Is your company looking for incremental gains—or exponential growth?
The term “exponential” has become a bit of a buzzword, but what we’re talking about here is radical change that helps organizations stay relevant, competitive, and potentially disruptive.
Traditional companies that are hyper-focused on 10% improvement and quarterly goals may be successful in the short term, but they are not well-positioned for long-term survival. A 10x organization—the most famous example is probably Google—is one that has shifted its thinking to an exponential growth mindset and has given itself the permission and the tools to take the risks required to deliver 10x value and outcomes.
In an age of exponentially accelerating technologies and rapid change, we consider 10x goals and outcomes not simply attainable but necessary for future success. At Singularity University (SU), we design 10x Innovation Sprints for our enterprise clients and partners to help them visualize, build, and launch future breakthrough solutions.
But even for organizations that have set 10x growth goals, the way to achieve those goals often remains a mystery. That’s why I’d like to share some tips and frameworks we’ve developed at SU that we deliver in our 10x Innovation Sprints.
“Today, if you’re not disrupting yourself, someone else is. Your fate is to be either the disrupter or the disrupted. There is no middle ground.” —Salim Ismail, Founding Executive Director of Singularity University and lead author of Exponential Organizations
We have the incredible privilege of working with disruptive startups that are reinventing industries, as well as corporate enterprise partners that may be susceptible to disruption. And we’ve learned a lot about the mindset required on both sides.
While startups are inherently faster, more flexible, and risk-tolerant, it’s important for enterprises to recognize that they also hold certain advantages over startups. Finding the hidden value and strengths that corporations can leverage and build upon for future growth is essential. To learn how to monitor and sustain growth, it’s important to know how to read and respond to your growth engine’s warning lights.
We partner with enterprise corporations to identify their current and future competitive advantages. Most corporations have loads of institutional knowledge and skills that startups lack, in addition to a trusted brand, customer relationships, suppliers, tools, operational excellence, and access to talent.
That’s why we’ve put together a 10x Innovation framework that enables our corporate partners to behave like startups—to run experiments quickly and efficiently to leverage their core competencies and accelerate large-scale strategic initiatives.
The Problem Sprint
The Problem Sprint is a discovery process focusing on in-depth research, with the goal of deeply understanding the problem that you’re trying to solve. We spend a lot of time making sure we’re asking the right questions.
We start by diving deep into the needs and pain points users and customers face. The need for extreme empathy is more important than ever before. Companies that solve real human problems and see opportunities to address these problems in unique ways are far more likely to become disruptors than to be disrupted. Identifying these insights and opportunities is the primary objective of the Problem Sprint.
Our research also includes a look into exponential technologies and startups in the field, with a particular focus on those that could be part of the solution to your organization’s unique challenges. At the same time, we delve into current and future marketplace trends and how they might have an impact on the problems that you’re working on now, as well as those you’ll face in the future.
The Solutions Sprint
The second step, which we call The Solutions Sprint, is the ideation phase during which we brainstorm and envision possible solutions to current and future problems. This involves reframing the problem, looking at it from many angles, and making sure that we are thinking about it in a big enough way. Much of the 10x mindset is developed in this reframing process by thinking about challenges through different lenses, with empathy for the user, and by examining analogous solutions from the perspective of possible futures. This process helps challenge assumptions about problems, as well as their potential solutions.
The Solutions Sprint combines technology immersion with ideation. At this point, participants work closely with a team of SU facilitators, faculty experts, analysts, designers, and writers to create possible strategies, concepts, products, and services to solve the problem.
The Prototype Sprint
The third step entails building and prototyping. This rapid prototyping sprint follows a cycle of building, testing, iterating, and rebuilding. Gathering continuous customer feedback and validation regarding these solutions will enable you to iterate quickly until you have a solution that is then validated by SU faculty experts and partners, as well as potential customers.
Deliverables for the Prototype Sprint may include the following, depending on your needs and objectives:
- Low-fidelity prototypes
- Final product recommendations
- A pilot program and proof of concept
- Minimum viable products (MVPs)
The Go-to-Market Sprint
We often refer to the Go-to-Market Sprint as the leap, because it really is the point where you jump from an idea—backed by a prototype, testing, and data—to an actual business. During this fourth step, SU will help your team develop a go-to-market plan that includes a strategy for funding, marketing channels, and revenue streams, as well as options for building, acquiring, or partnering.
At this stage, we reinforce that the answer is not always for you to create a groundbreaking solution. Perhaps an acquisition or a partnership model where you could collaborate and share potential revenue would be the best fit for your team and objectives.
Setting the scene for innovation success
Along with a broader framework outlined in the four steps above, there are important ways to prepare your organization for greater success. It’s impossible to overstate the importance of establishing the right mindset, which includes embracing 10x thinking. Having this mindset (especially when it is shared across your leadership) is quite powerful. People start giving themselves permission to play in areas they previously considered outside of their core competency or reach. The right mindset enables teams to:
- Push toward the future quickly and confidently, with an eye on future opportunities to leverage exponential tech
- Focus on designing productive experiments to learn fast, and apply those learnings to improve future experiments
- Move with confidence from ideation through go-to-market and revenue impact
- Consider opportunities in adjacent spaces, rather than simply evolving current solutions
In addition to a shared mindset, having the right people on the team is critical. It’s not enough to simply convene a group of smart people. The right team will include a diversity of voices, roles, and perspectives. In fact, successful organizations build extended innovation teams. Collaborators and co-creators from varied business backgrounds—inside and outside your organization—can help provide the diverse inputs, support, and engagement your organization will need to succeed.
During the innovation process, it’s also crucial to build partnerships with executive-level sponsors who are aware of how quickly things are changing, and who have the necessary mindset to stay competitive and balance short-term demands with long-term future growth.
By fully understanding and investing in their teams during the innovation process, leaders can learn how to develop breakout solutions that will drive their organization’s growth and success far into the future. I hope you found this overview of SU’s approach to 10x Innovation Sprints useful. Next, check out this post from SU Corporate Innovation VP, Nick Davis to learn how to keep your growth engine running strong.
In future posts, we will examine our 10x Strategy and 10x Leadership solutions for enterprise organizations.