Think 10X, Not 10%

April 21 2008 / by juldrich / In association with Future
Category: Culture   Year: General   Rating: 11 Hot

By Jack Uldrich

Cross-posted from

One of my favorite quotes comes from Kurt Yeager who once said: “In periods of profound change the most dangerous thing is to incrementalize yourself into the future.” I was reminded of this quote because although I often speak to businesses about the future of technology, I frequently encounter push back from executives who are mostly interested in identifying ways to incrementally improve their businesses or products. In short, they are looking for improvements in the range of 10%.

I constantly remind them, however, that we are no longer living in an era of linear growth – a 10% improvement might have been sufficient to keep them competitive in the past, but it is no strategy if they desire to be in business in 10 years. To achieve that goal, they must be on the lookout for how 10X improvements will transform their business. (Ray Kurzweil, in this excellent editorial , also emphasizes this point.)

To this end, I recently came across a couple of articles that highlight this point. The first addresses how a number of researchers are looking to increase data storage by “a factor of a hundred.” It is difficult to contemplate how a 100X improvement in data storage might transform education, media, advertising and even health care, but it is imperative that professionals in these fields start thinking along these lines immediately. (cont.)

Here’s why: according to this recent Technology Review article, a new type of memory technology that uses 99% less energy could be on the market within 18 months. In other words, in the near future not only will your iPod or cellphone be able to hold 100X data (perhaps all of your genetic data), it will also be able to operate using only one one-hundredth of the battery power of your existing device.

Data storage, of course, is just one field experiencing exponential growth – semiconductors, Internet Bandwidth, genomics, robotics, RFID technology, nanotechnology, and even brain scanning technology are all doing the same. With regard to the latter, late last year reseachers at Harvard University announced that they could illuminate brain neurons with 100 different colors – a 20X improvement.

Now, you might not think that brain scanning technology will impact your business that much, but I would encourage you to think otherwise. As researchers learn more about how the brain operates you can expect these professionals to also develop new strategies for learning; to create more effective marketing and advertising campaigns; and even to optimize strategies for bolstering people’s decision-makings processes. Bottom-line: If you are just focused on a 10% improvement, you are already behind the curve. You need to learn to “jump the curve” because the future belongs to those people who can think 10X—or more.

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Jack Uldrich is a writer, futurist, public speaker and host of He is the author of seven books, including Jump the Curve and The Next Big Thing is Really Small: How Nanotechnology Will Change the Future of Your Business. He is also a frequent speaker on future trends, innovation, change management and executive leadership to a variety of businesses, industries and non-profit organizations and associations.

Comment Thread (1 Response)

  1. On the other hand many people seem to make an kinda opposite mistake. They think that increase in computational power will result in changes of the same magnitude in everything else. In the article “Making the World A Billion Times Better” that you mentioned, Kurzweil implies that the world will be billion times better because computers will be billion times more powerful in 25 years. And he also says that computers already became billion times more powerful during last several decades. BUT, what he forgets to mention is that world did not become billion times better as a result during those decades. I will not be shocked by 100x increase in storage, why should I? That’s what happened during last 10 years. And I don’t really see any other shocked people around. If anything, more often people tend to be disappointed by the rate of progress (hence, “where is my flying car” question). And reading what people on this board expect to happen in near future (i’m pointing at you, “futuretalk”), there will be quite a few disappointed people in future too.

    Posted by: johnfrink   April 21, 2008
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