Today's world is undergoing a period of systemic transformation. It's all around us.

Uber, the world's largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world's most popular media owner, creates no content. Airbnb, the world's largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate. So what on earth is happening?

Salim Ismail, author of Exponential Organizations and Founder of Singularity University, is extremely optimistic about the future of business. According to Salim, we live in an age where technology is allowing businesses to grow and evolve at an exponential rate.

If you think about it, we're seeing the traditional business model completely break down and be replaced by a newer, leaner, more efficient one. Today's "unicorns" (new start-ups valued at $1bn or more) make use of the sharing economy, and harness technology and human interaction to create companies that scale to growth extremely quickly.

It used to take an average of 20 years for companies to reach billion-dollar valuations. Now it takes just 9 months. Business is no longer about ownership. It's all about access.

Let's pause for a second. I want you to think about your own life. Are you using a 15-year old Nokia flip phone in 2017? Of course not. You probably just upgraded to the latest iPhone or Android smartphone.

So if you're thinking about starting a business, or you already run one and want to plan for the future, you need to understand the key ingredients that made these unicorns so wildly successful. Without further ado, here are five powerful ways you can transform your business and your thinking to succeed in the 21st century.

How To S.C.A.L.E. Your Business

As human beings, we frame new phenomenon using our existing mental models, which means we need to think differently in order to succeed in this new era of digital change. Let's get one thing straight before we dive in: you need a balance of both stabilizing attributes and growth drivers to achieve sustained success.

For our purposes today, however, we're going to explore the five Exponential Organization (ExO) qualities that can drive your business to unparalleled heights.

S - Staff on Demand

Because of new changes in readily available technology, many companies now offer flexible work environments, including "digital" staff that live and work across different cities and countries. If you're looking to become more progressive, consider implementing a flexible workforce that makes use of freelancers and on-demand employees. This not only reduces costs for your business, but allows for outside opinions and insights that you might otherwise miss.

C - Community and Crowd

Airbnb, Facebook and Uber all make great use of their communities and crowd. In fact, the very underpinning of each business rests on a need for customers to facilitate engagement and transactions. When starting your own business, find new ways to involve your fans and brand advocates. Or better yet, get them to market, sell or promote your service for you. In exchange, you can offer rewards and other perks that incentivizes participation.

A - Algorithms

New technology -- AI, machine and deep-learning algorithms - allows you to personalize products and services in a way that has never been possible before. Not only does this make your business much more scalable, but it allows you to predict buyer patterns, analyze shipping routes and understand more about your customers' behavior. You should always look to split-test and learn from every decision you make. As they say -- it's not the size of your big data, it's how you use it.

L - Leveraged Assets

How can you use the assets of your customers as free supply at zero cost to your business? Well, Airbnb's customers create free supply for the company. Compare this with traditional business models like Hilton or Marriot. These companies simply can't compete, because they have to buy property and physically build new hotels whenever they want to expand. Use this as an important reminder to explore your niche and understand what/how you can leverage your customers' assets.

E - Engagement

Our social-media-fueled world never stops. 24/7 news, endless Twitter feeds, YouTube stars making millions. In the midst of all this, why should your customers take time out of their busy days to engage with your brand? You need to think critically and develop new ways to keep your audience and customers engaged. This could be defined as incentive competition, gamification, digital reputation systems to increase quantity and convert crowdsourcing into community engagement. All of this makes your business more fluid, flexible and agile.

Published on: Mar 22, 2017