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What 10X Winners Do to Keep Their Chance of Winning High

What 10X Winners Do to Keep Their Chance of Winning High

In 1985, Coca-Cola made the decision to switch their formula, creating essentially a different-tasting soda product. They called it New Coke. The sweeter version was arrived at after 190,000 nationwide taste tests that cost roughly $4 million. The result was not positive. Coca-Cola drinkers didn’t like the new taste — 39% or so were extremely loyal to the original — and Pepsi, their biggest rival, was able to say “The other guy blinked.” (That means Coke had reformulated to taste more like Pepsi.) The entire experiment lasted all of 79 days before Coke switched back to the original formula, which it now was calling Coke Classic.

    Coca-Cola is a very successful company, but in this specific case, they failed badly. Why?

    Fire bullets, then cannonballs

    Coca-cola was confident about their new product so they invested a lot in it and threw this “cannonball” to the market. When customers didn’t like this new product, it means the cannonball missed the target. This brought Coca-cola a great loss at the end.

    If Coca-Cola tested their product carefully, launched the new product in only selective places, like shooting out bullets, they might not fail tremendously like that.

    This idea of “fire bullets, then cannonballs” was developed by Jim Collins in his book Great by Choice.

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    The basic principle is this: during trying times, oftentimes people look for big solutions and giant leaps. They want to show dramatic success to emerge from the failure. But that’s actually the wrong approach.

      Successful people take small steps before making big leaps.

      This isn’t just work. Think about dating, for example, you don’t often just go approach someone and ask to be super serious or get engaged. You try to start to talk to them first, then go on a few dates, and include them when you hang out with friends.

      Or think about when you’re buying a car. Very few people walk into a car dealership with no research done and spend $35,000. They visit several. They talk to friends. They do research.

      In this model, bullets are small steps to test the idea first. Cannonballs are giant leaps to make a great impact.

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      You deal with bullets first, taking small steps to test an idea first e.g. prototype, test, redesign, and test again; when you’ve got enough experience to know this idea works or is welcome by customers, shoot.

      The cannonballs stage is about scaling the idea up, publicly launching it in a wide scale, and making it loud.

      By carefully testing something before you try to make it big, you can prevent big idea failure.

      How to fire bullets

      A bullet is a small empirical test that should meet these criteria:

      • low cost
      • low risk, meaning minimum consequence
      • low distraction, meaning not having great impact on the overall

        A bullet might be a piece of research you find, or a small focus group. They come in different forms.

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        Once you’ve fired bullets and see some results, you enter into this process:

        • Assess: Did your bullets hit anything? What can you learn from the failed bullets to improve other bullets?
        • Consider: Can any of the successful bullets worth turning into a cannonball? Do you need to fire another bullet to make sure it?
        • Convert: When confirmed the success of bullets, concentrate resources and fire a cannonball
        • Terminate: The bullets that show no evidence of eventual success.

          The process of reviewing the bullets is more important than the bullets themselves. Let’s say a student gets an “A” on a test, but he cheated. The “A” might be seen as the cannonball-esque result, but the process is highly flawed and could encourage more negative behavior. Reviewing your process is crucial.

          Now let’s think of all this in terms of the New Coke marketing blunder. Before those 190,000 nationwide taste tests at a cost of $4 million, and before they launched their New Coke, they could have try out bullets e.g. market New Coke as freebies in small size and distributed to only a few shops, use different ways to test out its popularity in different regions first; before they muster all the effort to a big launch of it and had to return to use the original formula of Coke.

          Bullets first, and only then should you fire the big launch cannonball.

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            How can you do this in your life?

            Think of it along these lines:

            Step 1: Find your bullets

            • What small things can you do to test out your ideas?
            • Are they at low cost, low risk and low distraction?
            • Are there any existing ways that you can take reference of/learn from?

            Step 2: Fire your bullets and review them

            • Hit any target? if not, why?
            • What can you learn from the failed bullets?
            • For the successful bullets that hit the target, when is it time to use cannonball to hit the target?

            Again, this is about more than ideas at work. If you’re courting a relationship, bullets might involve learning about the person from their friends, setting up coffee, and sending small trinkets. The “cannonball” would be the relationship itself, but you can’t jump immediately to that. There needs to be some bullets fired first — and some might miss.

            You can learn more in Great by Choice, which argues that while we can’t predict the future, we can shape it through dedicated actions such as bullets before cannonballs.

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            Leon Ho

            Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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            Last Updated on July 13, 2020

            How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

            How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

            Overwhelm is a pernicious state largely caused by the ever-increasing demands on our time and the distractions that exist all around us. It creeps up on us and can, in its extreme form, leave us feeling anxious, stressed and exhausted.

            If you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, here are 6 strategies you can follow that will reduce the feeling of overwhelm; leaving you calmer, in control and a lot less stressed.

            1. Write Everything down to Offload Your Mind

            The first thing you can do when you begin to feel overwhelmed is to write everything down that is on your mind.

            Often people just write down all the things they think they have to do. This does help, but a more effective way to reduce overwhelm is to also write down everything that’s on your mind.

