The Avalanche Theory: How Small Ideas Generate Big Impact

The Avalanche Theory: How Small Ideas Generate Big Impact

Nicole Malachowski |

We’re all familiar with how an avalanche starts. You’ve seen it in the news, learned about it in science class, and it’s been depicted in countless movies. There’s a bunch of snow on a mountain, and then one tiny little action and the whole side of the mountain starts crashing down. It could be a loud sound or human movement which disturbs the delicate balance of ice and snow. Whatever it might be, that comparatively small act changes the entire situation drastically. 

The same can happen on your teams with ‘The Avalanche Theory’. A seemingly small change can generate a big impact. For example, an innovative idea to streamline one step in your sales fulfillment process can save hours of processing time. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but now multiply that by the number of employees and how often the streamlined method is implemented. That small idea can create an avalanche of positive impact and ultimately save the company thousands of work hours, allow more orders to be processed in a shorter amount of time, lead to more sales being fulfilled, and consequently increase revenue. A tiny change made a huge difference. 

It can be a lot of pressure to come up with that next big idea. Often in business we’re looking for that impressive innovation that makes people stand up and take notice. The truth is you don’t need a huge, mind-blowing idea. You need an idea that makes sense, can lead to an incremental change that then leads to other impact or even more ideas.  

How to Develop Your Small Idea 

You might be wondering how to find that fantastic small idea, and the truth is for a small idea you need to think small. 

Find an annoyance – Big ideas often solve the big problems. Small ideas often fix seemingly small annoyances. In the example above with sales fulfillment, perhaps the small idea was digitizing a form or removing form fields that weren’t needed. Addressing that small annoyance made a big difference. 

Ask questions – Why is this done this way? There could be a legacy process that doesn’t make sense anymore. It’s surprising how many people just keep doing something the same way for years because, “that’s the way it’s always been done”. It’s okay to ask questions and learn the why. If it doesn’t make sense anymore, change it!

Find something simple– Again, we’re not setting out to change the world. Find something that’s a simple fix, that won’t take a lot of time and where the solution is clear. It will often be a straightforward idea which will get quick buy-in from the team. 

 Look outside your department – Maybe another department has an issue with the same process or a similar challenge. Look for cross-departmental and cross-functional solutions that create a win-win for the company on a collective scale.  

Build on your small idea – Once your first small idea has been implemented, don’t stop there. That small idea will make its own impact, and then building on that will generate momentum.  

Get the ball rolling with ‘The Avalanche Theory’ and your small idea will lead to big impact. 

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