We typically think of breakthroughs as something born in a flash of brilliance. It’s a powerful new insight or a revolutionary new product that catapults us to success. This kind of thinking requires us to start with something that already sets us down the path of delivering a breakthrough. A fantastic result requires an equally fantastic beginning. In fact, breakthroughs begin in much more humble and accessible ways.

Where breakthroughs start

At their heart a breakthrough is about one thing: honoring commitments. Breakthroughs start with the commitment to deliver a breakthrough. Instead of a ‘nice-to-have’ or setting a goal with someone else, try creating an explicit, public promise to deliver a breakthrough. This is essential, especially in those circumstances in which what it will take to deliver that breakthrough is unknown. This is because what is absent is very powerful and a shared commitment to have a breakthrough is the only thing that can compel a group of people to act in ways that truly marks a departure from how things are usually done.

What it looks like to deliver a breakthrough

Promising to deliver a breakthrough is not sufficient to delivering a breakthrough. Consider the prospects of a team that has committed to an unprecedented result for their organization, but fails to fulfill the promises to each other needed to make that breakthrough happen along the way. The prospects are dim; they will fail. There is no hope for organizations that fail to do what they said they were going to do when it comes to delivering a breakthrough.

Doing what one says they are going to do is the foundation of breakthrough results. Making promises that directly forward the breakthrough result and rigorously accounting for the promises is what it looks like to do the work needed to deliver a breakthrough.

Things to consider
• What will it take for me, and the people around me to commit and promise a breakthrough?
• What are the specific, discrete actions that need to take place such that a breakthrough is realized?
• How can we promise and rigorously account for those promises as our work unfolds?

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