How to achieve exponential growth – the art of challenge statements

The question

The question I am asked most often is “how do I achieve exponential growth?” It won’t surprise you that there is no silver bullet answer. Anyone that gives you a “5 steps guaranteed to grow your business” action list should be approached with caution.

The truth is some questions are very difficult to answer and very few people have the insights to be able to answer them. Just imagine though that someone could give you a precise strategy to grow 10 times faster, help millions of people and make the difference to the world that you set out to. Well, that person does exist and has been with you on the entire journey, it’s you!

See your social impact business through fresh eyes and identify your own path to exponential growth through the techniques discussed in this four-part blog series.

Part 1: The Art of Challenge Statements

A challenge statement describes the problem you are tackling in a way that solutions gravitate towards it. It helps you generate better and more relevant solutions and acceleration points.
Mediocre challenge statements will get you to mediocre impact. Great challenge statements lead to exponential impact and growth. It is one of the most important things to get right from day one.
A good challenge statement speaks to the urgency of the problem, is a call-to-action for others to be involved and inspires hope for change.

How to write a good challenge statement

The creation of a good challenge statement can mean the difference between organic growth and exponential expansion. Here’s an example of how to write a good challenge statement, step-by-step.

Step 1. Make the problem human-centred
The problem should be centred around the people who will benefit from the situation, rather than being focused on the solution itself or financial goals.

For example, “How might we help refugees settle into Australia?” is better than “How do we get refugees to connect more to their community?”  The latter is an ineffective challenge statement as it suggests a solution by simply assuming there is one dimension – that refugees should connect to their community as the way forward.

Using the human-centred tool of community consultation to help solve the problem is much more likely to derive from the first example. A solution informed by refugees themselves is much more likely to succeed.

Step 2. Make it wide enough to allow room for creativity

The Problem Statement shouldn’t focus too narrowly on a specific method or solution that could solve the problem. You need to give people the opportunity to think outside the box. For example, ” How might we help refugees settle into Australia?” is better than “How might we help refugees settle into Australia through training?”.

By framing the discussion broadly enables people to think about the issue from different angles and encourages identifying an effective solution that could otherwise be seen as radical.

Step 3. Make it specific enough to stay relevant

On the other hand, a Problem Statement like “Improve the lives of refugees” is too broad and can confuse beneficiaries or clients.

Breaking down a good challenge statement – how to do it yourself

1. Describe the need

The first sentence should describe the need. Structure the description as: [User] needs to [user’s needs] because [insight]. For example: “An adult person that lives in the city needs to be able to buy locally produced organic vegetables because this is healthier for the person and better for the environment”.

2. Describe the reason the need hasn’t been fulfilled yet

The second sentence describes the reason it hasn’t been solved yet. Structure the second sentence as: However, [reason the problem exists]. For example: “However, locally produced organic vegetables are not easily available and are expensive.”

3. Ask for the solution

Your third sentence describes the challenge. Structure the challenge statement as: How might we [human-oriented problem to solve] within [timeframe for solving the problem] so that [important outcome that will happen].

• “How might we” gives people a feeling that there could be different kinds of solutions to the problem and that all ideas are welcome.

•  “Within” gives people an idea about when you would like the problem to be solved by.

• “So that” makes it easier for people to understand what the ideas should result in.

For example: “How might we make it possible for people in Sydney to have access to locally produced organic vegetables within 5 years, so that the environment will be less damaged, and people will eat healthier.
Writing a great challenge statement will help you expand your impact business faster and get better results.

If you would like to receive a free template, please email me at jeroenbolluijt@brooke.global

Sources

• Hives
• MaRS living guide to social innovation labs
• Wikipedia