A single smile holds amazing power. At least that’s what my latest research tells me. The world needs to hear of my sophisticated study; however, I’m uncertain which journal is most deserving of publishing my findings.

 Most days, I go on a three-mile walk on Franktown Road, a county highway that juts along the base of the Sierra Nevada mountains just above Washoe Valley. I take my red KONG ball and bounce it on the smooth blacktop in rhythm to every other left step I take. I face oncoming traffic, with the occasional car or pickup zipping past me. When this happens, I stop bouncing the ball and retreat off the road to give the motorized vehicle full access to the highway. Most drivers stay in their lane, do not slow their speed and power by me as if I don’t exist. It’s okay. That’s their right in motor-land.

 A few weeks ago, I decided to wave and smile at each driver as he or she approached. Immediately, the drivers slowed, moved over toward the other lane and smiled and waved back. These smiles were supersized and the waves were genuine, typically one of those thumb-on-the-wheel, fingers twittering types of waves, indicating we had established an informal, hip bond.

 Over the weeks, my “research walks” yielded a huge outpouring of social results. By thankfully recognizing drivers in my moving off the road, waving and smiling, I altered their whole attitude and behavior. They felt like a part of my team. They liked me and my bouncing KONG ball. I’ll bet they’re looking forward to seeing me the next time they travel Franktown Road, and are even planning special trips in hopes of strengthening this social bond.

 This empirically sound research would have gone unnoticed until I was reading my copy of the Harvard Business Review last night and noticed an article by Robert Eckert, former Chairman and CEO of Mattel (the toy people). He gets a full page in this prestigious magazine, sharing how he energized the culture of this giant organization by simply smiling and consistently saying thank you to his employees.

 Why does he get all the accolades when I’m reshaping the social fabric of an entire mountainside with a smile, a wave and a KONG ball?