One Small Step for Your Business, One Giant Leap for Success

January 13, 2012  

Quite a few books and studies recently have touted the power of incremental change. Small actions can have a huge impact on long-term business growth.

The appropriate degree of change needed for innovating within organizations is, in general, a 45-degree change, consistent but not too radical. That tends to be more effective than a 5-degree change (purely incremental) or a 90-degree change (radical).

Feeling good about it

People feel good when they accomplish something, even if it is small.

If you increase motivation, you improve overall performance and creativity, according to Teresa Amabile, Harvard Business School professor. In The Progress Principle, she makes a compelling case for why small successes contribute to motivation.

Small changes implemented over a long period of time compound their value and are the keys to long-term success, according to Darren Hardy, the publisher of Success Magazine. His book, The Compound Effect illustrates his perspective.

A good example of the compound effect is a slow and steady approach to weight loss, which has more sustainable results. Instead of trying to lose weight quickly through restrictive diets, become aware of the foods you put in your mouth. This awareness helps you make small adjustments, which have a significant impact in the long term.

We’ve all heard about compounding when you’re investing in retirement accounts. Start early, even if you invest small quantities, to take advantage of compounding.

Getting it done

An old study compared Japanese cost-reduction programs to similar ones in the United States. Japanese companies on average had 300 times more suggestions per employee, yet the average value associated with each idea was only 1/50 that of the U.S. companies. However, in the end, the Japanese companies saved 20 times more per employee than the U.S. companies.

This report indicates why so many idea-driven innovation initiatives fail. Instead of asking for small, incremental changes that we can implement quickly with little or no funding, most U.S. efforts ask for larger changes that require time and investment. The Japanese companies had a rate of adoption and implementation almost three times higher, with an eight times higher participation rate.

Making small changes to great effect

Making small changes is a good habit for companies and individuals to adopt. I developed a very simple technique called “3-cubed 30.”

In a nutshell, three times a week, implement three activities to help your business grow. Each of these should take less than 30 minutes. The investment per week is a maximum of 4.5 hours, yet the benefits can be huge. In reality, it will only take about two hours most weeks to complete all nine tasks.

Here’s what this looks like in my business…

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