Make (many) Small Changes; Work Together! – Insight from Margaret Heffernan

Beyond MeasureEveryone, from the CEO to the janitor, makes an impact.
Margaret Heffernan, Beyond Measure: The Big Impact of Small Changes


Recently, Bob Morris, who posts constantly on his own blog, and a few times a week on this blog, sent me his review of the new TED Published book by Margaret Heffernan, quoted above. Bob and I are both big fans of the work of Margaret Heffernan – she is wise, communicates clearly… in other words, any new book by Margaret Heffernan is worth moving to the top of your reading list.

When I was a guest on Think hosted by Krys Boyd on our local NPR station, KERA, on a program discussing the best books of 2014, I said that Margaret Heffernan’s Willful Blindness was the most important book I had presented that year (it was actually published earlier, in 2011 – but I finally presented my synopsis in August, 2014). You might want to read my blog post with my takeaways from this exceptional and important book.
(Read my blog post about the Think program here; listen to the program here).

Margaret Heffernan, TED
Margaret Heffernan

So, yes, I’m reading Beyond Measure. And I also took a close look at her most recent TED Talk. Here are a number of excerpts from that important Talk: Why it’s time to forget the pecking order at work (excerpts from the interactive transcript)

We’ve thought that success is achieved by picking the superstars, the brightest men, or occasionally women, in the room, and giving them all the resources and all the power. And the result has been just the same as in William Muir’s experiment: aggression, dysfunction and waste. If the only way the most productive can be successful is by suppressing the productivity of the rest, then we badly need to find a better way to work and a richer way to live. (Applause)

Well, it means that what happens between people really counts, because in groups that are highly attuned and sensitive to each other, ideas can flow and grow.

…the culture of helpfulness is central to their success.

Now, helpfulness sounds really anemic, but it’s absolutely core to successful teams, and it routinely outperforms individual intelligence. Helpfulness means I don’t have to know everything, I just have to work among people who are good at getting and giving help.

…they’ve figured out that when the going gets tough, and it always will get tough if you’re doing breakthrough work that really matters, what people need is social support, and they need to know who to ask for help. Companies don’t have ideas; only people do. And what motivates people are the bonds and loyalty and trust they develop between each other. What matters is the mortar, not just the bricks.

Management by talent contest has routinely pitted employees against each other.

So… a morning lesson or two from Margaret Heffernan:

#1 – Don’t seek to outdo one another – work together!

#2 – Many small changes add up to big steps forward, for all involved.


You can purchase my synopsis of her book Willful Blindness (audio + comprehensive handout) at our companion site,



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