Dan & Chip Heath are best known in the business world for their book Made to Stick, where they examine why some ideas catch on with the public at large while others do not. Several years ago, Fast Company magazine included an article by the Heath brothers entitled “I Love You. Now What?” They argue that while businesses have an efficient means of handling customer complaints, they are generally lousy when it comes to making it easy for customer compliments to get to the right people.

Examples the Heath brothers cite include the compliment you have about the meal will likely never make it back to the cook. The note you write about how much you appreciate the extra-deep automobile cup holder will never be read by the engineer who actually designed it. The article goes on to highlight the effects that expressing gratitude has on the giver, and that one point alone makes the article well worth reading. It can be found at here.

The sentence that struck me most was, “What is your company doing to let gratitude blossom?” Perhaps an even more pointed question for each of us is, “What am I doing to let gratitude blossom?”

The article spotlighted an idea from American Airlines, pre-printed “Applause” cards given to frequent flyers who had reached “elite” status. The customer, provided he happened to be carrying the card with him, could write a quick note and hand it to any employee who had demonstrated a praise-worthy act.

 The American Airlines idea is interesting, but do we really have to reach any particular status or be given a set number of special cards in order to do basically the same thing? We all generally have a few business cards with us. It takes only a few seconds to jot a note on the back of one of them and leave it on the table for an especially good member of the wait staff or ask someone to pass the note along to the chef or whoever needs to realize that their talents have been appreciated.

In his hallmark book, Time Power, Dr. Charles Hobbs talks about the concept of “throwing golden bricks.” Using this metaphor, Hobbs says “Golden bricks are not for building walls…but for building stepping-stones… Golden bricks save golden hours. Golden bricks put light in people’s faces.”

With very little effort, we can make “throwing golden bricks” a daily habit. Every day, we encounter people doing great work without getting nearly the credit they deserve. Every day, we have opportunities to recognize the small things, and make big differences for those actually doing the work.

As we celebrate another Thanksgiving, there is perhaps no better time to examine how we can let gratitude blossom in our daily lives and in our culture.