The Rule of 10: Part 1

Have you heard of the Rule of 10?

That’s the rule that says that no matter what new initiative you introduce or what new direction you set, your team will split into three camps.

Three people will love it, so they will adopt the new plan immediately. Three people are never going to do it regardless of how much you plead with them or how many incentives you offer. And four people are going to sit on the fence waiting to see how serious you are. They are not going to get all hot and bothered because they have seen these corporate initiatives before.

Now, like many of you, I was familiar with the concept, but it wasn’t until recently that I was struck by how much the Rule of 10 personalizes the forces that are really at work when you’re trying to grow your business.

One of our core metaphors at Creative Resources is the image of the trajectory of an airplane as it takes off.

The metaphor is intended to communicate that we want you to manage your business as if you were flying an airplane. You need to build enough momentum to create lift and then guide your airplane – your company – to the destination that you have chosen.

Having been part of this process in so many businesses, we know that the moment when your airplane is about to take off is where you really feel three different forces in conflict with each other.

One force is pulling the plane up by creating lift. It is very similar to the effect caused in your company by these three early adopters.

Then there’s a force called gravity that is actually pulling this airplane back down. And those are the three people that are never going to do it. Of course, they would never describe it this way, but they literally want the new effort to come to a stop.

The four people who are sitting on the fence behave just like the force of inertia. They just want that airplane to continue on its current path. They don’t want to go up, or down, or sideways. They want it to keep going straight.

In a way, the Rule of 10 allows you to see these three physical forces in the flesh.

So, we’ve established the premise. Now, how do we drain some value from it?

The first thing you need to do is express the change you are trying to bring about using numbers.

It’s just as if you said that you want to get in shape or lose weight. It’s not real until you set a number.

So, let’s say in your case, you decide that you want to increase your revenue from a new platform in which you have invested. You have a number that expresses where you are today and a number that expresses where you want to be. Now you have numbers that tell you where the airplane is going.

And you also have numbers that you can use to tell people apart.

Numbers are valuable to you because they will objectively help you see who the early adopters are that are embracing your plan, who the laggards are, and who is in between.

And I would discuss that openly with your team.

They should know how you are going to measure the progress you are making and also the degree to which each team member is contributing to the effort.

When you show sales people their own numbers, you give them the power to change them.


I have a client who is in the throws of making a serious cultural change in his company and, for some reason, he is obsessed about those three people at the bottom who are never going to adopt his new strategy. Is that really what he should be focusing on?

Let’s discuss that next time.

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