A ludicrously simple, humungous idea

Big John was a serial technology entrepreneur. In addition to being my dad, he was one of my mentors.

Last year he lost his battle with lung and brain cancer. In between trying to ship one of the biggest projects of my career, I’d fly back to the east coast whenever possible to spend time with him.

As fall approached, it became clear that our time together was waning. In these pilgrimages back home I started to bring a bottle of his favorite wine (Far Niente Cabernet Sauvignon) and my Xoom digital recorder.

We’d sit in his cozy New England family room in two ridiculously oversized reclining chairs and talk. It was my time to ask questions. Literally anything was open for discussion as I wandered through his past seeking final words of wisdom, guidance, and hope. We’d talk into the early evening until he became too tired to carry on.

In one of our journeys into his past he told me about the legend of the Tabasco Sauce idea. It’s most certainly folklore, but the story is precious.

“A marketing guru contacts the Tabasco company [the famous red pepper sauce that comes in a tiny bottle] and says he can double their sales. He says ‘only pay me if I achieve the goal, but if I do I want a percentage of the increase in profits.’ With seemingly little to lose the company agrees. The guru then meets with dozens of people across the company. Several weeks later, he meets with management and presents a very simple idea to double sales. Tabasco sauce is really hot [damn hot to some] so the tip of the bottle has a little plastic regulator that ensures only a drop comes out at a time. He says they should double the size of the opening in that regulator to double the size of the drop coming out. According to the legend, the company takes the advice and sales double.”

The story makes me smile because it’s a story about “leverage”. A tiny change can yield a gigantic windfall. I’ve discovered these Tabasco Sauce ideas in my career but they are as rare as a Pokemon Ditto.

At Linkedin the team discovered a handful of these preposterously simple, yet elegant, game changers. I’ll let you in on a secret (shhh) the answer lies in how you find leverage (the 1+1=10 thing).

For Linkedin, a river of Tabasco sauce ran through the two V’s — “volume” (tiny changes to flows that funneled millions of people) and “viral”. The two V’s were our levers of choice.

Think about this story from Big John. No, r-e-a-l-l-y think about it. It just might change the game for you, your team, your company :)

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