I recently brushed the dust off an old, unpublished manuscript and was surprised to find its messages more applicable today than when I wrote them in 1998.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.