On January 5th Peter Diamandis talked me into a new and radically optimistic view of the future. A future of abundance. Of 10x growth. A transformational way of seeing the world. And as a result we’re in the process of transforming our company.
If you don’t know Peter, he’s the guy behind the X Prize (heard of Space X? That’s him). He has a brace of innovative companies, did a ‘proper’ TED talk and co-founded the Singularity University. There’s a documentary about him. He’s kind of a big deal.
So across two detailed posts I’m going to show you how his (and a handful of other radical optimists) ideas have overhauled my view of the word. And these ideas can do the same for you too.
In this post we’ll explore the thinking and show you how it’s guiding Techdept’s mission, vision and positioning. The second post will show how we’re implementing the thinking in a series of concrete steps.
So strap on your seatbelt, we’re going on a ride…
A commute with Peter, Tony & Tim
I was restless on the first day back from Christmas 2015. We’d had a fantastic previous year, but was that it?! Had we peaked?! Driving home, I clicked on a podcast link that fit my mood.
What followed was 45 minutes with Peter Diamandis, Tony Robbins and Tim Ferris. In the episode they discussed ‘thinking big’. Throughout the conversation Diamandis talked of “10x growth”. Growing 10 times. Not 10 per cent or 2 times…10x.
His argument is that we live in an exponential world, a world of abundance where bold ideas can scale rapidly. This was my first interaction with a group of people I’ve subsequently labelled ‘radical optimists’.
Sat in traffic, I thought: “I want me some of that”.
Falling in love with the idea of 10x, I still didn’t have an understanding of how to apply it. But the fact it existed in my mind prompted a series of serendipitous events. A string of exciting people, ideas and concepts.
Take The Red Pill
Our event series The Tech Off was scheduled for mid February, and previous winner Colin Lewis returned to defend his title. He lost (after a valiant defence!). But afterwards, as we enjoyed cheese-burgers and craft-beer, I shared my love of the ‘big thinking’ Tim Ferris podcast, particularly the 10x concept.
It turns out that Colin knows all about 10x. That’s because it’s an idea championed by Dan Sullivan, a man who runs the world’s leading entrepreneurial coaching programme Strategic Coach. Colin is an attendee of “Coach”. As is…Peter Diamandis.
Colin subsequently sent me more information on the programme. He assured me that once you’ve been exposed to this thinking there’s no going back. You take The Red Pill and enter a different dimension.
After some thought (it isn’t cheap), I signed up and attended my first Strategic Coach session in London. I left thinking that the first session alone was worth the annual fee.
Colin also recommended some books, one of which was “Exponential Organisations” by Salim Ismail, Michael S. Malone and Yuri Van Geest. I started it, mainly because Van Geest was giving the keynote at Colin’s conference – DMX in Dublin – at which I’d also been invited to speak.
It just so happens that Yuri is a great guy, an inspirational speaker, and lots of fun on a night out (what’s more, he founded Singularity University in the Netherlands). He bonded with my business partner Rick in a series of “tech offs” over dinner.
His book is brilliant. It fundamentally shifted how I thought about Techdept’s future. I’ve recommended it to several other entrepreneurs, who all say the same thing. Go buy it now!
But just how we could apply these principles to our small service business?
Our Massive Transformative Purpose
The central driver behind an Exponential Organisation is its Massive Transformational Purpose (an ‘MTP’). For example, Google’s mission is to “organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”. Singularity University’s is to “positively impact the lives of a billion people in ten years.”
These are thrilling in their ambition, exciting higher purposes. Far better than “make money on search advertising” or “sell cutting edge qualifications”.
This linked neatly into Dan Sullivan’s rationale as to why growing 10x is easier than growing 2x. It’s because big thinking forces you to create an exciting future. This exciting vision motivates you, your team and the world around you.
But what was ours? What could get us – and the rest of the world – excited?
