Leading Blog






09.19.14

Are We Too Busy Competing to do Anything New?

Zero to One
Peter Thiel’s Zero to One is a quick and engaging read, but the ideas are not as quick to digest.

Zero to One is based on the idea that progress can take two forms: horizontal or vertical progress. Horizontal progress is doing more of what works—going from zero to n. Vertical progress is doing something new—going from zero to one. Thiel explains it this way:

"Vertical progress is harder to imagine because it requires doing something nobody else has ever done. If you take one typewriter and build 100, you have made horizontal progress. If you have a typewriter and build a word processor, you have made vertical progress."
Zero to One

Most of us are busy making horizontal progress. We are competing—trying to better or make incremental improvements to what already exists. Certainly there is a value in this, but it leads to the creation of commodity businesses. Thiel recommends: avoid competition as much as possible. Instead, be a monopoly.

Monopolies occur when some is doing something no one else is doing. “Monopolies deserve their bad reputation—but only in a world where nothing changes….Creative monopolists give customers more choices by adding entirely new categories of abundance to the world.” To make a finer point, Thiel writes: “Every business is successful exactly to the extent that it does something others cannot. Monopoly is the condition of every successful business.”

Part of the problem is that we have developed a mindset of indefinite optimism or hoping the future will get better with no plan—the future just-sort-of-happens approach. What we need says Theil is a mindset of definite optimism. That is to say, getting on with building the future you envision—working the plan. “Arguing over process has become a way to endlessly defer making concrete plans for a better future.” A definite optimist believes the future will be better if he plans and works to make it better. We need to get back to making a plan for the future.

Successful start-ups and monopolies are built on a secret. “People at a successful startup are fanatically right about something those outside it have missed.” What everyone knows will not give you an edge.

What we need to restore is our sense of adventure—our sense of possibility. Are we too busy competing to do something new?

Quote 
"The next Bill Gates will not build an operating system. The next Larry Page or Sergey Brin won’t make a search engine. And the next Mark Zuckerberg won’t create a social network. If you are copying these guys, you aren’t learning from them."

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:09 AM
| Comments (0) | This post is about Creativity & Innovation



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