Small actions can create big change

Small actions can have huge outcomes because complex, non-linear systems have tipping points. Once a critical threshold is reached, the system moves into another state of being. Water will freeze over when the temperature falls below zero degrees Celsius. In systems of people, the system as a whole behaves differently when enough actors have changed their behaviors.

Everyone can contribute to a better world when we consistently do small acts of kindness. But the world is huge (7 billion others!) so the difference we make ripples soon out of sight.

Everyone can contribute to a better world with small acts of kindness Click To Tweet

But in smaller systems like organizations, it may be easier to see the impact we have. Lines are shorter, feedback is faster, the actors and factors are more or less known. Ripples within the organizational boundaries can be seen and reinforced. We could even influence this system to reach a tipping point and ripple to another state.

If you start to do small acts of kindness, this behavior may spread through the system because people tend to copy each other. It’s just like the pay-it-forward slogan says. It’s contagious. There’s reciprocity. You want to do something good, too.

Don’t let judgment stand in your way

And, on a smaller scale, there’s the extra dimension of connection: people know you and will assess how much you give and take in this kindness wave. There’s peer-pressure, and comparison, and judgment, and your reputation and your position. Here are factors at play that may make you try harder to be kind and look good…

If someone is kind, you tend to get a better mood and be kinder to someone else as well. Or you work with more positive energy and achieve a better outcome than without meeting that uplifting person. Small acts can ripple through the organizational system – and the more people do small acts of kindness – the sooner the tipping point will be achieved.

After some time, it has become “normal” to be kind – and even the skeptics, the critics, and the nay-sayers behave more kindly because the context around them has changed. It becomes rewarding for everyone to be kind – it’s “the way we do things around here”. Otherwise, you’ll be “punished”: you’ll stand out in a negative way. That’s what most people want to avoid. We basically want to belong to the group. Hence, we tend to adjust to the majority.

It's those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world Click To Tweet

That’s how systems of people operate. It’s a simple principle to keep in mind. It starts with one person: me. It takes one interaction, one action, at a time. You make a difference by being here. You can increase your positive impact if you see that you matter. You can start small, within your circle of connection, and start to influence people, situations, organizations, and systems.

“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”
― Desmond Tutu

This is book post # 12 – level: ME

Here’s the earlier post
Here‘s the next post

If you’re confused – please start with post #1 or check the Positive Power overview and read the Positive Agent Manifesto.

Leaders, employees, consultants, citizens – everyone can make a positive difference from any position, without needing permission or resources from others. This blog will help you see positive possibilities and (re)claim your positive agency. Unstuck yourself and engage others via your interaction and actions. Transform into a positive organization where people and performance thrive.

I’m blogging my next book: “Positive Power at Work – How to make a positive difference from any position.” Your feedback is appreciated!

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  1. Corey

    I’ve seen a culture in a school change in a hugely positive way. Less violence, more engagement in education and it was driven by a bunch of students who were deemed to not fit in the box. Our power to influence peers and encourage youth to change is immense if we are willing to step out side our fear and dare to be different