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Practice 2: Small Changes Can Produce Big Results; Search for Optimal Levers

6 October, 2015 - 11:11

There are no simple rules for finding high-leverage changes, but there are ways of thinking that make it more likely. Learning to see underlying “structures” rather than “events” is a starting point…Thinking in terms of processes of change rather than “snapshots” is another. 1

Malcolm Gladwell wrote a best-selling book on this very topic and it was given the graphic term “tipping points.” Gladwell argues that “the world may seem like an immovable, implacable place. It is not. With the slightest push—in just the right place—it can be tipped.”  2

Gladwell also asserts that ideas, products, messages, and behaviors can spread just like viruses do. Similar to how the flu attacks kids in schools each winter, the small changes that tip the system must be contagious; they should multiply rapidly; and the contagion should spread relatively quickly through a population within a particular system. Learning how your system has tipped in the past, and understanding who or what was involved can be an invaluable insight into thinking systemically about your organization.