The Power of 10x Thinking

If you take a current idea or product and make a 10 percent improvement then you might be a mild success, but will it succeed wildly or even change the world? 10x thinking is focused on making something at least 10 times better. This is sometimes called moonshot thinking in reference to the United States pursuit of putting a man on the moon. President Kennedy famously said that we choose to go to the moon not because it is easy, but because it is hard.

During a trip to Silicon Valley last month as part of my MS-MBA program at Boston University, I visited start-ups, venture capitalists, and established companies vying for a piece of the valley mystique. However, it was a visit to the colorful and impressive Google campus where I learned about the power of 10x thinking. In a recent Wired Magazine interview, Google co-founder Larry Page said that 10x thinking “requires rethinking problems entirely, exploring the edge of what’s technically possible…..incremental improvement is guaranteed to be obsolete over time. Especially in technology, where you know there’s going to be non-incremental change.” He goes on to say:

Another way to think of 10x thinking is how many people will the idea impact. Google won’t even consider making a new product or providing a new service unless it will be used by a billion people. Google has earned the right to speak loudly about 10x thinking since its portfolio includes an ever growing list of 10x ideas including the driver-less car, google fiber, and even side projects like scanning nearly every book ever published and giving readers access to it. Google Glass, the computer that resembles a pair of eyeglasses, is another example of 10x thinking. When it was first unveiled, nobody though it would do anything, according to Google CFO Patrick Pichette. But the idea of having voice-directed computer attached to your head, which frees up your hands, is clearly catching on, he says. “It’s going to morph into 17 different things in the next decade,” he says. “That’s the essence of 10x.”

It is not just Google where 10x thinking is taken place. At Wipro, a global IT consulting firm I visited, I heard about new and incredible ways that Drones could enter the commercial space. At Scanadu, I saw how smart phones could revolutionize how we monitor our own health. I met with the bank BBVA and discussed how Bitcoins have been a wakeup call that a disruptive force is entering their market. And as a student, I see how education is being affected by 10x thinking as MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), now offer free or low-cost, high-quality classes to hundreds of thousands of people.

Dan Steinberg