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Monday, October 24, 2011

Are Breakthroughs a Matter of Luck? Part I


Introduction

This article presents a dilemma for me. My commitment here is to give you a new perspective on problems and disruptions. In many respects, America is a country that is dedicated to finding ways around problems and avoiding inconveniences, and that culture affects our lives and business. We accept the way we are or how we interact with our environment primarily because it’s convenient, and change requires risk. For this moment, I encourage you to forget this way of thinking. I invite you to completely alter your relationship with problems and see them as empowering.

My message here has nothing to do with simply turning your problems into opportunities. Instead, I am asking you to intentionally create problems in your life or organization in a way that gives you a new way to dramatically change status quo. Whether you want to build the next I-pod or simply be a healthier person, consider that you have to go through a significant disruption before you can envision a breakthrough or new way of thinking. Over the course of this series, I will show you how to create the right problems.

As a caveat, these problems should and will be big enough that you require support from others. With the right foundation, however, you are more likely to keep your focus on the outcome and less likely to be derailed from accomplishing the breakthrough. 

Part I

In Part I of this series, I will focus on what a breakthrough is and why it is worth disrupting your current modus operandi. Let’s look at life from the perspective of the corporation: 

Every enterprise runs according to some current or momentum, much like a stream. Some streams have currents that dry up and disappear.  Other companies disrupt the market and evolve into raging rivers that swallow up everything in their path.  Whatever your organization’s current, it represents business as usual.  It includes the processes, metrics and management required to create a perpetual enterprise.  

While nearly all companies intend to become a raging current, most grow in increments. They rely on cost cutting to increase profitability or they acquire competitors to demonstrate growth. However, you cannot cut your way or buy your way to a breakthrough. If you cut too much, the stream eventually dries up. Likewise, too many acquisitions will dry up your cash flow leaving you standing in the mud. A company needs something truly innovative to achieve its greatest potential.

Breakthroughs represent one such way of turning a meandering company into a thrashing river. The right breakthrough adds value to stakeholders and creates new revenue streams. Moreover, once successful, it enhances the brand name and impacts what happens in the business as usual current as well.

In the case of Apple Computer, their incredible growth spurts have resulted from breakthroughs that have gone outside of their core competencies (e.g. a computer company producing cell phones) and disrupted the marketplace. Moreover, their innovations have increased the flow of the existing current or business as usual. They sell more computers as a result of iPods, iPhones and iPads.

Some people explain breakthroughs as luck. A company just happened to have the right product in the right place at the right time. Others can only explain how it worked after the fact. They are like the Monday morning quarterback who knows what should have happened once it has already been done. None of these explanations can establish a workable platform for achieving breakthroughs.

Whatever allows for breakthroughs is invisible. It serves like the operating system in your computer. While you never see it, it is responsible for allowing computer programs to function independently or collectively.  However, like an operating system, it is still a replicable model once you are able to distinguish it.

From personal experience and working with extraordinary athletes, musicians and business leaders, I have created a process called the Disruptive Leadership Model™. The model can be taken apart in pieces and put back together in various combinations to accomplish the same goal: breakthroughs. 

The second part of the Breakthrough Leadership Series will take a more in-depth look at the process of creating problems via the Disruptive Leadership Model™. You can always consult the website for a preview of this next feature.

What do you think? I would love to hear what you think. Or if you want to write me on a specific topic, please comment below. 

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