Beyond Measure

Beyond Measure: The Big Impact of Small Changes is a book by Margaret Heffernan published by TED.

And it starts with:


The author suggests an exercise for team members. Form pairs in which one will ask a real question and listen for 5 minutes: “Who you really are?”, “What do you want in life?”. Silent listening, maintaining eye contact for 5 minutes is a great exercise. And then we switch role for another 5 minutes.

I already tried similar exercises using appreciative inquiry to start workshop or training with people that doesn’t know each other really well. I can attest this is really efficient!

Trust between team members is a prerequisite to develop our ability to talk about our mistakes, and to develop our ability to learn from those mistakes. This foundation for effective teams is also covered in this article: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.

Social capital

Margaret introduce the notion of social capital with:

“The dynamic between people is what brings organization to life.”

She explains the importance of the time spent together at work, during breaks or lunch. She gives an example of the decision to synchronize breaks in a call center that dramatically improved the performance.


If some time needs to be dedicated to interactions between people, quite time needs to be organized to allow concentration. I already covered this topic in a previous article: Let us Code. One of the example given is a scientific study that shows the danger of multitasking. People are shown a video recording – in a typical news channel format – of a CEO explaining the strategy of a company. People are told to focus their attention to the sequence as there will be some questions to answer after that. They have been asked to give their opinion about the strategy… And if they were able to remember some information, together with not relevant ones about weather, stock quotes, other news alerts, that were displayed on the multiple banners… They were totally unable to criticize the strategy. The conclusion of the study was that multitasking prevents us to think. Quite scary if we think about who are the people addicted to multitasking in organizations.


The author also quotes other studies on work day duration (more than 11 hours a day lead to depression) or necessity for the brain to rest at least for 7 or 8 hours a day (less lead to reducing the ability to think).


Margaret explains the Pygmalion effect: expect great things, and they will more probably happen. This reminds us the importance to define ambitious goals, and to believe in the ability of people to reach those goals.

She encourages also to get rid of silos, and to empower people, to accept that leadership needs to be fluid, linked to skills and not to titles and ranks… Title and ranks could lead a part of the people (unfortunately the majority) to think that they are not good enough… And the Pygmalion effect will play in a bad way.

She recommends to people to choose to make some space for their contribution, even if it’s not their job or their role, just because it’s their life.

The author also gives the example of check lists, that reduced by a third mortality in hospitals as a way to take the power from a few to empower the many. This has been covered in another article: Black Box.

When we accept that there are talented people everywhere, people will think not only about the work to be done, but why we need to do it, and how to do it.

When you have done what is needed, Ask yourself what one more thing you could do to make those people happy?

A book to read (or to listen) and you could start with a TED conference given by the author:


La photo d’entête est de Ryan McGuire.