Project Management

How to Encourage Exponential Thinking

23 Feb 2021
Sunil Prashara
What would it take to power exponential growth in your organization? Technology certainly plays a part. But an even more essential ingredient is an exponential mindset. In this post, Sunil Prashara explains how to unleash the power of exponential thinking in your business.

Photo by Dollar Gill on Unsplash

In a recent post, I predicted that by 2023, the number of active citizen developers at large enterprises would be at least 4X the number of professional developers.

How did I arrive at that conclusion? I based it on the power of exponential growth—the tendency of technology and other evolutionary systems to increase at a constant rate of growth, producing almost unimaginable results at the end of the process.

There are many examples of exponential growth in the technology world, with Moore’s Law perhaps the most famous. But what is perhaps more valuable than the power of exponential growth is the power of an exponential mindset—the ability to think beyond incremental gains to achieve big, bold objectives. A linear mindset might be satisfied with 10 percent growth each year; an exponential mindset, however, will rest at nothing less than 10X growth.

How do you achieve an exponential mindset? Peter Diamandis, the entrepreneur and tech guru I cited in my last post, offers a few thoughts that are relevant to our project management community.

Reinvent your business model by leveraging exponential technologies. Technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR), 3D printing and robotics are themselves growing exponentially and have the power to transform organizations. Rather than resist changes they could hold for current business models, we need to embrace these new tools and make them our own.

Understand the power of the crowd. In our hyper-connected world, we now have the ability to crowdsource solutions to many intractable problems. No one these days can “go it alone.” Why not leverage the power of crowds to speed you along your way, drawing from the insights of many others?

Become a data-driven, experimentalist organization. Stop searching for the silver bullet. Rely instead on data, rapid experimentation and the ability to iterate to achieve the outcomes necessary to thrive in our fast-changing world.

Citizen development is very much in tune with an exponential mindset. It’s not only growing exponentially—as my prediction suggests—but it has the power to unleash exponential growth in your organization.

Giving people access to low-code/no-code tools is, after all, a form of crowd-sourcing and iterative experimentation. It empowers your teams to take control of their work lives—allowing them to produce software and apps that automate and scale processes so that they can do their jobs faster, cheaper, better. What’s more, they no longer have to wait in line for IT to provide development resources and support.

Now, multiply that impact exponentially across your organization, as every function and department applies the transformative power of technology to their area of the business. Enterprise productivity would soar, as software development becomes faster and less costly. And you would accelerate time to value and achieve outcomes more quickly.

Citizen development, I believe, helps foster exponential thinking. It gives people a greater sense of agency and allows them to conceive bigger and more ambitious goals—like achieving 10X growth. What would your organization look like if it were powered by that kind of thinking?

PMI is doing everything we can to foster exponential thinking in our own organization and in the project management profession. We’re embracing new tools like Disciplined Agile and Wicked Problem Solving that have the power to transform the way we work. And we are deeply committed to helping our members maximize the benefits of citizen development in their work lives and as a means of furthering their careers.

To that end, we have developed a suite of citizen development products that support project managers at every stage of their work lives. These offerings include certifications at the foundation, practitioner and strategist levels, a handbook for creators and change-makers and a community portal for information sharing. These products help ensure that citizen development is implemented responsibly and with the right governance standards in place.

As we emerge from the COVID crisis, let’s use the power of exponential thinking—not only to get our businesses back on track, but to set them on a new path of exponential growth.

PMI will provide the tools—including support for your citizen development efforts. All that you need to provide is the exponential mindset.


Sunil Prashara Sunil Prashara

As President & Chief Executive Officer of the Project Management Institute (PMI), Sunil Prashara is the lead advocate for PMI’s global organization, serving more than three million professionals working in nearly every country of the world. His primary responsibility is to implement PMI’s global strategic plan with a priority on strategic focus, customer centricity and organizational agility. This includes expanding the PMI footprint globally, as well as digitizing PMI’s offerings and platforms to benefit its members and a variety of other stakeholders.