Scaling Points are everywhere, yet hidden in plain sight

by | Jan 21, 2018

I have been an observer and student of the Scaling Point for 25 years.

It’s the strangest thing. It’s completely obvious on the outside, yet we don’t notice it or understand it. It’s hidden in plain sight.

Like the joke about the fish that says to another, “How’s the water today?” The other fish replies, “What’s water?” It’s all around us, yet we really don’t see it clearly.

By definition, we see things as they have been crafted for us to see. We see the outward personas of people we know or of famous celebrities, not their complete histories, dreams and complexities.

We see products and buildings and news, but we don’t really see all of these things in their entirety. Other people don’t see you in your entirety; your customers don’t see all the complexities of your whole business.

On the outside, we just see the simple stories that make sense to us. We ignore all the background noise and remember the simple story.

These simple stories are the Scaling Points.

We don’t see or understand the complexities of an Apple iPhone and the secret culture that designs, manufactures and markets them. I think we’d all be surprised if we took a weeklong tour of the entire process from start to finish. Instead, we just see “iPhone as a smartphone that works well and makes us look modern and feel stylish,” or something like that.

Even my electrical engineer son, Ethan, knows Apple and Android phones by their simple stories–their Scaling Points. Apple is the walled garden that keeps users safe, Android is the open, hackable and finicky system that power users can customize. The complexities he loves to investigate always connect back to the simple stories that stick.

The Scaling Point is a law of nature. This is how our brains work and how humans are designed to succeed in the world.

We simplify, classify and organize thousands of things we encounter every day to make sense of them in our lives. Details and complexities of things are anchored to these simple ideas.

The simple Scaling Point of popular and successful things isn’t “sometimes under certain conditions.” It’s a law of nature that can’t be defied.

Every popular, successful person or thing has a simple Scaling Point.

See for yourself. Make a quick list of any of these things:

  • Popular restaurants in your town
  • Tech companies getting major funding
  • Winners of presidential elections in the US
  • Your last three purchases on Amazon
  • Today’s biggest news story
  • The highest paid athletes, celebrities or professionals
  • The last person you hired in your business
  • The common things in your house
  • The leading companies in your market
  • Successful business leaders you know
  • Popular places you have visited

Now ask this question for everything you listed: Can I describe this to another person in a simple way that communicates how it is the best at something important for someone specific?

You can. Try it. It’s a magic trick that works every time, only it isn’t magic.

Show me someone or something successful and I’ll show you their simple Scaling Point and how to describe it in seven words or less.

Here’s my trick: this actually works by definition. Everything that is popular, common, growing fast or scaled up has a simple Scaling Point–a simple story that their customers or fans have in their heads.

Simple stories are a requirement of things that scale, not a byproduct or an option. We require simple stories that make sense to us or we push them away. That’s just how humans work, especially in groups.

Think of all the complexities of the things you just listed. People spend their lives inside these businesses, on their careers or creating their works. They can talk for days about their things. (I know I can.)

The outside world doesn’t see all the complexity. Buyers and markets see the simple story–and reject the complexity. If it isn’t simple, it can’t scale up and become big.

Discovering your Scaling Point and communicating it simply is a requirement of the scaling up game. Like gravity, it can’t be defied. Many have tried.

See for yourself by asking this question about your own venture:

How does my buyer describe our product in a simple way that communicates how it is the best at something important to them?