Fire Bullets, then Cannonballs

Test your ideas before you dive in. The idea of “Fire Bullets, Then Cannonballs” was first formed by Jim Collins in his book Great by Choice.

According to Collins, first you fire bullets (“low-cost, low-risk, low-distraction experiments“) and then once you have empirical validation, fire the cannonballs (“concentrating resources into a big bet“).

Imagine you’re a pirate at sea. Rather than firing a cannonball at their enemies and missing (and thus running out of your gun powder fast), they would first shoot small bullets to make sure they were on target. Once they were on target with the small bullets, they would fire off the cannonballs.

As Collins wrote in an article about the idea on his website

“Calibrated cannonballs correlate with outsized results; uncalibrated cannonballs correlate with disaster. The ability to turn small proven ideas (bullets) into huge hits (cannonballs) counts more than the sheer amount of pure innovation.”

Jim Collins

After first hearing this concept from Collins on the Tim Ferriss Show, it stuck with me ever since. 

That’s when I realized that I had actually put this concept into practice myself. 

When Derek Strauss and I had the idea to start a conference on educating students about blockchain and cryptocurrency, we started by just having a few conversations with the right people. 

We talked to Ken Baldauf, one of my professors and the Director of the Innovation Hub at FSU, to see if he thought the idea was viable (he thought it was). We met with Joe O’Shea, the Assistant Provost at FSU, to see if it was possible to get funding for the conference (it was possible but not through the provost’s budget). Lastly, we surveyed the Cryptocurrency Club at FSU, which Derek started, to gauge interest from students (there was major interest from dozens of members).

Bullet. Bullet. Bullet. 

With this information in hand, we decided to go all in. We bought a domain, designed the website, and had one of our friends Curran Conklin create a logo and some graphics. We were off. The Collegiate Blockchain Conference was born.

Cannonball.

Test your ideas with small experiments to start, then go all in once you have the right direction. 

That’s the secret to why I started this 30-day blogging challenge: to test my ideas, gain feedback, and then double-down on the ideas that I enjoy writing about the most.

Fire bullets, then cannonballs. Not the other way around.

Cheers to 26 more days,

JB

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Published by Jonah Baer

Florida State student | Memphis, TN native

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