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August 17, 2017

Growing your business with a 10x mindset

In a competitive business landscape, ensuring that you continue to grow is one of the most pressing needs for company managers.

There can often feel like a rut around strategy meetings and quarterly planning which mean trying to expand the business, but never quite reaching the target. 12 months later when you look around at yourself against the competition, and not much has changed.

This post is about how you can cause a step change in your thinking and accelerate the progression to your goals.

Think (ridiculously) big

There’s a difference between incremental improvements and radical improvement.

The former is based firmly on what you are currently doing. It sounds like: “We’ll hit targets if we hire 5 more sales reps and they each do +20%” and means that you remain in the same line of thinking.

By setting yourself a target of increasing revenue by, say, 20% you will likely approach the problem using your existing modes of thought and what has been done before. Consequently it gets more difficult to attain growth, especially when we have a tendency to overestimate our capabilities.

Hit your 5 year goals… in 6 months

The remedy to this is to force yourself out of one mode of thinking and into a completely new domain.

Peter Thiel, PayPal founder and first investor in Facebook, has a principle for forcing yourself to think in a new dimension and accelerate what you are capable of.

The approach goes as:

  1. Set yourself an ambitious goal to achieve in 5 years
  2. Ask yourself what would it take to achieve that in 6 months

Now, at first this would of course sound ridiculous. But as a thought experiment it does a brilliant job of forcing you to tackle difficult problems in an unconventional manner.

Let’s say that as an SME making kitchen equipment your 5 year target is to have revenue of £10m and a distribution network in 3 countries.

In order to achieve this in the next 6 months you’ll have to enact some pretty radical behaviours. With your limited workforce you’d need to design a system whereby you could build relationships in different countries and find new means with which to market to customers.

The current approach of, say, sending out a monthly newsletter and making schedule of sales calls won’t achieve it. You could probably grow 20% by adding to these incumbent approaches, but not 10x.

To go 10x you’d likely need to burst open new channels of getting your products to market, meet the quality standards of large suppliers, and establish a system for rolling out your products in new territories.

Keeping the good bits

Regardless of whether you follow through on the conceptual plan for how to achieve your goals, it is likely that there will be certain aspects which you’d not thought of at first.

Though they might be ludicrous in the extreme, the underlying theme could well have something in it which you can get real results from today.

For example, in thinking about how you can get in front of distributors in new regions you might decide that you need to build credibility through getting TV advertising in new countries. But if you don’t have the budget, then maybe there is a shortcut of creating quick shareable videos which highlight the products’ key features, and to then reach out to key suppliers to demonstrate how the product works.

Or… something else entirely.

In any case, to read more on the concept of 10x thinking, you can read this article.

How to do this process

As with most things, there is an existing pool of knowledge on how best to set up yourself and your team to develop these step change ideas.

The basic principles are:

  • This is not aimless brainstorming
  • Have a dedicated facilitator who keeps everyone on track
  • Have an “ideas” phase and an “editing phase”. Keep them strictly separate
  • Create a safe environment to share ideas

However it is also worth researching more. The latest buzzword for this concept is “ideation workshop” with this article giving a comprehensive overview.

Lessons from Improv Comedy

Another domain which has to systematically generate out-of-the-box thinking is… improvised comedy.

Each performance begins with the kernel of an idea being presented, and the group then takes turns to build upon it, growing it in new and twisty directions.

The whole exercise is premised on the words: “Yes, and…”.

The power of these two syllables is that it takes what the previous person said and progresses it. In a setting of generating ideas, having everybody take their previous suggestion and develop it gives an idea the ability to grow, rather than snuffing it out by saying: “Nah, that’d never work”.

You can read more on the power of “Yes, and…” in this article.

Other questions to ask

We’ve seen one example of how to trigger the new mode of thought, but it can come in many forms.

Airbnb has seen exponential growth in the adoption of its service which many commentators attribute to the beautiful, seamless design and overall positive experience that its users get.

At one level it is a service that allows travellers to stay for cheap at a stranger’s house, but the way they view it is much much more.

The overall mission of Airbnb is to “belong anywhere”, and to do this, they need their guests to have an incredible experience each time that they travel.

“What does a 10 star experience look like?”

The philosophy around how to make a such an incredible experience is to take things to the extreme.

As Brian Chesky, the founder of Airbnb states in an interview with investor Reid Hoffman.

“The paradigm with customers today is 5 stars. The problem with 5 stars is you have to be really bad to get 4 stars. Reaching 5 stars is just being nice enough?—?we wanted to build a product that you loved so much you would tell everyone.”

This then leads a discussion of what, in a hypothetical world, an even better service would look like

“At Airbnb, we strive to have our customers contact the company and demand a 6th star be added to our 5 star review because the experience was so good. Here’s how we think about service past 5 stars:

  • 5 star service?—You leave the airport, go to the Airbnb, your hosts are in the house, they let you in. This is 5 star. Worse than this is if your host is late (4 star) and the worst is if your host never showed up (1 star).
  • 6 star service?—All of the above + your host picks you up at the airport.
  • 7 star service?—All of the above + there is a limo waiting for you at the airport and inside the limo are your favorite chips and coconut water.
  • 8 star service?—There is a giant parade when you arrive at the airport and you are honored for coming.
  • 9 star service?—The moment you step off the plane there is 5,000 screaming fans holding signs for your arrive?—we call this the Beatles check-in.
  • 10 star?—I could go all the way up to 30 stars—I won’t, but 10 stars would be when you arrive and a Tesla with your name on it is waiting for you and in the car the driver is Elon Musk, and instead of your Airbnb Elon, takes you to outer space.”

Now, Airbnb aren’t (yet) advocating for commissioning personalised cars for each guest, but there was a common thread which came from this: guests have an unbelievable experience when they are like the lead character in the Hollywood movie.

This movie star concept was the basis for their latest expansion into experiences. You can see his speech for the product launch here.


This post has looked to present how readjusting your sights on what could hypothetically be possible can open up new realms of possibility in creative thinking.

Shooting for the moon gives you much more space to conceptualise other ideas, compared to simply aiming for 10% year on year.

And in doing so, you’re much more likely to find those ideas necessary to grow your business beyond offerings made by the competition.


We hope that you found this post informative and thought-provoking. If you’d like to be notified of the next post, or learn more about how Inspira UK can help your business grow, then you can sign up to the newsletter and contact us here.

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