Friday, June 16, 2006

Pushing on the Flywheel

People often ask me how GlobalGiving grew by 5x last year. "What were the main factors driving that growth?" they ask.

Depending on who is asking, I have a variety of answers at hand - the tsunami, the general growth of online giving, our growing partner network, etc.

But the real answer is much harder to describe.

Fortunately, I was reading something by Jim Collins today, and he described perfectly my own experience of the last four years since we launched GlobalGiving in beta. In his terms, I would say that we are at about turn 4 of the flywheel:

"Right now, the flywheel is at a standstill. To get it moving, you make a tremendous effort. You push with all your might, you make a tremendous effort...and finally you get the flywheel to inch forward. After two or three days of sustained effort, you get the flywheel to complete one entire turn. You keep pushing, and the flywheel begins to move a bit faster. It takes a lot of work, but at last the flywheel makes a second rotation. You keep pushing steadily. It makes three turns, four, five, six turns. With each turn it moves faster, and then - at some point, you can't say exactly when - you break through. The momentum of the heavy wheel kicks in your favor. It spins faster and faster, with its own weight propelling it. You aren't pushing any harder, but the flywheel is accelerating, its momentum building, its speed increasing."

(Jim Collins, "Good to Great," Fast Company, October 2001)