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SEVEN PRINCIPLES OF BREAKTHROUGH THINKING.

Few things are impracticable in themselves; and it is for want of application, rather than
means, that men fail of success.
-La Rochefoucauld
Studies have shown that around 8% of the people are intuitive Breakthrough Thinkers. You
may be a staunch advocate of one of the following principles, such as systems thinking or
people involvement. Our purpose is to show you the greater impact you can have by
consciously integrating all seven of these principles and using them deliberately; and by
being able to tell others what process of thinking you are using.
1. UNIQUENESS PRINCIPLE: Assume initially that the problem, issue or opportunity
is different. Dont copy a solution or use a technique from elsewhere just because the
situation may appear to be similar.
Discovery consists of looking at the same thing as everyone else and thinking something
different.
-Albert Szent-Gyorgi
The most successful problem solvers do not begin by trying to find out what has worked for
someone else. We cant clone others successes. Copying what others have done doesnt
necessarily produce the same results for us. We dont know where others have come from and
more importantly where they are headed. If we could get their solutions to work for us, by the
time we succeeded, these others would have likely continued ahead of us. This is because:

No two situations are alike. For starters, people in each are always different

Each problem is embedded in a unique array of related problems

Problems that may look alike may have different purpose needs

Tomorrows technology is already different than todays

2. PURPOSES PRINCIPLE: Explore and expand purposes to understand what really


needs to be accomplished.
It is not enough to just do your best or work hard; You must know what to work on.
-W. Edwards Deming
Make sure you are working on the right problem. Ask, what are we trying to accomplish?
And, What is the purpose of accomplishing that? and What is the purpose of that?
Focusing on purposes lets the uniqueness of the situation become clear and helps strip away
nonessential aspects to avoid working on just the visible problem.
Always start an activity with a hierarchy of purposes: Purposes for a meeting. Purposes for a
project or program or plan. Purposes for training. Purposes for a product or service. Purposes
for a system. Purposes for a decision. Purposes for collecting information. Anything we do

has a purpose within a hierarchy of purposes. Starting with purposes is commonly accepted
wisdom although not everyone practices it under fire.
What makes Breakthrough Thinking different is the expansion of purposes from a small
purpose up through a hierarchy of and larger larger purposes. Understanding the context (of
smaller and larger purposes) of the situation provides focus, and this focus gives you a
strategic advantage.
3. SOLUTION-AFTER-NEXT (SAN) PRINCIPLE: Think future solutions for the focus
purpose and work backwards. Consider the solution you would recommend if in three
years you had to start all over. Make changes today based on what might be the solution
of the future.
Creativity consists of coming up with many ideas, not just that one great idea.
-Charles Thompson
We must look beyond the immediate situation and its solution, to the solution we would use
the next time we had to address it. Work backwards from an ideal future solution for
achieving needed purposes, not forward from todays situation or problem. Having a target
solution in the future gives direction to near-term solutions and infuses them with larger
purposes.
Most people associate creativity only with a process that produces a novel idea that is
accepted as useful or satisfying to a group at some times. Creativity is therefore highly
desirable as part of this principle. But one of the lessons we learn from studies of leading
thinkers is that all of the principles and the process steps of reasoning need creativity, not just
in one solution-idea-generating activity. We call this purposeful creativity.
4. SYSTEMS PRINCIPLE: Everything we seek to create and restructure is a system.
Think of solutions and ideas as a system of eight elements. Use a solution framework
that includes all elements and interrelationships.
Problems and solutions nest within a complex array of related systems and problems.
Bob Wiele
A poorly detailed solution may leave you with multiple problems in place of the original
situation. Most of what we have to cope with in problem solving is unseen. The systems
understanding of our solution serves as sonar and radar, designed to illuminate the seveneighths of all solution ideas and recommendations that otherwise might be overlooked. Every
solution or system is part of a larger system and solving one problem inevitably leads to
another.
Understanding the elements that comprise a solution lets you determine in advance the
complexities you must incorporate and the actions you must take in the implementation of the
solution, while still keeping the future as a guide. Breakthrough Thinking defines these eight
system elements:
Eight System Elements
1. Purpose: mission, aim, need
2. Inputs: people, things, information

