When something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favor. Elon Musk
What makes ultra successful people different? How do some people produce ideas which make them billions of pounds, whilst the rest of us go to work 9–5 everyday?
People feel they are different, that they are above average and this leads them to overestimating their ability and underestimating how long it will take. This is known as the inside view, read more in the articles below
- The outside view — how long will it take to create a vaccine for Covid-19?
- Why IT projects estimates are wrong
- One simple tip to improve your development and project estimates
We might feel special, but we act average. We go to work, do the same job each day and make small improvements and job promotions every few years.
We make slow progress because the average person thinks the same, does the same thing and gets the same results. You can’t outperform the majority of people by doing the same thing but slightly better. We are influenced by the status quo and find it difficult to imagine doing things a different way.
As a solution architect, I see how the current situation influences our thinking. When working with the customer to replace their old systems, it’s common for the new system to look similar to the old system. The reason is people don’t think about the goal of the system, they think about how they do it at the moment.
Products are improved with iterative innovations, small improvements to an existing idea. This small improvement leads to small gains because the new productive is a little bit better than the existing product. This is how most people drive their careers with iterative improvements to their knowledge, skills and experience, which leads to small improvements e.g. promotions.
The competition is high in this area because everyone is similarly skilled, doing similar actions with similar .
“In order to strive for performance which is far different from the norm and better, you must do things which expose you to the possibility of being far different from the norm and worse.” Howard Marks 1990 memo The Route to Performance
To get results better than average, you need to think and act differently.
So where do you find the innovative breakthroughs, the ifferent ways of thinking which will lead to big rewards.
Rob McEwen the former CEO of GoldCorp in a section from Opposable Mind: Winning Through Integrative Thinking by Roger Martin
“I was looking, he says, “for the fundamental, underlying , unquestioned assumptions that everybody in the industry grows up with. And if you find that assumption and then question it. you can start seeing opportunities. If you can define the problem differently than everybody else in the industry, you can generate alternatives that others aren’t thinking about.”
The big opportunities come from thinking different and seeing the world differently, if you can do this then you can create different solutions which can disrupt the industry.
Breakthrough innovations are difficult because if you ask customers what they want, they will want more of the same and slightly improved. This is highlighted by the Henry Ford quote below
“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Henry Ford
Clayton Christensen explains why companies find it hard to create disruptive innovation in his book the innovator’s dilemma. Companies create one disruptive innovation but listen to the customers needs, which is iterative innovation. Disruptive Technologies: Catching the Wave
The changing environment creates opportunities to disrupt industries through innovative use of technology. Examples are
Elon Musk used 1st principle thinking to come with the ideas for Telsa and Space X. Assumptions was petrol was the best way to power cars but Elon Musk thought electricity would is more effective.
The biggest cost of space travel was the rocket was used once but with Space X the rocket can go to space, land and fly again.
Disruptive ideas which challenged industries.
If you think the same as everyone else you are competing in a crowded area, where iterative improvements lead to small gains. See the world differently to come up with different ideas. Thinking differently comes with risks because the majority will disagree but the upside is there is significantly less competition and bigger rewards.
picture from khamkhor