Many businesses and organizations in today’s economic environment grow in a linear way.
However, one may notice that there are just as many organizations that are growing exponentially.
Exponential growth sounds much better than linear growth, doesn’t it? It is! Exponential growth as a business or organization is profoundly advantageous, giving your organization the opportunity to make huge differences in both the industry you operate in and the industries it impacts.
There are two obvious questions in regard to exponential growth: What defines exponential growth, and who is capable of achieving it? Are only certain organizations in certain industries capable of exponential growth? Is there a way for your business to go beyond linear growth and start experiencing exponential growth, regardless of your company’s size or location?
We explored these two questions and more in a recent “Opportunity Hour: Conversations with The Masters,” which featured my esteemed colleague, Brad Peterson. Brad is the executive vice president, chief technology officer, and chief information officer for NASDAQ. Prior to joining NASDAQ, he worked in telecommunications, eCommerce, and financial services industries, bringing innovation and technological architectures across multiple industries to create breakthrough innovations and exponential growth.
As an anticipatory leader himself, Brad has been transforming entire organizations into information delivery powerhouses for his entire career. My interview with him can help all organizations learn from his example and real-world practice, not only to harness growth in a non-linear, exponential way, but to see that the way to do this is by fostering an Anticipatory mindset!
Brad defines exponential growth for a business or organization as being able to serve multiple customers efficiently. For his organization and many others, more volume means more money — which represents growth.
Brad’s definition of exponential growth is validated by evolving exponential technologies and the transformations these advancements bring to any industry. You might think that new, breakthrough technology that enables exponential growth is an advantage enjoyed only by tech companies, but Brad’s experience shows us that the opportunity to achieve exponential growth by using such technology is available to all.
As proof, he offers the example of his work for Charles Schwab — an institution in the financial industry founded long before the current boom of digital technology.
Charles Schwab was founded in 1975 and grew quickly, both in the number of its clients and in the variety of their needs. Of course, experiencing an uptick in customers is a good thing — but for Charles Schwab, finding a way to serve all these new clients efficiently was the real problem.
Schwab and his colleagues soon realized that this was a problem that could be “skipped” by using the technology available to them. The company quickly leveraged then-current communication technology by setting up 800 numbers to help as many customers as quickly and conveniently as possible, essentially overcoming a constraint that may have originally seemed insurmountable.
What both Brad and I want to highlight in this foundational example of problem-skipping and exponential growth is that exponential thinking and exponential implementation of technology allow you not only to streamline mundane business tasks, but to scale quickly.
Sure, telephones and telecommunication devices had existed prior to the founding of Charles Schwab — but Schwab and his team leveraged them in exponential ways. This sort of problem-solving is referred to in some circles as “outside the box” thinking.
Brad has personally experienced many other examples of exponential thinking and exponential use of technology, and he describes how these are directly tied to exponential growth.
Another notable example from Charles Schwab is the company’s early adaptation in offering access to its products and services through mobile devices, such as PalmPilots in the 90s. Customers of Charles Schwab were, in many ways, early adopters of accessing their account information via the internet. The team at Charles Schwab identified the demand for such digital access as a Hard Trend future certainty, which it proved to be.
The internet and digital connectivity have only increased in relevance at all types of business or organizations and will continue to do so as a definitive Hard Trend in the future. For Charles Schwab, pairing access to its products with mobile technology made it easy once again to grow quickly in telecommunications, product offerings, customer service, and the infrastructure that was eventually implemented in mobile devices.
Given Brad’s firsthand experience with non-tech organizations leveraging technology to create exponential, non-linear growth, it is safe to say that any size business or organization can do the same!
For example, in our discussion, Brad and I covered a simple example of how a big-box store like Wal-Mart could leverage technology exponentially to further assist in-person customers in ways they need and maybe do not yet realize they need. Today, when customers shop in Wal-Mart, the company has no clue what their intentions are. True, security cameras are implemented to pre-solve the problem of bad intentions, like theft. But what about all the good intentions that cannot currently be leveraged when a customer is shopping in person rather than online?
Wal-Mart could easily leverage such intentions by taking its security cameras and making them intelligent through exponential incorporation of autonomous technology. Then, instead of using its cameras solely to prevent theft, Wal-Mart could use them to track in-person customer behaviors in much the same way as it uses digital trackers to understand the behavior of its online customers. This would enable the company to better serve those customers who prefer to shop in person — and thereby create even more non-linear, exponential growth.
Of course, Wal-Mart is a multi-billion-dollar corporation, but it, Starbucks, Nike, Charles Schwab, and many others that have reached stratospheric growth heights all have an Anticipatory Organization mindset in common! Applying the principles in my Anticipatory Organization® Model — especially thinking exponentially and implementing technology exponentially — allows your organization to be a dynamic business and to grow not only in a non-linear fashion, but much faster than ever before.
After all, as both Brad Peterson and I have asked: Why be an organization that’s only really good at offering a product or service in one way when you could instead be irreplaceable in offering that same product or service in every way a customer could want?
Daniel Burrus is considered one of the world’s leading futurists on global trends and innovation. The New York Times has referred to him as one of the top three business gurus in the highest demand as a speaker. He is a strategic advisor to executives from Fortune 500 companies, helping them to accelerate innovation and results by develop game-changing strategies based on his proven methodologies for capitalizing on technology innovations and their future impact. His client list includes companies such as Microsoft, GE, American Express, Google, Deloitte, Procter & Gamble, Honda, and IBM. He is the author of seven books, including The New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-seller Flash Foresight, and his latest book The Anticipatory Organization. He is a featured writer with millions of monthly readers on the topics of innovation, change and the future and has appeared in Harvard Business Review, Wired, CNBC, and Huffington Post to name a few. He has been the featured subject of several PBS television specials and has appeared on programs such as CNN, Fox Business, and Bloomberg, and is quoted in a variety of publications, including The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Fortune, and Forbes. He has founded six businesses, four of which were national leaders in the United States in the first year. He is the CEO of Burrus Research, a research and consulting firm that monitors global advancements in technology driven trends to help clients profit from technological, social and business forces that are converging to create enormous, untapped opportunities. In 1983 he became the first and only futurist to accurately identify the twenty technologies that would become the driving force of business and economic change for decades to come. He also linked exponential computing advances to economic value creation. His specialties are technology-driven trends, strategic innovation, strategic advising and planning, business keynote presentations.