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Let Survival Lessons Show You the Way to Breakthrough Improvements

Jan 3, 2008
When you decide to learn about how to create and implement breakthrough solutions (ways of accomplishing 20 times as much with the same time and effort), you'll have opened up a magical doorway to exponential improvement. In the process, you'll come to understand how to make rapid progress by overcoming stalls (bad habits that encourage complacency) and developing new, more effective habits. What you probably do not yet appreciate is how rapidly change can occur, and how large rapid change can be.

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. 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 (the best way that anyone could possibly operate).

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 2,000 percent 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 2,000 percent 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.
About the Author
Donald Mitchell is an author of seven books including Adventures of an Optimist, 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 and receive tips by e-mail by registering for free at

http://www.2000percentsolution.com .
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