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The Little Things

Recently Seth Godin took a quick look at why one of his favorite restaurants was special. He came to this conclusion:

I think it’s the hand-fitted gestalt of thousands of little decisions made by caring management out to make a difference.

And he expanded on that, turning it into the secret of success in business:

This turns out to be the secret of just about every really successful enterprise. Sure, you can copy one or two or even three of their competitive advantages and unique remarkable attributes, but no, it’s going to be really difficult to recreate the magic of countless little decisions. The scarcity happens because so many businesses don’t care enough or are too scared to invest the energy in so many seemingly meaningless little bits of being extraordinary.

I think it’s important to remember that basic idea in all aspects of life: invest energy in the little interactions you have with the people you care about. Whether it’s your significant other, your customers, your employees, or your kids. They add up — they create the magic that is a great relationship.

The question I’ve struggled with lately, though, is: when you are on the receiving end of these “little things”, how much do you read into them?

Take this example:

Got my Christmas present from work: lotto ticket & mini flashlight complete with corroded batteries. At least I won $8. — Jason Dettbarn (@endonend – December 20, 2011

On one hand “it’s the thought that counts”, right? I’m not entirely sure that’s the case — especially when it comes to giving obviously defective gifts to a good number of people. Is that gesture offensive or am I looking into it too much? I’d like to think a company would treat it’s employees a little better than that, especially when they just closed the warehouse in our site and fired half the employees. Many of whom stayed on until this month to help with the transition. Seems disrespectful, doesn’t it?

At the very least, it’s as Godin says: many businesses don’t care enough or are too scared to invest the energy in so many seemingly meaningless little bits of being extraordinary.

Maybe I am looking too much into this or maybe I just have high expectations. Another part of me thinks that this is a signal that it’s time for a big change. We’ll see.

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