How to be a “10X Leader”

Dear CEO

You’re busy. You’re focused. On today. On delivery. On results.

That’s good, but not enough. It’s natural to have your head down, managing. It’s not easy to have your head up, leading.

Relentless change, disruptive technology, millennial consumers are keywords of our time. So ubiquitous that we ignore them. But they matter. The next 10 years will see more change than the last 250 years. By 2025, human brains will be simulated for $1000, 8 billion consumers will be hyper-connected, and Elon Musk will take us to Mars.

Markets have changed, customers have changed (and will change even faster). How has your business changed? How have you?

Whilst the world has never been more accessible – so many people with so much discretionary spend, an infinite choice of business and brands, enabled by automation and intelligence – significant growth is elusive. Finding new ideas is not easy. Making them happen is much harder. Uncertainty saps confidence, talent fights structure, customers distrust brands, and today overrules tomorrow.

You are the leader of innovation and growth.

Why is it so hard? Because most companies exist in a 10% world. Business plans that deliver 10% more than last year are good enough. Most innovation still focuses on products, and so usually becomes derivative, 10% better. This is incrementalism. Or in an accelerating world, it’s called standing still. Yet customers have higher aspirations and expectations than ever, conditioned by their experiences with other companies, often in other sectors. Same for investors.

Think about today’s fast growth businesses … like taxi to food delivery platform Uber ($68bn in 7 years), China’s electronics giant Xiaomi ($46bn in 6 years), car-sharing firm Didi Chuxing ($34bn in 4 years), and peer to peer accommodation with Airbnb ($30bn). Most recently, add examples like millennial news channel Vice Media ($4bn), online educator Udacity ($2bn) and local delivery bikers Deliveroo ($1bn). Way back in history, 10 years ago, none of them existed.

Yet we feel more confident in trying to stretch our old models of success, rather than creating new ones. We hope that the formula that made us great, will continue to serve us well. We try to extrapolate past market success into a discontinuous future. Einstein called it insanity (trying to solve a new problem with the same old thinking). We need to deliver today, to sustain cash and confidence, but we also need to create tomorrow.

Continued …

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