Demystifying Exponentiality

The charm of the big numbers

There’s an undeniable attraction in big numbers.

  • Getting the first 1000 followers on Instagram
  • Securing a 6-figure salary
  • Earning the first Million in your own venture.

These are absolute numbers that attract attention, as they are a significant milestone and may indicate a trend to success. But these numbers may also mean an isolated achievement, that don’t lead much further.

The assumption behind it is that once this magic number is achieved, the exponential explosion happens. The deception often comes from the fact that in the early stage exponential growth resembles the linear growth.

I’ve once achieved 1 million downloads of a mobile phone game in the app store, but that was pretty much the end of it as the market for Nokia-owned OS smartphones was rapidly declining, forcing me to look elsewhere.  I’ve abandoned the project, even though I could have done something different, like porting it (pivoting) to another platform.

The method in the chaos

There is a way to control and drive the development and growth of the project, product, or a service, that helps bend the curve towards the north. Exponential growth requires to understand and control the abundance of opportunities around us. The ExO model defines two sets of attributes that help deal with that:

Connecting with the abundance – SCALE

Using Staff on demand to conduct core business operations with outsourced dynamic pool of workers.
Connecting with the Communities creates groups of loyal supporters around the initiative.
Using Algorithms allows to automate complex tasks, especially when dealing with large data sets.
Leveraging assets mean outsourcing and lowering investment needed to grow on demand.
Using Engagement techniques to retain users and convert crowd into community.

Managing abundance – IDEAS

Using Interfaces and Dashboards for visualization and analysis of key data. This is key factor to decision making.
Conveying Experiments with real customers to validate assumptions before making key changes to the product or a significant investment.
Giving Autonomy to the development teams. Flat structures as compared to the hierarchical are driven by motivated self-starters rather than driven by orders.
Using built-in Social technologies for adding value to the shared workflows and collaboration.

The drive behind the venture

According to a popular legend, during a tour of NASA headquarters in 1961, John F. Kennedy encountered a janitor mopping the floors.

“Why are you working so late?” Kennedy asked.

“Mr President,” the janitor responded, “I’m helping put a man on the moon.”

The reason to know why to invest our money, time or energy has also been emotively described by Simon Sinek in his TED talk. This idea is commonly translated into organizational MTP – Massive Transformative Purpose.

Great organizations not only attract users by a flashy and catchy phrase, but also motivate their own labor to keep up the good work and help give more in order to achieve the best results.

Putting it all together

The model proposed to develop and document a business based on MTP and exponential attributes is known today as Business Model Canvas. This template is a visualization of the attributes with the focus on the key elements: Customer Segments, Value Proposition and Revenue Streams. This model has been initially developed by Alexander Ostenwalder.

Even with the most exponential attributes and best user insights, the most complete Business Model Canvas, success is not secured. If it was all that simple, it would probably need less time and effort to build all those great companies from scratch or just make a copycat and steal someone’s success. Success is somewhere at the crossroads of these elements and the market demand. Just like with the tip of the iceberg, where the massive volume of it lies below the sea level, the time to discover the market and find the rightest idea is significant, even for those most brilliant and successful companies.

Closing the loop

Instagram is an app that only took 8 weeks to build and ship but was a product of over a year of work

And what happens if it doesn’t lead to the desired results? Most startups share the sad numbers and fail. Recognizing the failure of the idea early enough may mean something good though. If resources allow, there may also be enough time to iterate or pivot the idea. Many companies used this aid on the way to become what they’ve become. Using exponential techniques and models help find out which way to go. Even if the result is to kill the idea, the exponential journey pays back as a great experience worth sharing.

Thanks to Corina Almagro for driving the challenging but gratifying first-hand ExO experience during Exponential Innovator course at HP.

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