Small Victories and Small Defeats

This website provides a large collection of safe experiments that I have gathered from colleagues and clients over decades. They have been tried out over many years.  Put together, I can offer a coherent explanation for how small, safe experiments help you and me make useful changes.

Although no experiment on offer will always work, most things described on this website have worked, sometimes, for some people. I believe this website may be of use to you, my reader, as well as clients.

Anyone with a natural curiosity may find it helpful to practise the safe experiments identified on this website. Over time, you can create and develop your MY-NUAL.

My line of reasoning is that the rewards and encouragements I receive in life are small victories I get from other people. The words of affirmation I hear in my own head are my self-generated Small Victories.

The scuffs and bruises I receive in my tussles with others are the small defeats that clutter my scenic route. The harsh words of criticism I hear in my head are just one source of Small Defeats that I allow into my life. Those less visible obstacles on my scenic route can turn out to be the larger traps.

I rather think you and I are alike. Our lives are made up of a series of small victories or a small defeats: Let me explain:

It’s not as simple as it seems

If you completed the steps as described on my Welcome page, then you may have created several small victories; that is, generated experiences or obtained information you can use this afternoonor tomorrow to do something just a little bit different.

If you did exactly as I said, then that might well be a small defeat in the longer run. Conformity can limit our abilty to be creative. In actual practice, then, readers have a mixture of small victories and small defeats.

How does this come about? You cannot notice all and everything in my picture, but some details are more important than others, e.g. the danger signs or the query about the best form of travel.

Yet what is important to you, is not the same as what is important to me. If you do not notice something of potential importance to you, then that’s an important small defeat. Something is there but it was not registered. In my own experience, it is a common to miss important opportunities in life.

Confusion can be handy

Some safe experiments will create confusion and – to be contrary – others will help us to value confusion. There is an illustrative example of how we can befuddle ourselves at: .

It’s OK most of the time, but it could be tricky if I am walking on a scenic route and too pre-occupied to scan my horizon for confusions. Each one is a potential obstacle! I say more about all this at:, with further discussion available on this page.

If you did miss the opportunity to be curious about the details in the illustration, then you would have missed an opportunity to just notice your own reaction to something just a little bit different. When that happens, it’s a different small defeat.

How we feel about most things shapes what we do about them. This example is intended to demonstrate that the design of a nudge is trickier than first appears, and yet effective change requires a series of  nudges.

I’m discovering that I am not alone in just noticing the value of small victories and small defeats. Here’s a link that seems to say similar things.

Leads to consider

The scenic route shaped by small safe experiments

Types of small safe experiment

Designing a small safe experiment

Obstacles to safe experiments

An index of pages in Your Nudge