THINK small – Big ideas only work when you also think small

think small let's get small think small magnifying 2

“Keep your eyes on the stars, and your feet on the ground.” Teddy Roosevelt

Americans like things BIG. Big houses. Big cars. Big portions. Big hair (full disclosure – I’m from New Jersey). And in business and marketing, it’s all big, all the time. Big ideas. Big data. Big hairy audacious goals. Big is all there is. Go big or go home, for gosh sakes. You’ve always got to be thinking big.

But it’s time we recognized that you can’t think big today without also thinking small. Because, no matter how big a thinker you are, it’s the small thinking that gets you where you want to go. That creates momentum. And that makes the difference in today’s complex marketing eco-system.

Small thinking develops the path and provides stepping stones.
Whether you’re out to save the planet or create a great ad campaign, no amount of big thinking will get you beyond a broad, vague, big picture goal – it’s small thinking that creates the process and actions to get you there. Big thinking is about dreams, goals, general ideas and ends. Small thinking is about approaches, details, steps, learning, and progress. It’s this series of small actions and steps that make big things happen. No amount of big thought can do this. And big thinking without small thinking is empty – can you imagine saying you want to go to California, but never formulating a plan to get there? Or developing your idea of your dream house, without thinking of the daily steps you need to take each day to actually build it?

Small thinking also values doing as highly as thinking. Taking action. Moving forward and trying things. Daily. Lather, rinse, repeat. This is the only way to get to your big goals. And, helpfully, achieving each small step along your journey creates success and momentum that is crucial to help you get to your big goals.

Small thinking provides the right mindset.
Another advantage of small thinking is that it helps manage your expectations. Setting out to cure cancer will lead to many disappointments, day in and day out, if that’s your goal each day. But managing and chunking your goals in a way to achieve big things, step by step, will drive up confidence – and avoid the feeling of disillusionment and disappointment associated with failing to meet bigger, harder to reach goals.

In addition, you’ve got to have a small thinking mindset when it comes to evaluating your initial results, as well. Don’t expect seismic change, right away – small changes, small growth, small and incremental improvement is the right expectation to set.

A little bit of small thinking can go a long way.
Plus, sometimes the answer IS a small thing. Taking a slightly different approach to things, looking at the problem with a somewhat changed perspective, asking questions that cause you to evolve some assumptions. This might be the only difference between success and failure – vs. developing some fundamentally different, “outside the box” approach.

In addition, the usual demand for big thinking and “big ideas” can be a real stumbling block, creating fear and paralysis that stops us from doing anything at all. Which is why a bit of small thinking is what you need to break the gridlock.

There are times when your thinking should be smaller-than-small.
Sometimes you need to start super-small. Instead of saying you’re going to write the great American novel, start by saying you’re going to write a great Twitter update. Or read a great novel you’ve never read. Then create another goal. And another. Once you start getting wins, you gain momentum. And belief. Before you know it, you’re on your way to writing your novel. Or losing 50 pounds. Or starting your own business.

Small thinking is the right approach for today’s consumers.
While big ideas have been the goal of advertising for years, today’s hyper-fragmented, dynamic media world requires a different, small thinking approach. People are more likely moved by, interested in, and connected to the small ideas and small talk of brands, vs. the top-down, monolithic advertising approaches of the past. It’s no longer about static, one-size-fits-all messages shouting down at consumers. It’s now the small talk, small spaces and small thinking – Twitter updates, CRM programs, and small demonstrations of purpose – that truly engage people with brands. It’s small thinking that performs the “stratecution” – and turns your big thinking and big ideas into real world activation.

What do you think? Are you ready to think small?


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