Xceptional Execution Methodology

Why most start-ups fail


We open this podcast with Kevin Kelly introducing himself and explaining the Xceptional Execution methodology. Kevin explains that a piece of research he uncovered in the early 2000s had a major impact on him.

“All entrepreneurs need to, and will develop, the art of becoming comfortable in the uncomfortable”

He learned that of all the major breakthrough companies in America, 88% were the result of the exceptional execution of an ordinary idea, and just 12% were new inventions. This was the starting point for Kevin’s dedicated study of this issue.
Kevin outlines the four elements of Xceptional Execution. Firstly he discusses the importance of delivering quality attention to your customers and co-workers. A second crucial element for Kevin is self-awareness. Kevin mentions the importance of having a strategy on the journey towards self-awareness. Kevin then points to life-long learning as another critical element to Xceptional Execution, and thus, successful entrepreneurship. According to Kevin, the sources of life-long learning should not be the usual academic centres of full time education, and MBAs or PhDs, rather “You have to have the mentality that everybody can be your teacher.” Kevin has seen entrepreneurs become successful through greater self-awareness. They did this by having “a very strong mentor network around them that actually had been at the top of the mountain, and did see the journey as it was, and was able to help them along the way.” The fourth and final element of Xceptional Execution will help listeners define themselves as entrepreneurs or not – “whether you do or you don’t.”

The podcast moves on to discuss how best to include Xceptional Execution into a Business Plan. Kevin takes the view that the key is to be passionate and excited about the journey. Although business plans often look the same, it’s possible to stand out by highlighting what makes this venture different. To emphasise, how, as an entrepreneur, you intend to exceed customers’ expectations and position yourself differently in the marketplace.

Kevin argues that the traditional concept of the customer is dead and along with it the customer-seller relationship. Sellers must now find non-traditional ways of improving their customers’ experience, and must reframe the way they think about customers.

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Kevin talks about getting the right balance between ego and confidence, and shares some great tips for pitching, before dismissing any talk of failure. We then discuss the importance of following your gut or intuition before Kevin issues a health warning concerning the link between increased knowledge and an increase in reasons not to act. Later in the podcast we talk about the start-up scene in Ireland, supports, and the clash between entrepreneurship and traditional Irish family values and aspirations.

Kevin feels that although Ireland is clearly going in the right direction, it could be doing more to celebrate Irish entrepreneurship. Kevin then responds to a question about handling criticism and negativity. First and foremost, he says we must be guardians to our own minds but we must also listen and respond to fair criticism and put that to work too. Kevin also covers the importance of meditation and switching off. We wrap up with Kevin giving us a quick tour de force on the psychology of flow.


Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (New York: Harper & Row, 1990).

Kevin Kelly’s selected publications

Kevin Kelly, Do! The pursuit of Xceptional Execution (Galway: Kevin Kelly Unlimited, 2013).

Kevin Kelly, Basics before Buzz: Managing in Challenging Times (Galway: Kevin Kelly Unlimited, 2008).

Kevin Kelly, How? When you don’t know how? (Galway: Kevin Kelly Unlimited, 1998).

His other works include Get Real: Thinking and Doing Differently and Life: A Trip Towards Trust.

Buy Kevin Kelly’s selected publications now

On discovering that 88% of company breakthroughs were simply the result of exceptional executions of ordinary ideas, Kevin Kelly dedicated his life’s work to exploring this remarkably straight forward idea. His research culminated in the development of the unique Xceptional Execution (XE) methodology and a book of the same Do! The pursuit of Xceptional Execution. A bestselling author, Kevin graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce degree from University College Galway in 1987. Through his energy and enthusiasm, he went on to break sales records in each of the companies he worked for. Nowadays, Kevin speaks all over the world, giving keynote addresses, masterclasses and training modules at corporate meetings and conferences throughout Europe, the Middle East, Asia and the Americas. His clients have included Microsoft, Globant, HSBC, KPMG, Scania, Coca-Cola, Pfizer and Lane Crawford.