It's getting to that time of year when we start to think about making a change. It might be a change in our strategy, or our marketing, or simply being more effective and efficient. Whatever the case, very shortly, change will be in the air.
The problem that many of us face when considering making a change is that it can seem big, too big, overwhelming. How do you do it? Where do you start? How do you get buy-in?
But what if it wasn't so tough after all? As it turns out, it doesn't have to be.
I want you to think, for a moment, about a giant ocean tanker. Think about how huge they are. Tankers are typically over 1,000 feet long and weigh more than 50 tons. They're massive.
Now, how does the captain change direction of that giant ship and head in a new direction? You probably have an image in your mind that looks something like this: The captain turns the wheel, the wheel turns the rudder, the rudder turns the ship, and the ship heads in a new direction.
Actually, that's not how it works.
There's so much water pressure on the rudder that it's impossible to turn. Instead, when the captain turns the wheel, the wheel moves a little 'mini-rudder' (called a trimtab) that sits on the rudder. The captain turns the wheel, the wheel turns the trimtab, the trimtab turns the rudder, and only then does the massive ship change course and head in a new direction.
It's the little change that makes the big change happen.
Example: Aayush Phumbhra co-founded Cheggpost.com as a service for college students to post free classifieds. The site was fine, nothing all that special, that is, until Phumbhra had his trimtab moment.
Looking at his analytics, Phumbhra saw that traffic on the site was heaviest at the start and end of each semester when students would buy and sell textbooks. Phumbhra wondered if they might prefer to rent them instead? So Chegg bought 2,000 textbooks to rent from Amazon as a test.
It turned out to be a very successful test indeed.
Today Chegg rents more than 1 million textbooks a year.
Little change, big result.
One of the most successful college coaches in history, in any sport, is John Wooden of UCLA. In the 1960s and 1970s, UCLA basketball won 10 championships in 12 years and an amazing seven in a row. With players like Bill Walton and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (then known as Lew Alcindor), John Wooden had the best players in the country in his program.
And yet, on the very first day of practice, the freshman were taught how to tie their shoes. They couldn't believe it: What are you talking about, Coach, learn how to tie our shoes?
Oh sure, they knew how, but the wizened old coach knew something more. He knew that maybe they had gotten lazy, and that sturdy shoes and ankles were key to his sport. He also knew something he'd later sum up in a now-famous quote: "It's the little details that matter. Little things make big things happen."
Yes, change can often seem daunting. Business can fall into what is known as "analysis paralysis," trying to figure what needs to happen different, who will do what, and how it will all get implemented. And, in the face of all that, not infrequently, nothing happens, nothing changes.
But what if it isn't so hard after all? What if it really is true that the little change makes the big things happen? In that case, a small change in the right place in the right direction can send a business ship in a whole new direction. A test of 2,000 books can yield a business of renting 1 million books.
Big changes can indeed happen if you dig down and get to the crux of the issue.
Change the crux, change the business.
The good news is that you do not need to re-think your entire enterprise to head in a new direction. Simply apply the trimtab principle. Ask yourself, "Where do we want to head and what small course correction can best send us in that direction?"
Tweak your trimtab, set a new direction, and off you go. It really can be that easy.