Getting Creative With Growth

Tactics and ‘hacks’ grab a lot of attention since (in theory) they promise quick wins with minimal effort. It’s the same old story. Attention grabbing headline with an over the top promise of getting ‘X’ in half the time or with half the effort.

The problem with tactics, however, is that they become commoditized. In other words, they’re fleeting. They come, and then they go as a particular tactic is exhausted to a point where it’s no longer effective. With how quickly everything moves within the tech world and more broadly within the business landscape, the time to saturation for a particular tactic is getting shorter and shorter.

This is where being able to think in principles is incredibly powerful. It’s the ability to think in principles that allow you to continue to spot new opportunities over time irrespective and independent of particular dynamics. It’s how you free yourself from playing catch up and to instead be the generator of new tactics.

One principle I adhere to whenever dissecting a growth challenge is to carefully examine the boundaries of the task. Or in existing instances — re-examining previously defined rules of the game. What are the confines of the challenge? What are the rules that we have to operate in? What are the assumptions that form the boundaries of what’s possible and what is not?

The thinking behind this process is to carefully investigate the merits of the assumptions at play, which ultimately forms our opinions about what we have at our disposal to increase growth. These assumptions form the rules and boundaries of what’s considered conceivable and what is not.

The power of this exercise is that it recognizes the world we live in — one that is constantly changing. By continuing to re-examine the boundaries in which you’re operating in, you can identify break out opportunities.

Put very simply — it’s asking yourself ‘what if.’ What if a particular assumption wasn’t true? What would that mean? How can we leverage this new dynamic to increase growth? It’s a matter of breaking down walls and expanding the scope of what’s possible. It’s explorations within these fringes that can lead to big time opportunities.

To make the abstract, a little less abstract — let’s take a real life example at WeTransfer.

Our product is inherently viral. For every transfer that is made, a new (or existing) receiver is exposed to our product whereby they can then become initiators of transfers themselves. In that sense — people that are initiating transfers are incredibly powerful for growth as they kickstart our viral engine.

Due to the nature of our product and the natural behavior around transferring files, however, it’s incredibly difficult to convince people to transfer files when there’s no need. Instead — the hook that we leverage to acquire new users is the natural virality of the product and by partnering with tremendous talent to provide great content for people to come access. Aside from when people are seeking out a solution to transfer files on search engines, the natural progression of newly acquired users is to first come in as receivers of transfers.

But what if that isn’t the case? What if the assumption that ‘acquiring new users as receivers is our strongest acquisition mechanism’ wasn’t true? Breaking down that very boundary opens up many new possibilities for growth.

Asking ‘what if’ and breaking down outdated assumptions has led to many breakout growth opportunities in the past and it’ll continue to do so into the future.

In the aforementioned example — we have a set of growth experiments in the pipeline where we’ll explore acquiring users as senders to complement our game plan on acquiring (or retaining) them as receivers. Without breaking down that initial assumption and the corresponding boundary created by it — we will never have considered an entirely new set of growth experiments.

Without this principle — we wouldn’t be nearly as creative as to what’s possible to increase user growth.

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