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Published on November 24, 2017

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 September 17, 2018

            How to Stop Multitasking and Become Way More Productive

            How to Stop Multitasking and Become Way More Productive

            Today we are expected to work in highly disruptive environments. We sit down at our desks, turn on our computer and immediately we are hit with hundreds of emails all vying for our attention.

            Our phones are beeping and pinging with new alerts to messages, likes and comments and our colleagues are complaining about the latest company initiative is designed to get us to do more work and spend less time at home.

            All these distractions result in us multitasking where our attention is switching between one crisis and the next.

            Multitasking is a problem. But how to stop multitasking?

            How bad really is multitasking?

            It dilutes your focus and attention so even the easiest of tasks become much harder and take longer to complete.

            Studies have shown that while you think you are multitasking, you are in fact task switching, which means your attention is switching between two or more pieces of work and that depletes the energy resources you have to do your work.

            This is why, even though you may have done little to no physical activity, you arrive home at the end of the day feeling exhausted and not in the mood to do anything.

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            We know it is not a good way to get quality work done, but the demands for out attention persist and rather than reduce, are likely to increase as the years go by.

            So what to do about it?

            Ways to stop multitasking and increase productivity

            Now, forget about how to multitask!

            Here are a few strategies on how to stop multitasking so you can get better quality and more work done in the time you have each working day:

            1. Get enough rest

            When you are tired, your brain has less strength to resist even the tiniest attention seeker. This is why when you find your mind wandering, it is a sign your brain is tired and time to take a break.

            This does not just mean taking breaks throughout the day, it also means making sure you get enough sleep every day.

            When you are well rested and take short regular breaks throughout the day your brain is fully refuelled and ready to focus in on the work that is important.

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            2. Plan your day

            When you don’t have a plan for the day, the day will create a plan for you. When you allow outside influences to take control of your day, it is very hard not to be dragged off in all directions.

            When you have a plan for the day, when you arrive at work your brain knows exactly what it is you want to accomplish and will subconsciously have prepared itself for a sustained period of focused work.

            Your resistance to distractions and other work will be high and you will focus much better on the work that needs doing.

            3. Remove everything from your desk and screen except for the work you are doing

            I learned this one a long time ago. In my previous work, I worked in a law office and I had case files to deal with. If I had more than one case file on my desk at any one time, I would find my eyes wandering over the other case files on my desk when I had something difficult to do.

            I was looking for something easier. This meant often I was working on three or four cases at one time and that always led to mistakes and slower completion.

            Now when I am working on something, I am in full-screen mode where all I can see is the work I am working on right now.

            4. When at your desk, do work

            We are creatures of habit. If we do our online shopping and news reading at our desks as well as our work, we will always have the temptation to be doing stuff that we should not be doing at that moment.

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            Do your online shopping from another place—your home or from your phone when you are having a break—and only do your work when at your desk. This conditions your brain to focus in on your work and not other distractions.

            5. Learn to say no

            Whenever you hear the phrase “learn to say no,” it does not mean going about being rude to everyone. What it does mean is delay saying yes.

            Most problems occur when we say “yes” immediately. We then have to spend an inordinate amount of energy thinking of ways to get ourselves out of the commitment we made.

            By saying “let me think about it” or “can I let you know later” gives you time to evaluate the offer and allows you to get back to what you were doing quicker.

            6. Turn off notifications on your computer

            For most of us, we still use computers to do our work. When you have email alert pop-ups and other notifications turned on, they will distract you no matter how strong you feel.

            Turn them off and schedule email reviewing for times between doing your focused work. Doing this will give you a lot of time back because you will be able to remain focused on the work in front of you.

            7. Find a quiet place to do your most important work

            Most workplaces have meeting rooms that are vacant. If you do have important work to get done, ask if you can use one of those rooms and do your work there.

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            You can close the door, put on your headphones and just focus on what is important. This is a great way to remove all the other, non-important, tasks demanding your attention and just focus on one piece of work.

            The bottom line

            Focusing on one piece of work at a time can be hard but the benefits to the amount of work you get done are worth it. You will make fewer mistakes, you will get more done and will feel a lot less tired at the end of the day.

            Make a list of the four or five things you want to get done the next day before you finish your work for the day and when you start the day, begin at the top of the list with the first item.

            Don’t start anything else until you have finished the first one and then move on to the second one. This one trick will help you to become way more productive.

            Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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