An “exponential entrepreneur's” manual for “going big” ...
As long-term readers might recall, I was (am) a great fan of Peter Diamandis' previous book Abundance
, which is a remarkable rallying cry for a positive futurism, featuring a lot of “gee wiz!” technologies that are supposedly just around the corner. When I requested a review copy of his new book from the good folks over at Simon & Schuster, I was sort of anticipating (and/or hoping for) an Abundance II
, but this is focused in a different direction. Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth and Impact the World
is a more “grounded” book, being (as one might get from the subtitle) a bit of a “how to” based both in trends the author has identified and his own experiences.
Bold is structured in 3 sections, “Bold Technology”, “Bold Mindset”, and “The Bold Crowd”, and much of it is predicated on the concept of exponential growth and becoming an “exponential entrepreneur”. In fact, it starts with one of the sadder stories of recent corporate evolution/devolution, that of Kodak. While Kodak invented the digital camera, in 1976 (with the digital info for the images being saved on cassette – with a capacity of 30 images, deliberately set in the middle of the range of their film products at 24 and 36) there was no place in the corporate culture for it, which asked things like Why would anybody want to look at pictures on an electronic screen?
. Diamandis notes that 20 years later, in 1996, Kodak was all but a monopoly, with 90% of the market and worth 28 billion dollars, yet in another decade they were no longer profitable and by 2012 they were in Chapter 11. Interestingly, it was also in 2012 that Instagram released its Android app, went from 30 to 80 million users in little over a month, and were bought by Facebook.
Welcome to the New Kodak Moment – the moment when an exponential force puts a linear company out of business. As we shall see over and over again, these New Kodak Moments are not aberrations. Rather they are the inevitable result of the six Ds of exponential growth. And for those linear-thinking executives trying to hang on to their jobs, this leads us to the three final Ds: distraught, depressed, and departed. But for exponential entrepreneurs, these New Kodak Moments are rife with possibility.
OK, so you're wondering what those “six Ds” he mentions are ...
Now, the first of these is pretty self-explanatory, something that had been only physical, becomes digital … the second, however, is less obvious: this “deception” phase is when exponential growth goes unnoticed because “the doubling of small numbers are so minuscule they are often mistaken for … linear growth”
. In the case of Kodak's digital camera with an initial resolution of only 0.01 megapixels, going to 0.02 then to 0.04 and to 0.08 all still look an awful lot like “zero”, but if their growth continues, it's not long before the technology has made a “billionfold improvement”
, at which point “disruption” of the industry in question is almost certainly under way. There's an interesting chart in here which plots “all photos” against “analog photos”, and, naturally enough, the curves match from 1826 to about 1990, and there's only a little separation around 2000, with 86 billion photos being taken, however, at that point the “all” curve surges, and the “analog” curve tanks, with 380 billion photos taken in 2011, with only one or two billion of those being analog.
I well recall the days when, if I was going on vacation, I'd have to pre-plan to get enough film to shoot when I was off climbing Mayan ruins, etc. … what was a major
expense back in the day (between buying the film and then having it developed), today would involve picking up a few tiny chips that would hold hundreds, if not thousands, times the images I used to budget for. This is the “demonetization” phase of the exponential model, where things which once had a physical presence and were reasonably expensive, now were nearly, if not actually, free. The entertainment and publishing industries have certainly faced this
Another chart illustrates the “dematerialization” phase, which suggests that a modern smart phone encompasses a dozen technologies which used to require a separate device … which all would have totaled somewhere around $900,000.00 if bought when introduced. Needless to say, this “when introduced” figure seriously inflates the costs, as a GPS system, when introduced in 1982, cost $119,900.00, which is then interpreted to $279,366.00 in “2011 dollars” (making up nearly a third of the total), when a free-standing GPS system could be had currently for under a hundred bucks … but the general point is that the smart phone “has in it” a digital watch, a video camera, an encyclopedia, etc., none of which one would “need” to physically have anymore.
