On the shoulders of genius: How to make complex ideas simple and unlock exponential growth.

Mar 31, 2021

A few months ago I watched the domino chain effect video which demonstrated elegantly how a tiny brick just 5mm high and 1mm thick can create enough momentum to knock over a brick the size of the Empire State Building. It’s a straightforward physics conundrum based on perfectly spaced bricks and a multiplier of 1.5.

The concept blew me away and showed how each perfectly positioned piece can create a force so much stronger than itself. It fills your heart and head with ambition for sure and makes you look at strategic planning in a very different way. As an executive and now in the advice I offer to clients, we often work on goals and use logic to make that dream a deliverable. The focus then of course shifts to resources and accountability to deliver.
When I prepare clients to plan for exponential change we look at factors such as team capabilities, shifting towards a culture of innovation and embracing technology. Often working outside a rule book, at times faster than the rule books. The domino metaphor is a good one to describe how each of these factors build on each other and is an excellent primer for any business. It does have flaws though.
Businesses operate in complexity, particularly modern business. That’s both in terms of the first principle that a business is a collection of people who lead other people who serve other people and in an increasingly complex global environment. Barriers to entry have been washed away with every iteration of technology and shifting social attitudes have scattered the notion of a corporate career leading to many more exciting green shoots of enterprise and disruption.
In my approach to exponential change, we introduce a cluster of interventions that accelerate the overall pace of transformation.
Playing with a 10x mindset enables this shift. Through workshops you can certainly build a strong and informed vision of the organisation’s potential future but there’s an element of distance and uncertainty that is inbuilt in that process (because it is such a stretch). That in turn loosens the grip - the control on the activities and outputs - in favour of experimentation and learning.
Shifting to that growth mindset and democratising leadership agitates the system further and builds positive momentum.
Creating psychological safety to encourage trial and error again increases the speed and frequency of innovation.
Observation with a view to scaling pulls through the critical ingredients to catalyse other projects.
Encouraging creativity and drawing inspiration from the external environment promotes novelty in execution.
It’s a vague application of Kurzweil’s Law of Accelerating Returns in a business environment.
It can be hugely unsettling for senior leaders and its important to help them shift their approach to governance and to stay curious. I work with leaders to create their own sense of safety operating in this environment and instil decision making structures that respect and build creative confidence.
Einstein’s quoted as saying,

"Genius is making complex ideas simple, not making simple ideas complex."

Achieving exponential results is simply about embracing and applying the complexity of modern business.

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