I was discussing with a colleague recently about how we can accelerate growth in a specific geography. My suggestion was: instead of working on a plan to double in the coming year, what would it take to grow 10X in the same period? My point was that we would think and act very differently if we took a crazy outsized goal rather than build incrementally from a low base. I then gave the example of my “Project 275 for 2014” which I had proposed for the BJP in 2011. The best the BJP had done in Lok Sabha elections until 2011 was winning 182 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha. In conversations that I was part of, the focus was on how to get to 200+ seats. I looked at it differently. I asked what it would take to focus on getting a majority (winning 272+ seats) rather than forming a minority government. Targeting 200+ meant going with the same approach of a summation of state elections, while aiming for 275 meant creating a national wave in favour of the BJP which transcended state politics. As it turned out, the BJP did the latter and won 282 seats in the 2014 elections.
The very next day after I suggested the 10X bigger approach to my colleague, I came across Sheena Iyengar’s book “Think Bigger.” The focus is on innovation. Sheena, a professor at Columbia Business School, writes: “I noticed that our many courses on entrepreneurship taught students how to implement a new idea—but not how to get that idea in the first place. Not all new ideas are equal, just like not all choices are equal. I found that the field of innovation offered methods to get new ideas, but these dated from more than half a century ago. They failed to take into account the recent breakthrough in neuroscience called Learning+Memory. It lets us actually see how imagination works in the human mind…In this book, I will show you how to deliberately form creative ideas—and most importantly, how anyone can be creative once they understand the roadmap to creative problem-solving.” The book offers a 6-step framework as the table of contents shows:
The question we should ask when we look at solving problems is how to “think bigger”. By changing the frame of reference from 200 to 275 seats (minority government to majority), by reframing the growth question from 2X to 10X, we can push ourselves to come up with bolder ideas and possibly very different paths to success. Too often, we let the safety of the incremental lead us away from the boldness of the disruptive. In some way, this is what entrepreneurship is about. By thinking big, we may risk failure, but the outcome is likely to be much better than the obvious ordinary.
So, the next time you are asked to solve a problem, ask yourself – what would it take to be much bigger and better? Even if that doesn’t make it to the final plan, you will have opened many new avenues which you would have perhaps not considered previously.