Learn more about personaldevelopment with this collection
Understanding the importance of decision-making
Identifying biases that affect decision-making
Analyzing the potential outcomes of a decision
Most of us think that scalable ideas have some “silver bullet” feature, some quality that bestows a “can’t miss” appeal. That kind of thinking is fundamentally wrong. There is no single quality that distinguishes ideas that have the potential to succeed at scale from those that don’t.
Most scaling failures are complicated. Identifying a list of potential problems before you scale up can improve the odds of success:
Kmart used to be a highly successful discount department-store chain with over 2,300 locations in the U.S. Their famous in-store promotion was the BlueLight Special, where a great deal would be announced at unknown times. This helped them clear out unwanted stock and gave shoppers an adrenaline rush that made them spend more money.
Kmart headquarters tried to scale it up by deciding where, when, and what product would be placed on the BlueLight Special across all stores. But customers in one store had different needs than customers in another store. Centralising the special ruined the brand.
Moving from creating evidence-based policy to one of producing policy-based evidence is a call to researchers, policymakers and business people to consider the following: If scaling an idea, what constraints should be taken into account when doing the original research?
For example, in the Chicago Heights Early Childhood program, researchers created a pre-school in a low-income Chicago neighbourhood to see what would produce the biggest educational gains. They hired the best teachers for their pilot program, but at scale, they’d have to hire 30,000 less-good teachers to stay within the budget.
The voltage effect describes what happens when you move from the small to the large. Most ideas experience voltage drops, when a seemingly great idea loses power as it is scaled.
How to fail at scaling
When a small startup firm or institution has some success and wants to get bigger, they should consider the following:
This will allow for a much deeper and more diverse set of ideas and solutions to problems and, consequently, a more productive organisation.
The best example of a product that scaled unbelievably well is Jonas Salk and the polio vaccination. He had an innovation, tested it out on his own kids, and then he ramped it up to test all kinds of different kids. It worked well and then leveraged the healthcare system.
The worst example is the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E) program of Nancy Reagan. Police officers would go into school classrooms and teach kids about the dangers of drugs. The drug use didn’t fall and, in some cases, actually increased. The program was ineffective because it never had voltage to start with.
False positives arise for many reasons such as bad measurement, wishful thinking or simply because the world is messy and it can be difficult to establish cause and effect.
One reason why we don’t make as big an impact as we should is:
Results should be tested with, for example, Benford’s Law, to see whether the data have been fabricated.
The secret to high-voltage scaling is understanding when to quit. People generally don’t quit soon enough.
Usually, when someone wants to quit, it is because something went wrong. But, you should think more about the opportunity I’m giving up if I stick with it. If the opportunity changes for the better, I should quit more often.
If you’re considering quitting, force yourself to compare your performance with your peer group. Consider if you have a comparative advantage in this particular activity.
Conservator for museum/gallery
Economist John List is trying to start a scaling revolution. He discusses avoiding false positives, the cause of a given success and optimal quitting.
More like this
Explore the World’s
Take Your Ideas
Just press play and we take care of the words.
No Internet access? No problem. Within the mobile app, all your ideas are available, even when offline.
2 Million Stashers
This app is LOADED with RELEVANT, HELPFUL, AND EDUCATIONAL material. It is creatively intellectual, yet minimal enough to not overstimulate and create a learning block. I am exceptionally impressed with this app!
Best app ever! You heard it right. This app has helped me get back on my quest to get things done while equipping myself with knowledge everyday.
Great interesting short snippets of informative articles. Highly recommended to anyone who loves information and lacks patience.
Don’t look further if you love learning new things. A refreshing concept that provides quick ideas for busy thought leaders.
Even five minutes a day will improve your thinking. I've come across new ideas and learnt to improve existing ways to become more motivated, confident and happier.
Great for quick bits of information and interesting ideas around whatever topics you are interested in. Visually, it looks great as well.
Brilliant. It feels fresh and encouraging. So many interesting pieces of information that are just enough to absorb and apply. So happy I found this.
I have only been using it for a few days now, but I have found answers to questions I had never consciously formulated, or to problems I face everyday at work or at home. I wish I had found this earlier, highly recommended!
Read & Learn
Access to 200,000+ ideas
Access to the mobile app
Unlimited idea saving & library
Unlimited listening to ideas
Downloading & offline access
Supercharge your mind with one idea per day
Enter your email and spend 1 minute every day to learn something new.
I agree to receive email updates