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Turning a Breakthrough Concept into a Web Site

Jun 12, 2008
How can a brand new concept use the Web to flesh out and attract attention to the concept? Let me share my experience in this area.

The youngest people working on the 400 Year Project (looking to describe and promote ways of making improvements 20 times faster from 2015 through 2035) assured me in 1995 that we had to have a Web site for the project. They explained that a Web site was going to be the universal medium for finding important information. Although none of us had ever been involved in creating a Web site, I was told that there was nothing to it.

I hired one staff member, Jason Breyan, to work full-time on the project, and he led the charge for developing the Web site. Fitting in with my preference for aesthetics, he located a designer who could produce intriguing looking pages.

We had a hard time figuring out what to put on the Web site. Someone had the good idea of using Tobi Kahn's iconic paintings developed for the project to spruce up the pages. With Tobi's kind permission, we did exactly that. This arrangement worked out well for Tobi because he didn't have a Web site in those days, and many people came to know his work through our project's Web site.

However, being attractive wasn't going to be the most important factor for the Web site: We needed to decide what content to use. An early resource for helping with this thinking was our friend, Robert Metz, who had founded the Marketplace column in the business section of The New York Times and later served as New York bureau chief of Financial News Network, a cable news network that was later merged with CNBC.

From this collaboration, key concepts began to emerge. Perhaps the most important of these early ideas was that some forms of thinking and behaving delay improvements. After much discussion, we decided to call these factors "stalls" and to begin to identify the individual stalls.

We weren't sure how to identify all of the stalls. Someone suggested we invite those who visited the Web site to share their ideas about stalls that they had observed or experienced. We decided to try that approach.

The hardest part of creating the Web site was figuring out how to describe why the project's purpose is a reasonable one. One of the key documents we created was "Time Telescope" that considered what a company might look like in 2395 if 2 to 3 percent a year productivity gains continued.

We focused on that aspect of progress because companies have been the most effective sources of improvements for the last few centuries. The bulk of productivity improvements have come in the fields of manufacturing, farming, mining, electronics, computing, and medicine though the directions taken by the companies that wanted to expand their sales by improving products and lowering costs. Governments, by contrast, usually experience negative productivity as do many nonprofit organizations.

Here are some of the projections we shared in that section:

-A well-run manufacturing company would have sales per employee of $1.5 billion in constant dollars.

-New products and services would be designed and put into production in less than a day.

-The cost of doing a constant computing task would decline by more than 99 percent within 20 years.

As I look back on those examples, I'm struck by how conservative they turned out to be:

-A company could already use a lot of outsourcing and reach revenues of tens of millions of dollars per employee.

-Many Internet marketers develop products and services now in less than a day and deliver those new offerings in the same day.

-At the recent rate of progress, the cost of a constant computing task usually declines by 96-98 percent in only 10 years.

We managed, however, to intrigue large numbers of people who shared good ideas with us, read excerpts from our books, and helped spread the word about the project among over a million people around the world.

What are the lessons for you?

1. Get as many people involved as possible.

2. Use as many intriguing graphics and videos as possible.

3. Create simple concepts that anyone can grasp to help understand the bigger ideas.

4. Provide lots of user-friendly features to help people find what they are looking for.

5. Make the abstract concrete by providing potential examples if you don't yet have real ones.
About the Author
Donald Mitchell is an author of seven books including Adventures of an Optimist, The 2,000 Percent Squared Solution, The 2,000 Percent Solution, The 2,000 Percent Solution Workbook, The Irresistible Growth Enterprise, and The Ultimate Competitive Advantage. Read about creating breakthroughs through 2,000 percent solutions and receive tips by e-mail by registering for free at

http://www.fastforward400.com .
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