In their new book, The Progress Principle, Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer argue that small wins can be a powerful driver of creativity, commitment, and productivity in the workplace. This HBS Working Knowledge feature summarizes the key idea in the book:
Of all the factors that induce creativity, productivity, collegiality, and commitment among employees, the single most important one is a sense of making progress on meaningful work. Seemingly small signs of progress will induce huge positive effects on employees' psyches. On the other hand, seemingly small setbacks will induce huge negative effects.
Amabile and Kramer build on the seminal work of Karl Weick, who wrote a terrific article about the power of small wins back in the mid-1980s. Weick argued that we can make progress on tough problems by breaking them down into smaller segments and adopting a small wins approach. He explained that a small wins approach works because tough, complex, large problems can be cognitively overwhelming as well as stressful. Small wins enable us to build momentum, show proof of concept, and build bridges with others who may have opposed us at the outset.