The Power of Small: A book review by Bob Morris


The Power of Small: Why Little Things Make All the Difference
Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval
Broadway Business (2009)

The great value of Thaler and Koval’s book is derived from their pragmatic approach to all manner of situations and circumstances in which recognition and accommodation of the right details can indeed have a significant, beneficial impact. They cite basketball coach John Wooden for whom no detail was insignificant. Throughout his career, he devoted all of his first pre-season meeting with each squad to explaining how to put on socks properly. The tradition continued until his last season at U.C.L.A. when his team that year won the University’s ten NCAA titles during his last 12 seasons, including seven in a row from 1967 to 1973. By the way, not one of his players ever had any problems with blisters. I really appreciate the informal, almost conversational tone that Thaler  and Koval immediately establish with their reader before they work their way through an especially lively and eloquent narrative. The chapter titles are clever (e.g. “Go the Extra Inch”) but not cute.

They take the subject (i.e. the power of small) seriously because of the potentially enormous implications and consequences of neglecting or ignoring “the right details” but, that said, I think they should have provided an occasional qualification to temper an otherwise strident comment. For example, some (but not all) “little mistakes spell disaster”; there are times when it is possible to “make it big by thinking small” but there other times when thinking small makes “it” even smaller; and when “small changes the world,” the results are not necessarily beneficial. I think the subtitle should have been “Why Little Things Can Make All the Difference.” With both skill and passion, Thaler and Koval urge their readers to be alert for the important details that others miss, to become an effective problem finder, to make “going above and beyond the call of duty” their standard operating procedure, to be a more inquisitive and attentive listener, to take advantage of every opportunity to tell others how much they are appreciated, and in countless other ways to apply and leverage “the power of small” whenever and wherever appropriate. Well-done!


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