Think Small — Know the Details (Operations I)

Marcus Guest
2 min readOct 4, 2023

On the day before International Women’s Day in 2017 a small statue of a young girl appeared on Wall St., facing down the famous charging bull that epitomises the US financial services industry. Inscribed on the plaque in front of the new statue were the words:

“Know the power of women in leadership. SHE makes a difference.”

‘Fearless Girl’ — as she was named — became an overnight sensation as a symbol for gender equality and challenging the male dominated finance industry. But few people paid close attention to one strange detail. Why did the plaque say “SHE makes a difference” and not “She”?

Instead of being a spontaneous piece of guerrilla art challenging the establishment ‘Fearless Girl’ was actually commissioned by one of Wall Street’s largest players with over $2trillion in assets to promote one of its funds (the “Gender Diversity Index”) which has the NASDAQ ticker symbol: SHE.

People saw what they wanted (a challenge to the establishment) instead of what was (a clever marketing move by an establishment player that well-meaning others made viral).

The final irony of this story is that the Wall St. bull is not an establishment statue. It’s a piece of guerrilla art, made by a Sicilian immigrant who spent two years of his life and US$350,000 of his own money making a monument to celebrate “the strength and power of the American people” during a dark episode — the devastating stock market crash of 1987 known as ‘Black Monday’.

Leaders are often advised to think big. But thinking big at the expense of knowing the details can result in mistaking our perception for reality, which means we can be easily manipulated. Leaders therefore must also focus on thinking small, as in knowing the details. As traders on Wall St. say: you need to be able to walk and chew gum.

H/t: Greg Fallis

This principle — think small (as in, know the details) — is part of the Wardley Mapping method for helping organisations communicate more clearly, develop effective teams, improve operations, accelerate learning, lead more decisively and structure themselves to deliver better results. To learn more about this princple watch: https://powermaps.net/adapt#details

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Marcus Guest

Govern the state by being straightforward; And wage war by being crafty. — Laozi, Tao Te Ching marcus@powermaps.net PowerMaps.net