Using Ambitious Goals to Improve Performance

Beatriz Boavida
Feb 26, 2024
3 min read

What if apparent unattainable goals could be the key to improving performance?

Multiple goal-setting approaches emphasise the necessity to always set realistic and attainable goals. Take SMART goals for instance, which stresses that goals should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound to lead to great results.

Nonetheless, Brian Chesky (Airbnb founder and CEO) decided to experiment and challenge this framework. After analysing the outcomes, he concluded that the bigger the goals, the better the performance. Thus, he started implementing an exercise he called “add a zero”. Let’s dive deeper into this method.

Add a zero and make your team think smarter

“There was a saying inside of Airbnb, it was add a zero. Add a zero at the end, which is to imagine something an order of magnitude bigger.” – Brian Chesky

The whole point of the exercise is not to set impossible goals for your team. The aim is to make your team think of how they could achieve a goal that was 10x bigger, how they could do something 10x better or 10x faster. According to Brian Chesky, when you, as a leader, push your team, you are allowing them to think differently about the problem and be creative in the solution.

How making goals 10x bigger can help team performance

Formulating ambitious goals can help your team get unstuck and create new pathways for resolving tasks. This bold approach to goal setting has its benefits:

It promotes first principles thinking

This is one of the most effective strategies to break down complex problems and promote innovative solutions. From Aristotle to Jeff Bezos, Steve Jobs, and Elon Musk, many have adopted this way of thinking.

When resorting to first principles thinking, make sure you:

  1. Have a basic understanding of the problem;

  2. Remove all assumptions;

  3. Ask “why” to deepen your insights;

  4. Be detailed with your thinking;

  5. Keep the bigger picture in mind.

“You have to think differently about the problem. And to think differently about the problem you have to deeply understand the problem. And to deeply understand the problem, you have to break it into its components.” – Brian Chesky

It allows you to set the pace

For example, if you want to improve the speed of the company, make faster decisions. Use meetings to foster productivity – What are you, as a team, focusing on? Who is responsible for what? How are you doing things? – Also, in this situation, take the time to do regular check-ins to ensure faster alignment.

“I think the pace of the team is one of the most important things you can do. And that pace is something governed not by how hard people work, but how decisive they are.” – Brian Chesky

It promotes a growth mindset

Your role as a leader is to see potential and believe in your team even if they cannot see it themselves. When you push a team, two things can happen:


To ensure your team does not shy away when it faces a problem, you can dissect it into its components and work at the pace you have set that you need:


“Add a zero” is the goal-setting exercise to try if you want to improve your team’s performance. It encourages you to think differently about a problem, breaking it down into its components, and seeing it from different perspectives. It allows you to set the pace of the tasks/projects more easily. And it can be the lever to develop a growth mindset in your team.

Let’s dream big! (But don’t just dream, act on it.)

Make your team love mondays!

Get a demo or try for free today.