Think BIG to Grow BIG

For the last decade I have studied and worked with businesses of all sizes and across many industries, helping them figure out how to take their organizations to the next level of performance. As my clients and I enter into discussions about what type of vision they have for the future, many want to see their organizations double in size or impact. A worthy goal. To achieve it requires thinking differently.

Growing a company isn’t easy under the best of circumstances. Growing an established company by double digits is a rare feat, especially on a year-in-year-out basis. With an economy facing a single digit GDP for the foreseeable future, for most companies to experience 10% annual growth would require a series of initiatives and investments, the addition of some top notched talent, maybe raising prices by building in more value, an acquisition or two, and a wing and a prayer. Even then, unless execution is flawless, it may not be enough. The organization will be challenged to successfully implement multiple initiatives, have adequate resources, effectively block competitive response, and get the entire organization moving forward in an aligned fashion. It is an incredible amount of work, and certainly not without risks.

Now, let’s make it interesting. What if the goal is to increase 10x instead of 10%? How would that change the approach? Would you be thinking about how to stretch your current business to get there or would you have to envision a different company—a change in focus or business operations? Maybe the core business becomes one of several divisions. Maybe your local company goes global. Or maybe your products are sold across multiple markets rather than one. Would it be a lot of work? Absolutely! Could it be done? Absolutely! It is not without challenges; yet are the challenges greater or just different?

Once we push past the tendency to think in increments of growth and start thinking about pedal-to-the-metal growth, we open up whole new possibilities to consider. We think about the potential of the business differently. Astro Teller, wrote an article for Wired (read here) that came to the same conclusion:

“Here is the surprising truth: It’s often easier to make something 10 times better than it is to make it 10 percent better.

Because when you’re working to make things 10 percent better, you inevitably focus on the existing tools and assumptions, and on building on top of an existing solution that many people have already spent a lot of time thinking about. Such incremental progress is driven by extra effort, extra money, and extra resources. It’s tempting to feel improving things this way means we’re being good soldiers, with the grit and perseverance to continue where others may have failed — but most of the time we find ourselves stuck in the same old slog.

But when you aim for a 10x gain, you lean instead on bravery and creativity — the kind that, literally and metaphorically, can put a man on the moon. You’ve all heard the story before: Without a clear path to success when we started, we accomplished in less than a decade a dream several generations in the making. We chose to go to the moon, John F. Kennedy said, not because it was easy … but because it was hard. Suddenly everyone from schoolchildren to the largest institutions were rallying behind the mission. Kennedy understood that the size of the challenge actually motivates people: that bigger challenges create passion.”

There are significant challenges in either growth scenario. The work will be hard, resources will be stretched and the outcome not guaranteed. One choice may improve the company; the other may transform it. If you are going to subject yourself, your colleagues and the employees to one of these options, which one gives the greatest reward?

The point is simply this; thinking bigger isn’t necessarily harder and in the process of doing so, it often opens up new opportunities that would never have been considered. Whether your stretch goal is 10%, 2x or 10x , challenge the team to go beyond the point that comes naturally, just tweaking what you already do.

There is tremendous gold to be mined by stretching the growth goal past the obvious to the (at first) incomprehensible. That kind of growth is fun, inspiring and leaves a legacy for others to follow.

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