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Build A Future-Ready Company By Understanding The 2 Types of Progress

Try to imagine the world in the year 2100. What do you see?
by Caitlin Schiller | Oct 20 2014

For most people, the future is a tantalizing topic – we’ve got the Star Wars and late-night SyFy binges to prove it. But when we talk about the future, we’re not referring solely to the passage of time. What we’re really talking about is progress.


Progress is the difference from the present that pushes us into the brave new world. But progress is a little more complicated than that: as PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel’s new book Zero to One, explains, there are two different types of progress, horizontal and vertical.

Horizontal progress, the sort generated by globalization, is the expansion of existing ideas and innovations. Vertical progress is an altogether different animal in that it comes from creating something that has never existed before, like a new technology. In more concrete terms, horizontal progress would be mass-producing phones and distributing them to developing countries. Vertical progress would mean building an entirely new kind of smartphone.

Not to knock horizontal progress, but vertical progress is a little more exciting – and it’s where disruptive innovation lies. But like anything worth having, vertical progress is no easy catch. In order to make it, you’ve got to imagine something that does not yet exist. How ever might one do that, you ask? According to Thiel, you do it by learning to see the present differently.

Here are his two tips for making vertical progress:

1. Surround yourself with the right minds. Oddballs and eccentric thinkers are best suited to this job. You can start screening for the kinds of minds that will help you change the future even in a candidate’s first interview.
2. Ask this key question:  “What valuable company is nobody building?” Start here to identify gaps in the market and see where your unconventional thinking can take you.

You can learn more about progress and the future of startups by checking out Zero to One in blinks or over on Amazon.

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