breakthrough ideas

What is your batting average for breakthrough ideas? When is the last time you, metaphorically speaking, went outside the lines of the coloring book, out of the book altogether, and created a masterpiece on the living room wall?

There’s nothing wrong with following standard procedures or well-established practices. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” is emblazoned on corporate minds and hearts.

But sometimes it pays to go renegade.

You look around, and find that change is accelerating exponentially. Opportunities and roadblocks emerge out of nowhere. And your standard operating procedures simply can’t keep up. You’re scrambling harder and harder, and falling further behind.

Or you look to the future, and realize that long term trends are not your friends. Your historic customer base is aging our of the marketplace. A whole flock of new, trendy, hungry competitors are out for blood. Supply or labor expenses are rising out of control, shrinking profit margins. The bottom line is that business as usual simply won’t cut it.

Whether proactively or reactively, with your back against the wall or as a trendsetter in your industry, you’re on a manhunt for something different, for breakthrough ideas. You know the possibilities are endless, but how do you break through?

The Process:

  • First, take a fresh look. What is the core problem? Focus and zero in.
  • Second, look at the components. What are all the factors contributing to the problem?
  • Third, identify key factors; that is, the areas in which a change can have a material impact.
  • Fourth, for each key factor, consider all the possible ways you can address it.
      • Go wild. Nothing is off limits.
      • Inventory your resources. How can each of them be adapted to solve the problem?
      • Get out of your mindset. What would an astronaut do? Or a snake tamer?
      • Pick two random words. How might these solve your problem?
      • Pick another two words, or another exotic profession, and repeat.
  • Fifth, consolidate your brainstorming ideas and create an action plan.
  • Sixth, take action. If your plan is high risk, explore a trial implementation. When the risk is low, you may choose to “ready, fire, aim!” and modify your approach based on real time feedback.

Tips for Finding Breakthrough Ideas:

  • Relax and have fun. There’s nothing as deadly to creativity as a single minded determination to be creative on schedule.
  • Get out of your usual environment. A park bench or chair at the beach can do wonders for finding new perspectives.
  • Write down your wild ideas. You never know which ones might be useful.
  • Explore other industries. Your problem might have been solved ages ago. Don’t reinvent the wheel.
  • Talk with your suppliers and/or customers. They can provide a wealth of information from their unique perspectives.
  • Brainstorm with others outside your industry. Besides tapping into their expertise and experience, tap into their creative ideas. Invite them to collaborate with you. Take advantage of the synergies when great minds work together.
  • Talk to others within your organization. You never know who might hold the key to your breakthrough idea. Front line employees can have critical insights; ask for their input.
  • Talk to kids and teens; they’re masters of creativity. Also, they are far more observant than we acknowledge.

Business survival depends on finding effective solutions to emerging challenges. Sometimes old answers are inadequate. A key component of business leadership is finding, nurturing and implementing breakthrough ideas, taking advantage of the opportunities that change presents.

Go for the gold. Color outside the lines and find the breakthrough ideas to accelerate your business and finesse the competition.