As the pilot teams get ready to begin their program, I thought it would be good to share more information about breakthroughs. Here is an excerpt from my More Space essay, which will be coming out in a few months (BTW, Todd is working with designers to create a gorgeous book. I will let you know as the book gets closer to being available. As a quick reminder, More Space is a book project where I and 8 other bloggers each wrote a chapter. Todd Sattersten is the editor, publisher, and project creator. The essays cover a lot of ground in the general area of business excellence and are each interesting, innovative, and helpful.)
Note: In my More Space essay, I use the term Breakthrough Experience, and the acronym BKE.
Defining the Breakthrough Experience
The term breakthrough means different things to different people. Some reserve the word for describing scientific discoveries and efforts worthy of the Nobel Prize. Others believe they have BKEs many times a week. I prefer to take a broad and permissive view of breakthroughs so, for this essay, a breakthrough experience is:
- A moment when someone receives an insight, ah-ha, idea, cognitive snap (relative to the preceding time period), or epiphany
- Progress experienced by an individual or small group
- A discontinuous positive change, or a leap forward in thinking, action, or results
- A change that can be small or large, but there must be an acceleration of progress or sudden insight (transformative vs. incremental)
Adopting this view of breakthroughs helps generate them. If I thought a breakthrough as something rare, elusive, and unlikely, I would not experience as many!
In his book, Archimedes Bathtub, David Perkins wrote, “the breakthrough transforms one’s mental or physical world in a generative way.” BKEs are distinct from most continuous improvement efforts. The BKE jumps the tracks of sequential thinking to create a step change in results. Something now exists that did not exist before. There’s clarity, where there was none/little. An opportunity is realized. We have jumped onto a new path. BKEs are important and beneficial. They can zoom our results onto new strata in ways that continuous improvement cannot. How? This graph shows the difference between BKEs and continuous improvements.
At work, home, and play, both breakthroughs and continuous improvement efforts are important and valuable. Some goals and problems lend themselves to a continuous improvement approach, where others do not lend themselves to step-by-step thinking. If you want something big to happen, you need to generate a BKE. BKEs are also the best way remedy being stuck or stalled.