are needed initially, but their magnitude can decrease later on in the process. Once the downward spiral is completely halted, even small factors are sufficient to set you off in the right direction.

The theory can be applied in a very wide variety of phenomenon and I leave it up to you to think of its best applications.

To conclude on a lighter note, I certainly hope this blog is on an upward spiral!

Comments

  1. Can u win a Nobel prize for this theory???

    DD :-)

    ReplyDelete
  2. @hk

    Thanx :)

    @DD

    Yes, I wonder whats taking them so much time? :P

    ReplyDelete

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