Maybe you should sweat the small stuff.

More often than not, when businesses have a big problem they need to solve, they feel compelled to find a solution that is in the same big proportion to the problem at hand. Perhaps a big budget is applied and when the problem is being solved, it is compelling to find big solutions that use up this budget. But very often, big problems can be perfectly solved with small solutions. These small wins however, are overlooked while the problem-solvers look for big, expensive changes to fix the issues at hand. It is assumed that the amount you spend on something should be proportionate to its success. In reality, very small, cheap changes can have disproportionately big effects. 

Famous ad-man Rory Sutherland, in his Ted talk ‘ ‘Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff”, refers to this as the ”Terminal 5 Syndrome”. When big expensive things get big, highly intelligent attention. The build and design of Terminal 5 is a great example. It had a huge budget and was significantly built. But as Sutherland points out; “Except when you get to the small details, the usability, which is the signage, which is catastrophic.

You come out of “arrive” at the airport and follow the big yellow sign to “trains” – you walk for another hundred yards and so and you expect another yellow sign. Instead, you see a blue sign which says ‘Heathrow Express”, which is confusing and not what you would expect”. A perfect example of how the small stuff is overlooked. The huge budget looked for large-scale results and signage was simply not high on the priority list. But this small detail leads to confusion and a poor passenger experience in the terminal. The customer journey was effectively overlooked as it was not deemed important or expensive enough. 

Get creative and use behavioural economics to make a big impact in your business

This relates specifically to marketing, but Sutherland gives some great examples of behavioural economics, which refers to the human behaviours that businesses can plug into to make small, simple and creative changes that cost very little but have an enormous impact. For example Virgin had a unique little salt and pepper set with the words discreetly engraved underneath; “‘stolen from Virgin Atlantic upper class”. Virgin knew these would be taken by guests, as a souvenir, as behavioral economics pointed to this likelihood. Such a small cost, for such a cheeky, memorable and fun impact. Right on brand for Virgin. 

Similarly, the Lydmar hotel chain in Stockholm introduced a series of buttons in its lifts; instead of the standard – garage, first floor, second floor…. It had garage, funk, rhythm and blues. When pushed, your selected lift music comes on. Such a small cost yet such a memorable impact setting the hotel chain apart from the bog-standard others. 

We need to look for this ‘small stuff”. As Sutherland suggests, every corporation should have a chief small-details officer and every government should have a ministry for small details. These departments would have a very minimal budget. 

These almost insignificant, yet creative ideas can have a huge impact on businesses. Can you think of a time you or your company came up with a creative solution that cost almost nothing, but had a big impact? 

A business I work with recently refreshed their website to dial up their contact details – phone number and chat features – and use more engaging imagery. The website bounce rates and calls improved significantly just from this tiny, simple change. 

Start now – make small changes 

Over the course of a few weeks, a CEO I work with began to ask employees at all different levels of the business and in different departments for their answers to the question ”how would you do things differently with the business if you were me?”‘ He was able to gather a huge range of suggestions, ideas and incentives, some of which will actually be implemented to make a difference to the operational running and culture of the organisation. Such a great and simple initiative, that costs nothing. But the benefits are disproportionately big compared to the investment. And of course, this has had a knock on effect of building stronger leader-employee relations – people feel heard and their ideas and opinions valued. 

Margaret Heffernan’s book Beyond Measure – The Big Impact Of Small Changes’ ‘is a great read for business leaders and articulately showcases that creating strong business cultures does not require million-dollar programs. Small changes and actions can have the biggest impact; active listening, asking more questions, and improving the sharing of information. Heffernan has always been a strong advocate for empowering everyone in an organisation to have a voice and be heard, which is the key to truly collaborative cultures. Having a strong and collaborative culture is the ‘secret sauce’ to organisational success. 

What is a small thing you did recently that had a big impact? I’d love to hear. Could your leadership team benefit from one of my tailored workshops? Please get in touch today. I’d love to help.

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