The Exponential Mindset

To create exponential value, it’s imperative to first create an exponential mindset. The incremental mindset focuses on making something better, while the exponential mindset is makes something different. Incremental is satisfied with 10%. Exponential is out for 10X.

In the launch phase, you need to realize that an exponential strategy has inherent uncertainty. You can’t draw a straight line from where you are to where you are going. There’s no step-by-step plan.

Then, with the exponential change, things happen very slowly before they happen very quickly. In your exponential journey, pay attention to when people get the most impatient for results. It’s the point in the chart where there is the largest gap between incremental and exponential paths. This expectation gap is a risk to the business strategy because the impatience can be used by opponents or skeptics to convince stakeholders to jump from the exponential to the incremental. The exponential mindset helps you have the courage to persevere and the patience to see it through.

The incremental mindset assumes that it takes more inputs to produce more outputs. So as growth starts to accelerate, teams start to look for more resources in proportion to the growth. But the addition of too many people or too many resources can “flood the engine” of growth. You need an exponential mindset to figure out how 1X additional input can create 10X additional output.

In the exponential mindset, managers replace control of people with control of principles. The use of doctrine to guide decision-making generates alignment, consistency and empowerment. But most leaders are accustomed to making decisions rather than empowering decisions. The anxiety from a loss of control can easily push companies off the exponential path back onto the incremental path. The exponential mindset helps to grow output faster than input, and empower teams to achieve both alignment and autonomy.

Summing-up: Digital business models require a shift from incremental to exponential. At the start, it takes vision and a leap of faith to commit to the unknown. In the early days, it takes courage and patience to build the foundation for growth even when results aren’t yet apparent. When growth kicks in, agility comes from empowering others and letting go without losing control. In all of the stages, the challenge is to “unlearn” familiar ways of thinking and embrace the unfamiliar. But with a shift from the incremental to exponential mindset comes the opportunity for real innovation.

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