The Exponential Mindset: Why Different is Better than Better

Want to grow your business? Try developing an exponential mindset.

Choose to be different in business: adopt an exponential mindsetStarting a successful business is no easy feat. Only 20 percent of all new businesses survive, according to the most generous estimates. Other numbers paint a grimmer picture, with 96 percent of all businesses failing within 10 years. Hats off to everyone brave enough to test those odds.

Survival is challenging enough in the world of business. The chance of creating a runaway success is even slimmer.

Considering the odds, it’s no surprise that most people adopt an incremental mindset when seeking success. An incremental mindset aims for steady improvement on a clear path. Entrepreneurs thinking this way aim to turn a profit and expand a little each year.

Using an incremental mindset to create a successful business is laudable (and challenging enough), but what about those incredible, runaway successes that grow at a breakneck pace? To reach that level of success, a different mindset is needed: the exponential mindset.

It’s a completely different way of thinking that proves  “different” can be better than merely being “good.” Think of it this way: people thinking incrementally are trudging down the road in hopes of getting to the destination. Those with the exponential mindset are designing a catapult in their minds so they never need to walk again. It’s like how Doc Brown said in Back to the Future: “Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.”

Aiming so high isn’t always the most practical way of thinking, but when it works it changes everything.

An Exponential Mindset Explained

Someone with an exponential mindset isn’t a mad genius working on impossible experiments. There can be some uncertainty involved in thinking exponentially. The tradeoff is that the exponential mindset involves beyond existing limitations through a combination of imagination and boldness.

As Harvard Business Review writes:

A “good” incremental business plan enables you to see exactly how you will get from here to there. But exponential models are not straight. They are like a bend in the road that prevents you from seeing around the corner, except in this case the curve goes up.

The Mindset in Tech

We’ve seen what exponential mindsets can do for the tech world. Facebook, Apple, Google and other household names are well known for their success and unprecedented growth.

These companies designed the perfect products for their time and grew rapidly as the public realized they actually want these products. While similar products existed before them (remember MySpace or Rio MP3 players?), these exponentially successful companies were simply way better. They aimed high and found victory in ways most entrepreneurs could only dream of.

Technology has the ability to scale better than any other sector, so an exponential mindset aligns nicely with fast-improving tech. However, harnessing an exponential mindset isn’t just beneficial for the world of technology. It can even be useful in a low-margin, old-fashioned industry like restaurants.

Lessons from a Chef

While everyone loves a good restaurant, the industry is totally under looked from a business perspective. The hours are long and the profits are typically small — assuming the business lasts at all. The most successful people in the industry aren’t lauded like the hip tech startup founders are. That’s a shame, as they provide a valuable service.

While offering great food and a good atmosphere seems tailor-made for an incremental mindset, it’s possible to use an exponential mindset to find success in such a settled industry. That’s how José Andrés did it. He went from a fresh-faced immigrant with the $48 in his pocket to the “face of Spanish food in America.” He didn’t reach that level with an incremental mindset.

Andrés could have easily adopted an incremental mindset and gradually found success. However, he was unhappy with his first chef job in the U.S., where he was a hired hand with little control. He received an offer to start a restaurant of his own, and that’s where his exponential mindset kicked in.

While Asian and some European cultures have a deep-rooted tradition of eating “family style” with shared plates, Americans weren’t too keen on the idea. That was especially true in the 1990s, where Spanish tapas were largely unknown.

Andrés modified the Spanish concept of tapas, yet refused to fully concede to the American style of eating. Despite resistance from diners at first, his perseverance paid off. He knew his idea not only could work but would work.

He was right. Sharing small plates has become a nationwide trend, and Andres was at the vanguard. He now has more than a dozen restaurants across the country. In the words of one of his partners, Andres was the only one among them with a “master game plan.”

Exponential Mindset vs. Incremental Mindset

Confidence is critical for any entrepreneur, whether they’re just starting off or have a number of successes under his or her belt. The exponential mindset is the ultimate representation of confidence. With it, anything feels possible and growth doesn’t have to be a slow grind. If you can make your business do things in a way that no other business does, then the exponential mindset can lead to exponential growth.

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