business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

There’s an old bit of philosophy that poses the question: “How do you eat an elephant?” The answer, of course, is one bite at a time.

That simple line has a powerful message about the only way to approach change. Frequently it requires going step by step or one bite at a time.

I was reminded of this last week while attending the annual Sweets and Snacks Expo, a stunningly strong show put on by the National Confectioner’s Association. The show, obviously the first for NCA since 2019, kicked off with an award ceremony honoring innovative new products and a thoughtful presentation by Josh Linkner, author of "Big Little Breakthroughs: How Small, Everyday Innovations Drive Oversized Results."

Linkner outlined what he says are the three steps companies and individuals must take to create those wonderful breakthroughs. The steps are worth sharing and considering.

The first step is the challenge to start before you’re ready. While the approach of “ready, fire, aim” has led to incredible mistakes through the years, Linkner argues that the approach helps push the pace on innovations and he offered examples of companies that rushed into significant changes and reaped large benefits thanks to taking action quickly. 

Obviously such an approach requires an environment in which risk taking is both applauded and encouraged. But as another speaker said later in the program, companies need to weigh the risks of change vs. the risks of not changing. As we’ve written here before, the corpses of companies that refused to change for far too long can be found nearly everywhere. (Just visit the vacant Sears or Blockbuster store in your local shopping mall. Soon you may visit the entire mall that way.)

Linkner’s second step encourages companies to “reach for the weird” or to go beyond the expected and ordinary. And thirdly he urged the audience to “not forget the dinner mint,” or to look for the extra special step to offer to make a product, store or service stand out from the crowd.

The single entity that encapsulated Linkner’s three points is a minor league baseball team, the Savannah Bananas, who were taken from bankruptcy to prosperity by a young, inexperienced owner who transformed the baseball experience in everything from his team’s colors (yellow, of course) to a host of entertaining interludes throughout home games.

Obviously innovation isn’t simple or everyone would do it. But Linkner’s points demonstrate the small steps that could transform or at least evolve businesses in a powerful, differentiated and hopefully profitable ways by encouraging creative thinking and risk taking.

That might sound daunting or even irresponsible, but again consider the warning to think of the risks of not changing.  As Larry Deutsch of dvk Marketing said in another session at the Sweet and Snack Expo, “Change is risky. Not changing is riskier.”

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at

His book, “THE BIG PICTURE:  Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available here.

And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon here.