This post is based on a talk by Astro Teller that aired on Tim Ferriss’ podcast
There’s a classic quote from Astro Teller that is always harder to find than it should be, but here it is:
“Sometimes shifting your perspective is more powerful than being smart.”
This idea is at the heart of his thinking. 99% of people are working on incremental innovation. That means if you’re in the business of 10% improvements, you have a lot of competition! Given that logic, it’s better to shoot for 10x innovation, because while it might fail, there won’t be as many people trying. Plus, it will cause you to think differently, and that new perspective will be valuable.
He gives an interesting example in the talk to illustrate both the potential of 10x thinking and the main obstacle. He says, you have two options:
A. Contribute $1,000,000 to your company’s bottom line without a doubt.
B. Contribute $1,000,000,000 with 1% certainty.
Which would you take?
Everyone chooses B, as the rational actor would because the expected value is 10x higher. But then he asks, “Which would your boss want you to take?” To which most people respond choice B.
Herein lies the dilemma. The natural human craving for certainty says take choice A because we can plan for that, but new technology and the constant threat of disruption say take choice B, because if you can’t innovate, you won’t be around in 10 years.
Luckily this isn’t a binary choice. Astro suggests that some people in your company should be thinking 10x and pushing boundaries. And when he says some people he doesn’t mean three crazy people in Silicon Valley while the 5,000 person New York office stays buttoned up. He means 5-10% of the company.
Or put another way for those of us who don’t operate in a big company environment, 5-10% of your time should be spent choosing option B. Shooting for the moon, shifting your perspective and dreaming bigger than you previously thought possible. Sometimes that simple action is more powerful than being smart.