One Percent Changes

Kim Cameron and I often team teach.  I do mornings, and he does afternoons.  Each morning, I ask the participants to identify the most helpful comments from the day before.  Kim teaches a notion that gets listed every time.  He calls it One Percent Changes.  He takes the students through a careful reflection on the power of very small but intentional changes.  The discussion clarifies the fact that an executive can make very small innovations and get big impacts.  When I do the debrief, participants always speak of the value of the exercise.  It provides a new perspective.

Shawn Quinn, who also sometimes teaches with us, became fascinated with the topic, and began to collect examples of such small changes.  He now has a list of over one hundred.  He uses the list to help people find small changes that might work for them.  Here is one example.

An executive put the names of each of her team members on a wall. After a week she wrote some specific positive feedback for each person on a sticky note and put it by the person’s name. The next day she wrote, “would anyone else like to share something with their colleagues?”

Soon the wall began to fill up with gratitude notes. Not only did the receiver feel good but the giver also felt better. This practice continues and the executive describes the positive energy and connection she has noticed. Because of the specific nature of the gratitude notes, people are learning from each other, they are being noticed, and they are focusing on what others are doing right.  This learning from excellence has affected the culture and there is a new feeling on the team. A very small change resulted in a very big change.



  • What is a one percent, positive change?
  • How often do you introduce such changes?
  • What if you introduced one such change each month, what would happen by the end of the year?
  • How could we use this passage to create a more positive organization?