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Breakthroughs Are Available If You Hold the Right Contest to Get Help from Outside Your Organization

Dec 8, 2007
An emergency room (ER) nurse kept hearing complaints from patients who had been waiting for hours to see a doctor. After learning about creating breakthrough solutions, she began to keep track of how long it took various kinds of patients to get the attention they needed.

She was shocked to find that those who were too sick or injured to explain their problems but who appeared to be okay sometimes waited for more than 10 hours -- even if they needed immediate treatment. This nurse shared her concerns with the other ER nurses and physicians. They discussed possible solutions and decided to train the guards at the door to spot people who couldn't explain about themselves and bring a triage nurse immediately to check the patient. Waiting time for these vulnerable, hard-to-diagnose patients dropped to less than 10 minutes. Although her colleagues didn't know it, they had just put in place a breakthrough solution.

How much improvement is possible? We've all seen breakthroughs, but often don't think about them. Yet those breakthroughs can help us appreciate other potential breakthroughs.

For instance, a slow reader takes a course in better reading methods. Reading speed increases from 100 words to 1,100 words a minute while comprehension of what is read doubles. The reading speed increase is a 10-fold improvement, [(1,100 - 100)/100 = 10], and the doubling of comprehension allows twice as much to be comprehended in whatever reading time is involved. When you multiply reading 10 times faster by double the comprehension, you have a 2,000 percent increase in reading comprehension per minute from the same time and effort.

What brought breakthrough solutions to my attention? I was attracted to this subject because my family depended on a small business when I was growing up, and breakthrough solutions made an enormous difference in this operation and in my life. I hope this concept will do the same for you, your family, and your business or nonprofit organization, whether you lead it or simply work there.

Let's look at some more examples to help you grasp what a breakthrough solution is. Technology often helps us speed results without increasing resources. For example, you can send material halfway around the world now in an e-mail for a tiny fraction of the cost and time of sending an air courier package. E-mail is also a breakthrough compared to the best method commonly available 20 years ago: sending a facsimile.

Thinking more clearly about the implications of what needs to be done can have a similar effect without waiting for technology to advance.

For instance, many electronic products are now designed to have many fewer parts than the products they replace. Consequently, repairing products with fewer parts takes much less time and reduces costs. For more expensive products, the parts are often monitored electronically to note when they are about to fail. The message that failure is imminent is sent to the repair person before the failure. The part is replaced, and the customer never experiences a problem. Repeat sales and profits improve as a result. For less expensive products, online resources allow customers to diagnose their problems, implement the proper solutions, and receive faster results at much less cost than providing hands-on repairs.

Sharing information throughout organizations has had similar effects. Many organizations now use business intelligence software that allows everyone to know what performance is in the activities each person influences. As a result, fewer problems occur and the solutions come faster and less expensively.

What is you don't have any ideas for breakthroughs? Recently, organizations have learned to access better ideas inexpensively by involving large numbers of experts through online contests. Goldcorp was a pioneer in this effort when it sponsored the Goldcorp Challenge in March 2000. Hundreds of the world's best geologists looked at Goldcorp's exploratory drilling results online and produced a number of excellent suggestions. By spending a few hundred thousand dollars for a Web site and prizes, Goldcorp located new gold reserves worth hundreds of millions.

Topping that success, Larry Huston, vice president of R&D, Innovation, and Knowledge for Procter & Gamble (P&G), reported in October 2005 that P&G had run more than 200 versions of the Goldcorp Challenge since 2000. These contests had yielded innovations with a success rate of over 80 percent, increased the company's R&D productivity by 45 percent, and provided 35 percent of all of P&G's successful innovations in recent years.

From these examples, you can see that breakthroughs are possible by running contests to locate breakthrough solutions to the most important organizational tasks. By considering these examples, I hope you'll be able to see possible variations on their themes to establish breakthroughs for important tasks where no one yet dreams of such improvements.
About the Author
Donald Mitchell is coauthor of six books including The 2,000 Percent Squared Solution, The 2,000 Percent Solution, and The 2,000 Percent Solution Workbook. You can read about his work on creating 2,000 percent solutions by registering for free at

http://www.2000percentsolution.com .
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