The final D, “democratization” addresses the drive to ubiquity of technology such as smart phones … while high-end phones can be pricey, there are also “name” units (like some of Microsoft's new Lumina models) which have list prices
as low as seventy bucks … this means that soon everybody can have the technology.
So much for the first chapter
. Diamandis goes on to look at the “hype cycle”, how 3D printing is effecting numerous industries, how communicating sensors are reaching into everything, and how the connectivity of the Internet is exploding in both access (with major players competing to develop global free service) and bandwidth/speed (a replacement for 4G is being phased in that is 6-7x the current standard). He projects that in a few years (2020) a chip that runs your cellphone and can perform a billion calculations per second will cost about a penny – leading to what he calls “infinite computing”. He quotes Rackspace's Graham Weston saying: “Today the computation speed that somebody in the middle of Mumbai has access to outstrips what the entire US government had during the sixties and seventies.”
, and entrepreneurs don't even need to have the infrastructure, as the computing resources can be used “as needed” from cloud providers. He covers Artificial Intelligence and the strides being made there, as well as related developments in Robotics, and “Genomics and Synthetic Biology”.
The second section is a whirlwind of examples of “doing” on a developmental level, from Lockheed's “Skunk Works” – and Kelly Johnson's “fourteen rules for going skunk” – to permutations on that across various other industries and contexts. An interesting example provided is that of Google's “moonshot factory”, GoogleX, which sets audacious goals, and churns through concepts, letting most of them fail. There is also a list of “eight innovation principles”:
- Focus on the User.
- Share Everything.
- Look for Ideas Everywhere.
- Think Big but Start Small.
- Never Fail to Fail.
- Spark with Imagination, Fuel with Data
- Be a Platform.
- Have a Mission That Matters.
Diamandis then takes an extensive look at the concept of “flow” (as popularized by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
) which is framed as “an optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best ...when we become so focused on the task at hand that everything else falls away”
here, and goes point-for-point through “flow's 17 triggers” (more than I can summarize).
Next is “going big”, introducing the concept of “the line of super-credibility”, and many examples from the author's own projects … including a list of his 28 “laws”. The last chapter in the second section is “Billionaire Wisdom”, and looks at the careers of four top-tier innovators: Elon Musk, Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos, and Larry Page (all of whom the author has worked with in various contexts). One thing I found fascinating here was that Musk had built a multi-billion dollar business, lost it all, and built back into the ranks of billionaires … and he's only just in his 40's!
This brings us to the third section, and second half, of the book, “The Bold Crowd”. As engaging as the first half was, I suspect that this part is what is going to sell most copies of Bold, as it's an in-depth and reasonably step-by-step look at Crowdsourcing, Crowdfunding, and Building Communities, followed with a specific look at Incentive Competitions – a specialty of Diamandis, whose X Prize challenges have become legendary (interestingly, this sort of thing has a long history, Lindberg crossed the Atlantic to win the Orteig Prize, and as early as 1714 innovations were being seeded this way, with the British Parliament establishing the Longitude Prize for the first person to measure longitude at sea). This section is so dense, so full of details and “how to” info, that I can't begin to cherry-pick meaningful bits to put in here. Suffice it to say, it's a concise “course” on how to achieve remarkable goals using a whole brand-new infrastructure of platforms and systems that are currently available, and no doubt well worth the cover price of the book to those who are looking to make moves in those realms (I'm handing my copy of this over in the next couple of days to an associate who's about to launch a crowdfunding effort!).Bold
is brand-new, just being out a month as I'm writing this, so it should be pretty easy to find in the ever-dwindling brick-and-mortar book world … the on-line guys, of course, have it, and are currently knocking off about a quarter of the cover price. While based on the sort of futurism that was so enticing in Abundance
, this is its own critter, with a couple of sections of context, and then the pay-off of the “manual” … if you have interests in any of the stuff noted above, you'll want to get a copy.