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Win the Race to Make Breakthrough Improvements

Dec 25, 2007
Are you ready to run fast to make breakthrough improvements in the short and long runs?

Each day that passes cannot be recovered and put to another use. In that sense, we are all in a marathon race that lasts a lifetime to accomplish whatever we can.

On other days, it's more like a sprint. There's a short-term need to accomplish and only one person will benefit from the accomplishment.

At the end of the race, there can only be one winner in any given area. How can you be that winner in what you care about?

Continually make breakthrough improvements in the highest payoff areas.

In identifying large opportunities to accomplish 20 times more, nth degree thinking is critical. Nth degree thinking requires you to take one element of your business environment and expand it to extremes . . . both much larger and much smaller than you can possibly imagine could occur.

In picking breakthrough solution (any way of accomplishing 20 times more with the same, time, effort, and resources) opportunities, you also apply nth degree thinking. To do so you stretch the benefits that stakeholders could gain or lose to their limits.

Here's an example. Assume that a book publisher examines the following areas using the nth degree test for competitive and profit impact: cost of development; cost of production; duration of development; distribution availability in bookstores; amount of publicity; amount of positive word-of-mouth comments; pleasure that readers get from the book; what percentage of readers like the book; and pricing. Notice that taking the number of positive word-of-mouth comments to the maximum would tend to overwhelm the other areas. Most publishers, however, don't put much attention in that area. A publisher that did could probably expect to create an overwhelming 2,000 percent solution for its books and its publishing performance.

Time is an important element in focusing your attention because benefits that arrive sooner are surer and more valuable than ones that take longer. Certainly, in choosing between creating a breakthrough solution that you can put in place over a few months and one that will require decades, most would choose to pursue first the one that requires only months. An analysis of the present value of the cash flow benefits (discounting the future estimated benefits for inflation and uncertainty) would also validate that choice.

The publisher's most valuable benefit for increased sales is to generate unlimited amounts of positive word of mouth about its books.

Here are some of the potential solutions that the publisher might have identified that help improve other benefits:

-Publish books written by well-regarded celebrities with intriguing new information.

-Authors dedicate royalties to popular charities which will promote the books.

-Companies donate books as part of their product promotions due to the subject matter.

-Tie the book launch timing to a series of related broad-scale media events.

-Create an appealing corporate-sponsored contest related to the theme of the book.

-Provide newsworthy disclosures daily related to the book.

Next, the publisher needs to think about how long it would take to pursue each of these potential solutions. Clearly, there are only a limited number of celebrities who could have the right kind of appeal and would be willing to tailor their books to this purpose and donate their proceeds to charity.

One might work on attracting those celebrities forever, and still not gather a single one. Some other approach for adding word-of-mouth interest is needed. This conclusion is particularly true for a small publisher whose market strengths might not be considered to be valuable enough to attract such celebrities.

Many celebrities are already associated with corporations through endorsement contracts and charities through voluntary activities. Having identified which celebrities the publisher wants to pursue, the next step is to research their commitments and connections to corporations and charities.

Then, the publisher could see which celebrities could be approached through these intermediaries. The best starting point would probably be a charity. In some cases, the publisher might find that the corporate sponsor and the charity also have a tie. That combination could be even better.

As the publisher, you next need to develop a book concept that fits with all of these circumstances. Then, you should document why the book concept will be very valuable to the celebrity, the charity and the corporate sponsors.

How long would it take to pursue these activities? Not very long if you know what needs to be done, but most publishers don't have the skills in house to advance such an approach into reality. Currently, publishers wait for authors' agents to approach them with such packages . . . and then the acquisition editors choose among the proposals for the most valuable book concepts.

What's required is not unlike what theatrical, motion picture and television producers do. An important step might be to develop a partnership with such a producing organization that could participate in providing some of the other entertainment that could be built around the concept.

Our publisher needs to focus attention on either working with people who have these skills and contacts or hiring such people.

No one should build a possible route towards a breakthrough solution around one potential set of allies. So our publisher needs to explore associations with other potentially enabling parties, like the celebrities' agents, corporations and nonprofit organizations that sponsor popular events, and entertainment impresarios.

Another approach might involve partnering with foundations that wanted to help pioneer this type of nonprofit fund-raising. Such foundations could use their own contacts to help put the necessary talent and skills together.

The publisher should continue to focus on potential solutions until several paths have been found that can be fairly quickly explored and implemented. At that point the publisher will be ready to begin developing a breakthrough solution.

Here are the steps:

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.

If the publisher cannot find several paths for word-of-mouth increases that seem to have high potential, the publisher would be wise to shift focus.

That publisher should look instead for rapid paths for pursuing some of the other benefits that the nth degree analysis identified as being particularly valuable, such as pleasure that readers get from the book and, how many readers like the book which can help build positive word-of-mouth-based interest.

Enjoy the race!
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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