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Power Of Thinking ‘Small’: How Small Changes Drive The Big Picture

Thinking ‘small’ is about pragmatism and paying attention to the most immediate, local and relevant things that might be outshined by bigger aims and phenomena but play an important role in the accomplishment of large missions

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“Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.” Mother Teresa

Grand theories animate our everyday life and everyone emphasises the need to look at the larger picture. After all, it is necessary to not let small things derail us from achieving our larger dreams. However, while thinking big and looking at big phenomena is always going to be essential, it is time to speak of an intervention not many people stress upon: ‘thinking small’. The two are not strictly removed from each other and sometimes, in fact, we need to think small to drive the big change. Too much reliance on the bigger picture can distract us from the minute base-level things we can do to let our larger missions unfold. It is time to get practical without being deluded by the magnificence of the big things and this mode of action merits an analysis in closer detail.

This approach of “thinking small” has found attention in the discipline of Economics. Timothy Ogden, writing for Stanford Social Innovation Review, in a review of Poor Economics by Nobel laureates Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo notes a worthy illustration to think the other way when dealing with an issue as massive as education for the poor, 

“For instance, it’s common for poor families to invest their entire education budget in just one child, usually a son, hoping that this child will make it through secondary school, while shortchanging the other children. Why? Many families think the value of schooling comes from getting the local equivalent of a high school diploma, not from attending another semester of school. It would be a waste of resources to spread the family’s educational budget among all the children rather than trying to make sure that one child reaches the brass ring. Yet the value of education, it turns out, is linear—each additional week brings additional value. Helping parents understand this, the book explains, has far more impact than building schools; it rapidly changes their educational choices.”

This is where we witness a radical shift in focus. Instead of building schools and expecting people to send their children on their own, sensitizing them about the value of education is going to create a bottom-up solution, where the people in question seek what is being offered. Banerjee and Duflo themselves write in the aforementioned book, “Talking about the problems of the world without talking about some accessible solutions is the way to paralysis rather than progress.” Thus, instead of imposing a grand solution on a humongous problem, starting at the grassroots and making small changes can add up to a pragmatic solution which can become large enough in time to engulf the magnitude of the bigger problem. This approach is bottom-up instead of the usual top-down method, and is practical and responsive to the minute and the immediate aspects of the issue. Thinking small can thus be extremely effective and the same approach, when applied to everyday life can be extraordinarily rewarding.

For example, if you are having a hard time at work, instead of feeling shame for not being able to do justice to your professional dream, you can think of what exactly is creating a difficult time for you at the office. It could be a bunch of small problems such as inability to eat proper meals due to your work schedule making you physically drained or unease with technology, making coordination harder or just inhibition around colleagues. Instead of looking all the time at the bigger picture of your professional dream and how you’re failing to achieve your monumental goal, you can think of these problems and what to do to solve them. If you’re able to manage nutritious meals in your schedule, seek help and guidance with technology and work on your communication skills and build better camaraderie with your coworkers, it can make your workday easier and bring you closer to the larger goal of professional competence. The same can be applied to your personal relationships, your approach to health and well-being and numerous other domains. 

Thinking ‘small’ is about pragmatism and paying attention to the most immediate, local and relevant things that might be outshined by bigger aims and phenomena but play an important role in the accomplishment of large missions. The logic here is to not forget taking the necessary baby steps while being dazzled by the grandeur or scale of any dream or problem. With a judicious application of thinking ‘small’ while keeping your eye on the prize, you can make all the right transformations you seek to make and most importantly, a brilliant difference in the way in which you contribute to the world. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Viiveck Verma...

Viiveck Verma is the Founder and CEO for Upsurge Global and Adjunct Professor and Advisor to EThames College

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