What Does ‘Exponential’ Mean?

The easiest way to define exponential development is to look at it in contrast to linear development. Linear is where we’ve come from historically and it’s where every step is similar to the one before. So in numerical terms, let’s say we take thirty linear steps and each step one metre. With linear development, when we take thirty steps we will have moved 30 metres.

The critical difference between linear and exponential is that in exponential terms, each step is a doubling of the step before. So let’s take those same thirty steps. In the beginning it may not look like much. One step doubles to two, which doubles to four. But as we keep going it becomes dramatically different. Thirty exponential steps equates to over 1 billion metres, which is the same as walking around the earth 26 times.

That is such a huge difference that it’s actually difficult for us to comprehend!

So how can we put it in terms of what’s real and happening today?

One of the major things that are driving exponential technology is an increase in computational power.

In 2010, an average $1,000 laptop was able to perform 100 billion calculations per second, which is the equivalent of a mouse brain.

In 2023, it’s anticipated that the same $1,000 will buy you a laptop that can do 10 billion billion calculations per second. That’s the equivalent of the human brain.

But just a few years later, by 2049, a $1,000 laptop will be equivalent in computational power to the entire human race.

Yes, you heard us correctly. The entire human race.

It’s the nesting and convergence of technologies that can continue the growth. These things that are powering faster, cheaper computers are linking up to wider technologies (such as AI or 3D printing) and this creates unexpected consequences or ‘disruption’ which can benefit us in a number of ways.

Two Ways Exponential Growth has Already Helped Us 

Access to funding and capital

Historically it was all about who you know. If you had a new business idea you wanted to test out, you’d have to go to a bank. Nowadays, we have crowdfunding, and this is growing exponentially. In 2015 alone there was $15 billion available through crowd-funding. In 2020 it’s estimated there’ll be over $100 billion available, which is 1.8x the global venture capital available today.


Home-based diagnosis is becoming possible through the means of converging technologies, and it’s closer than you think. This year Tricorder won a $2.5million prize for a device that detects illness by linking their device up to your phone.

These are just two examples from the hundreds we have so far that shows that exponential growth is overtaking linear growth in everything we do. Society, food, retail and energy industries are all utilising converging technologies to achieve exponential, rather than linear growth.

In fact, we’ve been doing this since the beginning of time.

10x Thinking and Moonshots

Humanity’s progress has been a series of audacious developments, pushed by those striving for 10 x better, not 1x better. There are always going to be crazy people who get up and think you know what? I can get up and build a space cylinder! These people are the reason we were able to send a man to the moon. They are the reason we were able to cross the Atlantic at a speed faster than sound.

“You don’t spend your time being bothered by the fact you can’t teleport from here to Japan, because there is a part of you that thinks it’s impossible. Moonshot thinking is choosing to be bothered by that.”

It’s about believing that just a few people can have such a profound effect on our future. We want to think big. We want to think about 10x thinking – proposing radical solutions that are ten times better than what we have now, rather than just 10%.

So how can we inspire ourselves? What are the big challenges facing the world?

The world’s biggest challenges are the world’s biggest opportunities. Our planet has a To Do list, and it’s a fairly long one. There are 17 goals ranging from no poverty, no hunger and gender equality right through to innovation infrastructure, sustainable cities and responsible consumption.

We need to employ exponential thinking to solve these problems.

The 6 D’s of Exponentials as described by Peter Diamandis

Exponentials are six crucial things:

  1. Digitised: in order for something to become exponential it has to be digitised, only then does it becomes something that can grow exponentially
  2. Deceptive: exponential growth is deceptive, as you start to multiply in doubles from very small numbers they can fly under the radar until you see huge spikes
  3. Disruption: this seemingly sudden growth disrupts the status quo in a way that linear growth doesn’t. Think about the example of digital cameras pushing their film-based counterparts.
  4. Dematerialisation: your cellphone has dematerialised the camera, the GPS and the torch. They dematerialised these elements and put them into your phone.
  5. Demonetised: they also demonetise these products, they take the money out of them.
  6. Democratization: exponential technologies democratise the ability for you to change the world

So How Do I Start Thinking Exponentially?

Curiosity and a passion for continuous learning is one of the 8 Moonshot Mindsets for innovation we’ve identified. Your mindset is a muscle. Your mindset doesn’t replace your organisational principles or what your brand’s values are. It’s about how you think, how you approach things.

Not only do you want to exhibit the mindset that’ll push your business towards moonshot innovation but you want to look for the behaviour of that mindset, it’s no good just thinking in terms of Moonshots, you need to act!

The best way to start doing that is with our mindset scorecard first of all and then follow these 5 top tips for shifting your attitudes and behaviours away from linear thinking and towards exponential thinking.

5 Top Tips You Need For Shifting Your Attitude Today

  1. Learn by doing, rather than learning by researching (which is linear thinking)
  2. Leverage the global crowd, instead of having an internal resource bias
  3. Think in terms of open-source and sharing economy
  4. Collaborate on things and test them rapidly – do more with less
  5. Proactively drive change

A key indicator of whether you’re thinking linearly or exponentially is how many experimentations you’ve conducted in your business. How many have you done this year? This month? Today?

Stop thinking in terms of a 1x difference. Stop thinking linearly.

Start thinking in terms of 10x, exponential change.

Want to learn more about how exponential technologies and Moonshot Thinking can impact YOUR future?

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