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Stoke the Fire in Your Belly to Make Continual Breakthroughs

Dec 25, 2007
It's easy to assume that what you see is what you get. But what you see may be just the tip of the iceberg (less than five percent of the ice present). It takes an energetic person to dive into that frozen water to verify the unseen potential. Do you have enough fire in your belly to do so?

You probably do not yet appreciate is how rapidly change can occur, and how large rapid change can be from pursuing breakthrough solutions (ways of accomplishing 20 times as much with the same time, effort, and resources or the same results with 1/20 the time, effort and resources).

After all, most people are thrilled to make a 10 percent improvement in productivity and will spend months working on such an incremental improvement.

Let's look at two examples, one from nature and one from business, to expand your awareness.

When Is It Time for a Change?

Many learn that evolutionary changes in nature take millions of years. New research shows that major biological changes in a species can happen in as little as 14 years, as reported in Nature ("Natural Selection Out on a Limb," Ted J. Case, Volume 387, pp. 1-16, May 1, 1997).

Common lizards native to the Caribbean were transported to small islands where they were not expected to survive because the environments were so ill-suited to the lizards. Instead of dying out, most of the lizard colonies thrived because the lizards' bodies changed rapidly and dramatically to fit the new environments. Fourteen years after arrival, the survivors were as different from their ancestors as a jockey is from a basketball center.

People should be even more physically adaptable than lizards when placed in a challenging environment. We should have the same genetic ability to shift, and we have the added advantage of being able to shift mentally more than lizards do.

We can use that mental advantage to change our actions as well as adapt the environment in ways that suit us using tools we design. The question before us now is: How can a challenging environment make a difference for us in achieving a breakthrough solution?

Creating the Environment for a Breakthrough Solution

Let's turn to the business equivalent of the lizard colonies being relocated onto the new islands where they faced potential extinction: a corporate loser facing shutdown.

This organization chose to fight the seemingly inevitable demise of its operations by focusing on approaching the ideal best practice.

At the time of the decision, the company had the lowest profit margin (after-tax earnings divided by sales) in the industry, the second lowest market share (company sales divided by industry sales), the most debt compared to its equity, poor stock price performance, and customers who wouldn't buy the company's offerings unless they sold below everyone else's price. The goal was to improve to a leadership position along all of these dimensions.

Within a year of making the decision to improve, the company increased its market share by more than 50 percent, more than doubled its profit margin, improved its balance sheet to reach normal debt levels, substantially increased its prices, and saw its stock price grow by more than 50 percent.

After seven more years, the company's profit margin was the highest in the industry. It had almost tripled its market share, slashed its debt to very low levels and saw its stock price grow by more than 10 times the market rate. All of this improvement occurred in a commodity industry in which the annual unit growth rate was less than 4 percent.

The potential extinction made the officers eager to consider any reasonable change that might help. The breakthrough solution process gave them the road map for which changes to make.

Using new measurements, the officers identified which current and potential customers would provide the most profit and competitive insulation. From this examination, the company saw an opportunity to make a key acquisition that would greatly strengthen performance where the company was doing best.

After the acquisition, sales efforts were redirected to the more ideal customers. Those steps allowed the company to reach about the fourth step in the breakthrough solution process during the first year. Business performance boomed as a result.

As well as this company performed, it missed greater opportunities because as soon as extinction was no longer a threat, complacency set in. The remaining steps in the process were never executed. Like the lizards in the Caribbean, they lazed in the sun in their new form . . . enjoying the improved match with their environment.

Beware of falling into this trap when threats recede. Stir up a new threat if you have no other way to avoid complacency.


What, then, should be your organization's goals? We encourage you to lift your sights to not only make great strides now, but to create the foundation for even greater strides in the future, both for current and future generations of stakeholders.

Get ready to start creating breakthrough solutions.

To accomplish 20 times as much with the same time, effort, and resources, you need to learn and continually use all eight steps of the breakthrough solution process in the correct order. The steps are listed here:

1. Understand the importance of measuring performance.

2. Decide what to measure.

3. Identify the future best practice and measure it.

4. Implement beyond the future best practice.

5. Identify the ideal best practice.

6. Pursue the ideal best practice.

7. Select the right people and provide the right motivation.

8. Repeat the first seven steps.

Here are the questions you need to answer and consistently act on that will help you continually focus on those eight steps:

1. What habits does your organization have now that could lead it to be derailed by success from creating a permanent breakthrough solution organizational culture?

2. How can you use the breakthrough solution process to overcome those habits?

3. For your organization to gain the most from your learning, who should you begin to teach about stallbusting and breakthrough solutions?

4. Which process in your organization is the right one to begin focusing on to apply what you've learned?

5. What are your organizational and personal objectives for helping others learn these ways of thinking and acting?

6. What are your personal objectives for employing the benefits you'll gain from overcoming stalled thinking and using the eight-step process outside of your work?

You can use these questions to help evolve into a self-actualized person who can guide companies and organizations to overcome the stalls that keep them from becoming self-actualized as well. In the process, the organization will find itself focusing on more profound and satisfying purposes.

When the breakthrough solution process is applied broadly through the world, we'll all enjoy improved health, happiness, peace, and prosperity. We, our loved ones, family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, those we serve, and our descendants will be enormously glad we did.
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. Read about creating breakthroughs through 2,000 percent solutions by registering for free at

http://www.2000percentsolution.com .
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