Our New MTP
We’d already been playing with a different way of describing our business (initially a joke in a meeting). That we were a ‘tech special ops team’. Rapid response, multi-disciplinary, disciplined, creative and focused on results. Linking marketing and IT, getting things done that others couldn’t: ‘special projects’.
Yet it was a quip that unlocked some truths about what makes us different.
So we thought – if we’re a special ops team – why don’t we become “the world’s A Team of tech”.
The team that people turn to when no-one else can help, to do the projects that others can’t. A world class organisation with a unique set of skills. A small team that gets results no matter the circumstances.
This seemed suitably ambitious, and contained a sprinkling of mischief (which is quite “us”).
Creating a “Platform”
One of the key principles of an Exponential Organisation is that you shouldn’t own everything, that you should have a small team and leverage external assets. This resonated with me.
For years we have aimed to leverage our IP in order to grow the company. Our “owned assets”. Yet we’ve been focused on our technology IP (with which we created products and custom projects for clients).
Yet what we’ve got is not just a library of code. We have a strong brand in London, excellent good-will with clients, a diverse network, a view of the world which resonates with people, and a way of doing things which is rapid and effective. Our culture gels us together.
All these things cannot be easily replicated. So how could we leverage these assets to create exponential growth, rather than adding the odd team member here and there for incremental growth?
We decided that we should see ourselves as a platform. An “API” of services which entrepreneurs can pull on to advance their mission. This can be branded as Techdept (eg in a different market like New York City). Or it could be a new ad or martech business (the world we know best).
Based on this approach we’ve established a strategic partnership with tech accelerator Dot Forge (forging a new service – our Bootcamp Venture Accelerator). We have also invested in young entrepreneurs Joe Pack and Tim Slack to launch disruptive adtech platform Unfake.
We will continue this strategy to add 10x value to ourselves and clients.
A Vision Of Time, Money, Good
A central part of the platform strategy is a vision based on what John Hagel calls a “positive sum mindset”. We believe that working together with others we create growing value (as opposed to zero-sum, where one person wins and the other loses).
For many years my co-founder Rick and I have been focused on a trio of overlapping goals:
The ability to leave work at work, without regular late nights or weekend work. To take all our holidays.
To be paid well for what we do.
To do compelling world-class work which makes us feel proud.
We could work longer hours, earn more money and never see our kids. Or do crappy work and take a lot of time off, but hate our days. Or earn no money but do a passion project. But those scenarios – for many reasons – don’t fully motivate us. What does is a balance of these three elements: a harmonious relationship which recognises the value in each.
This vision is now the company’s vision – for founders, directors, staff, and partners who “build on our platform” alike. Together we will create more Time, more Money, and more ‘Good’ for each other. This is a long term collaboration which helps mind, body and wallet. We call it collaborative capitalism.
Our New Positioning
All of this work has distilled into a simple new positioning of the business. We’re a tech special ops team. That can do the special projects that others can’t. A long term tech partner that sees the world wider than a statement of work, but can flex their IT muscles with the best.
It’s perhaps easier to say what we aren’t. We’re not a digital agency. We’re not an IT company. We’re not a pure development team.
We DO work with marketing, IT, senior business people and investors to create growing value for their companies. This takes many forms, from prototype software to world-first marketing experiences. Often the skills used are the same.
We increasingly act as a tech strategic partner: plugging in resource to build things right, or our research & development smarts for specific “future” technologies.
And the way we do our work is a unique and transformative process, helping clients & partners learn & grow. This is clearly communicated on our web site, with a series of cats. Why the cats? Because internet.
Delivering The Mission
In Part 2 of this blog post I’ll share what we’re doing to actually implement this thinking.
We’re starting with our internal workings, transforming our brand from the inside out. It will be built on truth, on the actual workings of what we do. We wont sell, we’ll tell. The truth. Our future communications strategy is to simply share what we are already doing, to pull back the curtains and let you see what we do as we do it…
If that sounds interesting, check out Our 10x future: Part 2.Find this interesting?