Early in my career, I thrived on solving complex problems — often with equally complex solutions.

While I still enjoy solving complex problems, with experience I’ve (thankfully) found easier ways to address them. With far better results for a lot less effort. One of my favorite techniques to get huge gains is to think small. Really small.

I call it ‘living with a thousand band aids’ — the opposite of a ‘death by a thousand cuts’ aka the ancient torture called ‘lingchi’ or slow slicing’.

How does it work? Make small improvements across a number of areas, and pretty soon you’ll notice a difference.

Do this across processes (prime opportunities include customer-impacting processes that slice through your company) and watch the gains add up.

Couple this with a powerful cross-functional measure like Time to Smile, and prepare to be wowed.  We have seen this improve productivity by up to 300%, and reduce expected costs by 350%, all while improving customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction. (A case study where we used some of these techniques can be found here.)

During the recent Rio Olympics, I was intrigued to hear that this was the same approach used by Sir David Brailsford the former Performance Director for British Cycling, who used what he calls “Aggregation of Marginal Gains”.

“Team GB used to be also-rans in world cycling. Indeed, one pundit described the operation as “a laughing stock”. But in the last two Olympics, Team GB has captured 16 gold medals and British riders have won the Tour De France three times in the last four years. This is the power of a questioning mindset and a commitment to continuous improvement.”

No matter what you call it – ‘Aggregation of Marginal Gains’, ‘Surviving with a Thousand Band Aids’ or ‘Kaizen’, discover the power of thinking small and link it with the right measures.


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