The adventures of an analog engineer and digital storyteller who studies emerging networks and their impact on the great game of business.
Nov 21, 2011

I recently brushed the dust off an old, unpublished manuscript and was surprised to find its messages more applicable today than when I wrote them in 1998. For example, here’s a passage from an interview that I had with entrepreneur and philanthropist, Arthur Nelson:

The most successful business entrepreneurs solve problems through non-linear thinking, meaning that they don’t look for incremental solutions. Instead of squeezing twenty-percent more efficiency out of a process, they either radically alter the productivity of it, or eliminate the process entirely. Successful entrepreneurs don’t take baby steps to solve problems; they take quantum leaps, seeking solutions that are orders of magnitude more effective, by changing the rules and applying knowledge from seemingly unrelated sources. They ask themselves questions such as, “Why do we need this process at all?” If the process is required, they ask, “How can we make this process ten-times more efficient?” or  “How can we equip our employees with tools and ideas that’ll make them one-hundred times more effective?”

After reading the passage, I couldn’t help but ask the following question: “Have businesses sought the 10X solutions offered by their new ability to digitize, distribute, and present content cheaply?

Sadly, the answer is no, as companies continue to seek incremental solutions to their tired old problems. But why?

Seeking the 10X business solution is a risky proposition. It requires special skills that typically don’t manifest themselves within the ranks of those who are frequently tasked with adopting new technologies. Middle managers, for example, are trained to mitigate risk, as opposed to embracing it. They’re compensated to seek incremental solutions, such as squeezing an extra 20% out of a process that perhaps should have been reevaluated years ago.

If your company wants to find the 10X solutions to its problems, it needs to place these new communications technologies into the hands of its entrepreneurial thinkers. Then, after your non-linear thinkers have solved some of the company’s most important problems, the high-priests of process and best practices can be tasked with squeezing an extra 20% out of them.

Filed under: Technology Adoption


The big buzz word across corporate america the past several years is “innovation”. I think what you’ve described is closer to ‘invention’ rather than ‘innovation’. See the opening paragraph of this wiki entry.

Change is so scary for established organizations. Incremental improvements feel safe and you can say they are innovative. 

I think there is a place for both innovation and invention in the market place for each organization. The trick for established organizations to make allowances for 10X business solutions. 

Bob Williams
November 26, 2011

Hi Ron!

The Japanese have two words, made famous by the Toyota Production System, for the different approaches you described.

Kaikaku (the 10x approach) and Kaizen (incremental process improvement).

January 11, 2012

[…] the full benefit of social media technologies. In November, I discussed the importance of seeking the 10X business solution instead of blindly shoehorning new technologies into existing business practices. Today, I want to […]

RonAmok! » Application-specific Networks
March 20, 2012

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