Leverage

Aspire to achieve leverage not merely efficiency or effectiveness.

My first recollection of the concept of leverage was from my physics teacher, Ben in high school talking about Archimedes and the lever.

Archimedes was one of the founding fathers of science and Ben was a role model and wonderfully inspiring educator but neither extended the concept of leverage to entrepreneurship, personal time management or life in general.

A more recent recollection was Ash Fontana one of the early guys at Angel List talking at my conference series SydStart.

For those of you who don’t know Angel list (angel.co) they have used a small team to build a global business innovating in tech startup business funding via the establishment of a global industry database of teams, companies, investors and their syndicates.

Angel List is leveraging a small team to truly disrupt globally the manner in which existing venture investments are made into tech startups and will probably go a lot further.

Ash was not the first to make the point that being efficient or effective are very different things.

You can be very efficient and lean and not waste time but be concentrating on the wrong things.

You can also concentrate on the right things generally but not have impact or effectiveness.

The trick is to concentrate on the things that give you maximum leverage in the areas you want to have impact.

Confusingly, sometimes the highest leverage activity you can undertake is to not do anything directly, e.g. if you have to make a big decision do what it takes to get that right, sometimes it is as simple as clearing your head with a walk and a good night of sleep in order to make the best quality decision.

Other times, the most leveraged activity is not to do a task but to teach someone else to do it, even better to train the trainer who will train lots of people if that is what is required.

The obvious old school management principle of delegation is a good form of leverage, but is there an ever better one? Yes of course there are many.

One example is a good corporate and community culture such as shared goals and values so that individual tasks don’t need to be delegated.

Another example is crowd sourcing where online platforms allow many people to bid on work (such as building a website) competitively or contribute to the project or task (such as fund raising) collectively.

An even more powerful example if creating a movement. One person asking for a change is a lot less powerful than Ghandi or Martin Luther king leading a generation towards collective beneficial change.

Other long term approaches are principles based such as pointing out big ideas or big opportunities. From the need for corporate transparency to putting a man on the moon.

Other ideas are less clear cut such as not using email, it is nor typically a leveraged activity because it is one to one and not collaborative and other methods are faster because you can talk faster than type.

Perhaps having a distributed team is not leveraged because time zones and distance impose communication constraints on methods that in turn impact effectiveness and efficiency

2 thoughts on “Leverage

  1. Luke Howes says:

    That talk by Ash Fontana on leverage at SydStart last year was one of the most insightful I have heard at a start up event. Thanks for the reminder Pete!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s