A fascinating book Bold by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler (Simon & Schuster, 2015) covers the use of exponential technologies, “moonshot thinking”, and crowd-powered tools used by individuals admired by many: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, Larry Page – and Peter Diamandis.
What interests me is that the mental mindset and approach to planning used by this super-bold and very successful group, called “exponential entrepreneurs”, also applies to regular entrepreneurs. The difference lies in the word “exponential”.
This fascinating publication covers the truly exponential impact of new technology; the mindset that is needed; the enormous reach of crowdsourcing and of crowdfunding; building supportive communities; and how to run big competitions.
My newsletter/post only covers one aspect namely a bold mindset and what this means.
Empowerment by using super technology
The book’s main focus is all about the 21 century and “how exponentially accelerating technology provides entrepreneurs with an astounding reach, allowing small teams of entrepreneurs to tackle the kinds of grand challenges that were once the province of corporations or governments.”
To emphasize: Super technology is now available to all at minimal costs. Anyone can now tackle amazing projects with computing power which was out of reach a decade ago.
However, using powerful technology alone won’t get the job done.
The mental game
The authors report that every winning innovator whom they interviewed, emphasised the mental game. Without the right mindset, entrepreneurs (exponential, big or small) have absolutely no chance of success.
You need to go big and bold. “And it’s the difficult nature of those goals that is the first secret of success.”
Bold goals provide bold challenges.
Goal-setting enhances performance
It’s been known since the 1960s that “goal setting is one of the easiest ways to increase motivation and enhance performance”. Research findings at the time revealed that “setting goals increased performance and productivity 11 to 25 percent”.
In an eight-hour day “that’s like getting two extra hours of work simply by building a mental frame (aka a goal) around the activity.”
Not every goal is the same.
Big goals lead to big outcomes. They significantly outperform small goals, medium-goals, and vague goals. Add attention and persistence – which are two of the most important factors in determining performance.
“Big goals help focus attention, and they make us more persistent. The result is we’re much more effective when we work, and much more willing to get up and try again when we fail.”
If-then conditions, values and commitment
Psychologists found that “if-then” conditions need to be in place.
And “you have to believe in what you are doing.”
In addition, “Big goals are best when there’s alignment between an individual’s values and the desired outcomes of the goal”.
Then add commitment to achieving the desired outcomes.
Commitment is crucially important.
“Be quick, be quiet, and be on time.”
We all know that failure is part of the game. The road to bold is paved with failure. This does not mean to simply shrug when you fail. It means having a strategy in place to handle risk and learn from failures and mistakes. An experimental approach and rapid iterations are essential.
“Fail early, fail often, fail forward.”
Most bold experiments fail and “real progress requires trying out tons of ideas, decreasing the lag time between trails, and increasing the knowledge gained from results.”
Apply agile design, “an ideology that emphasizes fast feedback loops.”
Release a “minimum viable product”, get immediate feedback from customers, incorporate feedback into the next iteration, release an improved product, and repeat.”
Intrinsic vs. extrinsic rewards
If you have a team, extrinsic rewards such as bonuses and promotions have their place. However note that money is only an effective motivator until basic biological needs are met…with a little left over for discretionary spending.
Happiness and life satisfaction can be plotted alongside income and at one stage money stops being a major issue. At this point intrinsic rewards, meaning purpose, internal, emotional satisfaction, autonomy and mastery become the main intrinsic rewards. Daniel Pink calls this the third drive.
“In a world of increasing rapid change, tapping into our third drive is an absolute fundamental for any exponential entrepreneur.”
Build purpose and mastery into your culture from the very creation of your company.
To focus on achieving exponential goals, large companies often hive off a team of dynamic innovators and specialists and create separate “skunk works.” “The bulk of the company will be climbing the hill they’re standing on. That’s what you want them to do”, to quote Astro Teller of Google. “The skunk team looks for a better hill to climb”.
Skunk teams think bold. They take risks. They do not seek 10 percent gains but aim for 10x gains or a 1000 percent increase in performance.
Those who seek 10 percent are signing up for the status quo plus slightly better.
If you are going for a moonshot, you cannot work on existing assumptions.
Thinking “moonshot” needs a major perspective shift.
Start-ups and moonshots
Please note Teller’s point of view: “A start-up is simply a skunk works without the big company around it.”
“Having no money is not a reason not to go after moonshots.”
Entrepreneurs, by striving for truly huge goals, are tapping into the same creativity accelerant that Google uses to achieve their moonshot goals.
Go for it. Record your progress and failures meticulously. Close down projects which do not fly. Fail forward more consistently. Ensure rapid iteration. Measure progress repeatedly and keep data.
Data and progress attract investors.
I always have at least one client who risks all on a moonshot.