The Ripple Effect

By Sally McCutchion and originally published on

‘Self interest is of the past. Common interest is for the future’ David Attenborough

There is a universal truth that we often lose sight of.

At least, I know that I’ve felt detached from this truth during some of the more challenging periods of my life…

~ We live in a world where unique cases of success are admired.

~ We celebrate individual examples of fame or fortune.

~ We seek inspiration in stories of those who have risen above the crowd.

Somewhere along the way, we’ve collectively decided to focus on what we achieve as individuals.

And in doing so, we’ve lost sight of the ripple effect that we can contribute to when we remember that we’re all connected.

Photo by Jon Tyson

Individualism & Connection

Celebrating individual success is alluring and intoxicating.

It gives us a sense of desire and a feeling of control that we can direct our own path and create the life we want regardless of what else is happening in the world.

But in terms of our neural pathways, it builds a muscle that we need to be careful of because we don’t exist in a bubble.

We exist as part of a web that connects everyone and everything.

Naturally, there are the obvious connections between us.

Family, friendships, work colleagues, community groups… these connections are well-known and understood and the ripples they create are visible and familiar to us.

But the unseen connections can be just as valuable.

The invisible impact of our decisions and behaviours is a powerful source of connection, wellbeing and success.

Photo by Hugo Ruiz

The Ripple Effect At Work

In our personal lives we are far more embracing of these unseen connections than we tend to be in business.

We might give to charity even when we don’t directly see the impact of our donation.

We might pay for an extra coffee at the checkout and leave it as a surprise for the person behind us.

We might smile at a stranger, unaware of how the gesture might impact their day.

There are many ways that we choose to nurture the unseen connections between us and contribute to the ripple effect throughout our personal lives.

But is it possible to access the value of the ripple effect in business?

Photo by Linus Nylund

When it comes to the ripple effect, one of the dilemmas it presents is that it can’t be measured.

…And we all know how important quantifiable metrics are within business.

But the ripple effect is just as valuable an asset in business as it is personally:

~ It can positively influence the wellbeing and engagement of your people

~ It can attract more clients and customers

~ It can generate higher margin and improve the longevity of your business

So how do you nurture a culture where the ripple effect is valued in your business?

Businesses Features

Here are some ways that you can create conditions for the ripple effect:

1. Valuing purpose and profit equally
Profit is obviously a cornerstone of business but if it becomes a linear goal, it will limit your capacity to benefit from the ripple effect. Balancing the focus on profit with a strong and well integrated purpose is key.

2. Encouraging random acts of kindness
I’ll never forget the leadership training course at Flight Centre where we were encouraged to deliver random acts of kindness for our teams… and of course, Pret A Manger is famous for enabling its staff to give free stuff to customers as a random act of kindness.

It does seem counterintuitive to budget for generosity but let’s not forget there are many ways you can be kind to someone without it costing anything.

3. Talking about the different ecosystems that your business exists within
Riverford is well-known for how it harnesses the ripple effect through understanding its place in various ecosystems, including the natural world. By talking about all of these different ecosystems both internally and through its Wicked Leeks publications, Riverford brings awareness to its connections both seen and unseen.

4. Creating strength in your identity
Businesses that create a strong ripple effect are invariably those that have a strong sense of identity. As the source of your business, it’s important to codify the values, beliefs and purpose of your business as this is what defines its personality and strengthens its culture.

5. Accepting that some things can’t be measured
When something is genuinely valued, you don’t need to measure it. The impact becomes self-evident and felt throughout your business. Accepting that some things can’t be measured is a valuable leadership trait.

Bespoke Exploration For Your Business

Harnessing the ripple effect is an integral part of the work I do with purpose-driven businesses.

Republished with author permission.

Featured image added by Enlivening Edge Magazine. Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay