Game of inches - why small changes win big results

Author: | Date: 11 Oct 2017

Nigel Collin challenged the audience at a recent GRDC Farm Business Update: ‘What if you shift your mindset from innovation being a one-off explosive moment to innovation being a series of small changes?’
‘Business improvement is a ‘Game of Inches’, where small changes make big ones happen. It’s having a constant desire for implementing every day innovation and improvement. It’s about consistently finding ways to improve everything you do and having a process in place to do it every day’, he said.

A common trait of successful businesses is an obsession for constant improvement. There are four key actions and three key behaviours (Figure 1) governed by an understanding of success being a consistent process of step by step innovation and improvement.


  1. Find the gap: gaps are problems or areas in your market or business that if addressed or improved create viable outcomes and move your business forward.
    Task: Write down one area in your business that can be improved?
  2. Act: successful businesses are good at getting things done. Starting is vital because the world is full of good intentions and ideas that were never implemented.
    Task: Ask yourself, what’s the first thing you need to do to address the gap list in task 1?
  3. Test and measure: the previous step of acting raises the question of how you will know if the action you have taken is working. The answer lies in testing everything every step of the way, small steps, small changes.
    Task: Write down what the measure of success is.
  4. Delete or improve: if the improvement or innovation you put in place isn’t doing what you expected it to, you need to let it go and find another one.
    Task: Once action has been taken, is it doing what you wanted it to? If yes, then improve it. If not, then find another idea.

Figure 1: Four key actions that are part of the process that delivers business innovation

Figure 1


  1. Knowing why: Without doubt, when asked ‘what drives you?’ every successful person I’ve spoken to has replied without hesitation and said they know ‘why’ they do what they do.
    Task: What drives you? What drives your team?
  2. Having the right mindset: In her book ‘Mindset’ Carol Dweck referred to people having a ‘fixed’ or ‘growth’ mindset. If you have a fixed mindset you believe your abilities are limited and set in stone. If you have a growth mindset you believe your abilities can be developed.
    Task: How can you develop a ‘Growth Mindset’?
  3. The never-ending doctorate: The Game of Inches (process of innovation) is about constantly improving everything you do and that includes continuous learning; from books, courses, conferences, people, other industries and mistakes.
    Task: What do you need to learn more about?

Business improvement is not a once off event. It is a ‘Game of Inches’ where you move ahead, systemically every day. It’s giving yourself and your team permission to find gaps, act, and measure if things are working and then either delete the idea or improve it. It’s a consistent process and one that needs to be achievable for everyone on every level of your business.

It’s one thing to simply go through the actions of the process, but another to layer those actions with a set of behaviours that adds another level of excellence.

Useful resources


Nigel Collin