Little Wins

by External23 Jul 2013

Innovation is not necessarily always about the grand plans, but rather the small steps taken to achieve that grand plan. Here, Christina Gerakiteys provides some examples of 'litttle wins' in business.

A friend of mine keeps coming up with great book recommendations! Some time ago now he suggested Little Bets - how breakthrough ideas emerge from small discoveries, by Peter Sims. The chapter titled, Small Wins has a few ideas worth pointing out! Try them out if you dare…

Small Wins are defined as small successes that emerge out of our ongoing development process. Sims goes on to describe small wins as building blocks or footholds or landmarks. These types of Small Wins can often indicate if we are heading in the right direction or if we should consider a change of direction - even a 180 degree turn...

The Small Wins theory draws on the analogy of the alcoholic, who doesn't think about whether or not he will be sober in 10 years time but rather puts energy into remaining sober one day at a time. It reminded me of the movie What About Bob, starring Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfuss. The patient (Bill Murray) focused on babysteps to deal with his afflictions, rather than deal initially with massive changes, which could seem like Mt Everest...

The chapter has a few examples of Small Wins and my favourite one is the discussion around Pixar. For some time after Steve Jobs took over, Pixar continued to lose money. There had always been a grand plan - to make animated feature films - but it was assumed that this plan would not happen any time soon, and apparently the animation division was nearly closed several times. Who knows, perhaps in desperation, the animation team proposed a series of short films, purportedly to promote some hardware Pixar was trying to sell.

Luxor Jr was a 90 second animation film that received a standing ovation at a computer graphics conference (there were 6,000 people on their feet). The Luxor lamp that inspired the movie is now the Pixar logo...That Small Win, led to other small wins which in turn led Pixar to where they are today...making animated feature films that are box office hits.

Another example, incremental Innovation, is the Starbucks Café scenario. Sims describes how Starbucks emerged/evolved by listening and acting on customer feedback - they had a yes approach to customer requests. The boss had a no non-fat drink policy in the beginning! Customers however wanted non-fat drinks so what the customer wanted the customer got - and low fat drinks were introduced. After all, why wouldn’t you listen to your customers when you were asking for their advice? Customers wanted "Affordable Luxuries”, $2 cappuccinos and exotic tasting coffees. Customers got what they wanted and the rest is history.

Incremental changes at Starbucks led to pivotal changes away from Shultz's (the boss) original idea to model

Starbucks on Italian coffee houses - there is no low fat or non-fat milk there! Rather, the small wins led to the creation of a new American coffee experience.

The common link here open mind!


About the author 

Christina Gerakiteys is chief ideologist at Ideation at Work – email