3. Outputs: people, things, information


4. Operating Steps: process and conversion tasks
5. Environment: physical & organizational
6. Human Enablers: people, responsibilities, skills, to help in the sequence*
7. Physical Enablers: equipment, facilities, materials to use in the sequence*
8. Information Enablers: knowledge, instructions*
* Enables the Process but does not become part of the Output
5. NEEDED INFORMATION COLLECTION PRINCIPLE: Collect only the
information that is necessary to continue the solution-finding process. Know your
purposes for collecting data. Study solutions, not problems.
The breeding ground for barriers to fresh ideas and the implementation of them is in the
detailed analysis of what exists.
Dont be a DRIP: Data Rich and Information Poor. So much time is wasted collecting wrong
and useless data, in recording it, compiling it, analyzing it, documenting it, justifying it and
reporting what it means. It is one reason why project teams struggle so much and get bogged
down. The benefit of limiting information collection to what is needed, results in:

requiring less total time, cost, energy, and document handling

providing a high quality of usable information

eliminating the defensiveness of people when reviewing data about what exists

identifying better system interrelationships

providing guidance to implementing solutions

We are trying to reach superior decisions through needed information. Data can give us
information. Information can give us knowledge. Knowledge can give us learning, and
learning can give us the wisdom to make superior decisions. What we will do with the
information (purposes) provides the wisdom and learning we need.

Determine what information is really needed and not really needed

Collect data on purposes and possible solutions rather than initially on the problem
-extensive data gathering may make you an expert on the problem but it may also
prevent you from seeing many alternatives.

Collect information from a variety of sources and share it broadly

Ask how the solution could work become an expert about possible future
-solutions

Dont become an expert about the problem. Become an expert on solutions. Before taking the
time and wasting the effort to collect and analyze extensive data, determine what purposes
would be achieved by gathering that data. Data is only a representation of the real world:

The future can not be predicted from a perfect knowledge of the past or present

Relevance is better than -accuracy

Collecting information is not a neutral process

6. PEOPLE DESIGN PRINCIPLE: Give everyone who will be affected by the solution
or idea the opportunity to participate throughout the process of its development with
the other principles. A solution will work only if people know about it and help to
develop and improve it.
We cannot talk people into accepting the future if they havent been there.
Individuals are the core to a solutions success. Their concerns and ideas must be treated as
the fabric of excellent problem solving. Breakthrough Thinking actually startsand sustains
the entire process with this principle. People are much more willing to take part in solution
finding when uniquenesses, purposes, SAN, systems and needed information are guides to
involvement. Changing the thinking process changes the feelings of people. The benefits
we obtain from People Design include:

Their knowledge of the secrets (purposes, technology fiction, solutions-after-next


and systems) of the front line

Their support of the larger purposes to be achieved rather than resistance to change

Their understanding of the principles and participation in the PTR process

Getting the creative (technology fiction) juices- -flowing

Getting the team to focus on customer-based perspectives

Their emotional attachment to a future they helped to create

Together reaching better solutions

7. BETTERMENT TIMELINE PRINCIPLE: Install changes with built-in seeds of


future change. Know when to fix it before it breaks. Know when to change it.
Even if you are on the right track youll get run over if you just stand there.
Will Rogers
No matter how effectively you create a new process or system, or improve the present one it
will never be good enough to meet the needs of various customers in the future. What
happens is a kind of invisible, slowly creeping process rotting. Processes that once worked
extremely well will be required to meet additional purposes and requirements over time. New

technology will render certain processes obsolete. People and environments will change.
Assumptions upon which the original solution was based will go away.
The Betterment Timeline Principle refutes the conventional wisdom that you shouldnt fix
something if it isnt broken. For a solution to continue to be effective, it has to be maintained
and upgraded continually toward the target solution-after-next. The assumptions, purposes,
technology, environment and constraints upon which the solution is based change with time.
Even the target needs to be updated regularly. Breakthrough Thinking Solutions are meant to
be up to future date. Because time tarnishes all solutions, Breakthrough Thinking:

Includes in the change the seeds of later change

context of larger purposes

solution-after-next target

future dimension of system

Prepares a schedule for change and -improvement

Takes advantage of long term -perspectives

Enables us to learn continuously in a rapidly -changing environment

Builds in the continuing improvement concept rather than adding it on as separate


assignment.