            For example, you may have had an argument with your colleague or a loved one. If it’s on your mind write it down. A good way to do this is to draw a line down the middle of the page and title one section “things to do” and the other “what’s on my mind”.

            The act of writing all this down and getting it out of your head will begin the process of removing your feeling of overwhelm. Writing things down can really change your life.

            2. Decide How Long It Will Take to Complete Your To-Dos

            Once you have ‘emptied your head,’ go through your list and estimate how long it will take to complete each to-do.

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            As you go through your list, you will find quite a few to-dos will only take you five or ten minutes. Others will take longer, often up to several hours.

            Do not worry about that at this stage. Just focus on estimating how long you will need to complete each task to the best of your ability. Here’s How to Cultivate a More Meaningful To Do List.

            3. Take Advantage of Parkinson’s Law

            Now here’s a little trick I learned a long time ago. Parkinson’s Law states that work will fill the time you have available to complete it, and us humans are terrible at estimating how long something will take:((Odhable: Genesis of Parkinson’s Law))

              This is why many people are always late. They think it will only take them thirty minutes to drive across town when previous experience has taught them it usually takes forty-five minutes to do so because traffic is often bad but they stick to the belief it will only take thirty minutes. It’s more wishful thinking than good judgment.

              We can use Parkinson’s Law to our advantage. If you have estimated that to write five emails that desperately need a reply to be ninety minutes, then reduce it down to one hour. Likewise, if you have estimated it will take you three hours to prepare your upcoming presentation, reduce it down to two hours.

              Reducing the time you estimate something will take gives you two advantages. The first is you get your work done quicker, obviously. The second is you put yourself under a little time pressure and in doing so you reduce the likelihood you will be distracted or allow yourself to procrastinate.

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              When we overestimate how long something will take, subconsciously our brains know we have plenty of time and so it plays tricks on us and we end up checking reviews of the Apple Watch 4 or allow our colleagues to interrupt us with the latest office gossip.

              Applying a little time pressure prevents this from happening and we get more focused and more work done.

              4. Use the Power of Your Calendar

              Once you have your time estimates done, open up your calendar and schedule your to-dos. Go through your to-dos and schedule time on your calendar for doing those tasks. Group tasks up into similar tasks.

              For emails that need attention on your to-do list, schedule time on your calendar to deal with all your emails at once. Likewise, if you have a report to write or a presentation to prepare, add these to your calendar using your estimated time as a guide for how long each will take.

              Seeing these items on your calendar eases your mind because you know you have allocated time to get them done and you no longer feel you have no time. Grouping similar tasks together keeps you in a focused state longer and it’s amazing how much work you get done when you do this.

              5. Make Decisions

              For those things you wrote down that are on your mind but are not tasks, make a decision about what you will do with each one. These things are on your mind because you have not made a decision about them.

              If you have an issue with a colleague, a friend or a loved one, take a little time to think about what would be the best way to resolve the problem. More often than not just talking with the person involved will clear the air and resolve the problem.

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              If it is a more serious issue, then decide how best to deal with it. Talk to your boss, a colleague and get advice.

              Whatever you do, do not allow it to fester. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away. You need to make a decision to deal with it and the sooner you do so the sooner the problem will be resolved. (You can take a look at this guide on How To Make Good Decisions All The Time.)

              I remember long ago, when I was in my early twenties and had gone mad with my newly acquired credit cards. I discovered I didn’t have the money to pay my monthly bills. I worried about it for days, got stressed and really didn’t know what to do. Eventually, I told a good friend of mine of the problem. He suggested I called the credit card company to explain my problem. The next day, I plucked up the courage to call the company, explained my problem and the wonderful person the other end listened and then suggested I paid a smaller amount for a couple of months.

              This one phone call took no more than ten minutes to make, yet it solved my problem and took away a lot of the stress I was feeling at the time. I learned two very valuable lessons from that experience:

              The first, don’t go mad with newly acquired credit cards! And the second, there’s always a solution to every problem if you just talk to the right person.

              6. Take Some Form of Action

              Because overwhelm is something that creeps up on us, once we feel overwhelmed (and stressed as the two often go together), the key is to take some form of action.

              The act of writing everything down that is bothering you and causing you to feel overwhelmed is a great place to start. Being able to see what it is that is bothering you in a list form, no matter how long that list is, eases the mind. You have externalized it.

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              It also means rather than these worries floating around in a jumbled mess inside your head, they are now visible and you can make decisions easier about what to do about them. Often it could be asking a colleague for a little help, or it could be you see you need to allocate some focused time to get the work done. The important thing is you make a decision on what to do next.

              Overwhelm is not always caused by a feeling of having a lack of time or too much work, it can also be caused by avoiding a decision about what to do next.

              The Bottom Line

              Make a decision, even if it is to just talk to someone about what to do next. Making a decision about how you will resolve something on its own will reduce your feelings of overwhelm and start you down the path to a resolution one way or another.

              When you follow these strategies to can say goodbye to your overwhelm and gain much more control over your day.

              More Tips for Reducing Work Stress

              Featured photo credit: Andrei Lazarev via unsplash.com

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