Stay focused on the small stuff

A couple of recent articles reminded me about the importance of doing the small things well and possibly reaping large rewards. We often look for magic bullets or big systems to address big problems but it’s usually the little stuff that makes a difference.

Christian Long tells a story about teachable moments and how this statement from a student, “I have to go to the bathroom bad“, can be used for all kinds of learning about grammar. As Christian says, this is a “real glimpses of innovation inside the ‘learning’ space.”

Another case in point is an article from Green Chameleon about knowledge management that does not include expensive IT systems. This is a story about housekeeping and concierge staff at a hotel:

Each day, one staff member got to share in about 5-10 minutes a topic of interest just before roll-call which happens at the start of a new shift. The staff get to pick the topic and the day they would like to do the sharing. The topic could be on anything of interest or an incident they considered useful for others to learn from such as how to check-in baggage, how to deal with “weird” guests, where to buy foreign magazines, what Deepavali which is a Hindu festival coming up in October is all about, and so on – in short, topics that would help them deal with their guests better.

In either case, taking advantage of a teachable moment or adding a 5 minute sharing session, the cost of implementation is negligible. The key is in understanding the business, the issues and the organisational culture so that these kinds of informal learning activities can take place. The only way that I can see this happening is when those in charge remain connected to the day-to-day operations and when there is a climate of trust to try out new ways of working.

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