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Do Twice the Work and Enjoy 20 Times the Results

Jan 3, 2008
Before creating the breakthrough solution process (devising ways to accomplish 20 times more with the same time, money, resources, and effort), I noticed that most of the world's best solutions to important problems were put into use by a few people more than 400 years before broad adoption. Consider the mortar in Roman roads. Visit Italy and you see roads that are still in use after more than 1,500 years.

Watch the new concrete highways near your home, and they will soon be crumbling from ice damage, leaving endless potholes. True, the Romans didn't have large semis carrying heavy loads on their roads. But the Romans were clearly ahead of their time when it came to making roads built to last.

The Romans knew that ice is the enemy of roads. Water needs cracks to get into before it freezes and causes damage. The Romans drew from the pumice that had spewed out of Mount Etna to create finely ground, glass-based powder. When mixed into their mortar, the material became ice resistant.

By contrast, the local contractor building your concrete highway wins the bid based on the lowest price. In that environment, contractors are unlikely to insist that better roads be built. The contractor usually puts coarse material (like sand and finer bits of gravel) into the concrete.

Water finds it easy to penetrate, freeze, and expand, thus destroying the concrete containing these coarse materials. Some contractor then gets to rebuild the road and make a second profit, and a third, and so on. You and I pay the bills through higher gasoline taxes. We also have to align our cars more frequently.

Recently, some governments have grown wiser. They specify that the concrete has to use fine-grained material like fly ash from coal-fired plants. Fly ash is very cheap, even less costly than sand, so look for your roads to last longer in the future. How long will these roads last? We won't know for decades, but it's a nice prospect to consider.

If a solution that obvious has been overlooked for so long, I wondered "What else are we missing?" It turns out that there's a huge backlog of great ideas we can use to make exponential progress in overcoming important problems. Let's consider the ways to make such exponential progress in more detail.

Here's a reminder of what a breakthrough solution is: Any method of producing a 20 times increase in the usual results with the same amount of time and effort, or producing the same results with zero-to-four percent of the current time and resources . . . or some equally effective combination of both approaches. The road example may have the potential to fit that description; you may be able to build some roads that last 21 times as long for less money and effort.

Here's what else I have learned about making large improvements. Most people apply the breakthrough solution process to one improvement opportunity at a time. The three most popular choices for creating such solutions have been:

1. Speeding up a sluggish process that's filled with unnecessary delays

2. Accelerating a slow rate of making cost reductions and

3. Eliminating errors in an ineffective process.

By themselves, such improvements provide remarkable benefits for stakeholders (those who are affected by the organization's or the individual's efforts) and delight those who develop the solutions. I congratulate all who have accomplished such fine results.

Relatively few, however, take the poetic road "less traveled by" to seek first expanding usage by 21 times, but that road makes "all the difference." Why is that more desirable road usually avoided?

I think it has something to do with low self-esteem. New breakthrough solution creators often tell me during the early stages of their investigations that they lack confidence they will succeed. Unless they cannot find a real mess in an existing activity that seems easy to fix, these new solution creators are unlikely to want to tackle expanding usage.

Paradoxically, such expansions usually also deliver astonishingly better ways to speed up sluggish processes, accelerate cost reductions, develop better offerings, and eliminate errors. This opportunity to greatly expand usage seems to be one of those rare cases where you can have your cake and eat it too!

When both usage and delivery effectiveness improve, stakeholders can gain 20 times more benefits than from either improvement alone. When that combination happens, these two complementary breakthrough solutions acquire the power of 20 or more individual 2,000 percent solutions. That's what I mean by a 2,000 percent squared solution. You can also think of this concept as developing a breakthrough solution squared, or a 400 times increase in benefits.
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, The 2,000 Percent Solution Workbook, The Irresistible Growth Enterprise, and The Ultimate Competitive Advantage. 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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