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The Pathway for Exponential Improvements

Exponential improvements are available to those who can get over bad habits and start focusing on the right process to achieve breakthroughs.

Are you ready to stop wasting time and settling for small improvements?

Here's a metaphor to help you understand how to make exponential improvements: In our neighborhood, a house stood empty for several years and became an eyesore. The owner was satisfied to live elsewhere and let the house fall apart. He was a rich doctor who didn't care enough about the money he could have gained by renting the house to bother with that option.

As a consequence, the doctor was stuck with property he didn't need and had developed a habit of ignoring. That's what I call a "stall," a bad habit that delays progress.

Finally, a new owner bought the property, bulldozed the old house, and flattened the now-empty lot. He had cleared the way of the obstacles to making a lovely home and yard. That's what I call "stallbusting."

The prior owner's habit could no longer exist. With everything about the property now open for change, the new owner built a lovely home that took best advantage of the property's qualities. In the process, a home was created that could easily house a large family and lots of guests for a party.

By making the location suitable for habitation, the new owner created a better way of using the lot. He had created a 100 percent solution by building a home in the usual way. If instead he had built that new home with 1/20 the time, effort, and resources of a usual home, he would have created a an exponential improvement.

That result might have been accomplished by moving and repairing a lovely home scheduled for demolition to make way for a new road.

Bad habits keep individuals and organizations from accomplishing their potential. What's the problem? Our habits are so ingrained that we usually don't notice that we have them. Otherwise we would get little accomplished as we endlessly second-guessed ourselves about what to focus on and do next. So habits do have positive potential.

The most common bad habits that stall progress are based on blindly following traditions that no longer apply; being closed to new information that's valid; misunderstanding what's going on because of a preconception; avoiding unattractive situations and places; assuming that you are understood when you aren't; involving more people and steps into processes than are absolutely necessary; and putting off required actions.

I call these bad habits "stalls" and name these most common bad habits as tradition, disbelief, misconception, unattractiveness, communications, bureaucratic, and procrastination stalls.

Possible solutions to these bad habits are what I call "stallbusters" (a humorous allusion to the popular movie Ghostbusters). For example, in dealing with tradition stalls, it's a good idea to find out what the original purpose was for the activity. Then check to see if that's still the right purpose. If it isn't, pick a better purpose and make that a new tradition. Design the activities required to accomplish the purposes of the new or the old tradition (when that should be continued).

With those bad habits reduced in their harmful effects, you are now ready to look at the potential to create exponential increases in results. An exponential improvement is any way that you can accomplish a multiple as much as the current results with the same time, effort, and resources. In practice, this achievement might mean using the same time and resources and getting many times the results. Or you might accomplish the same results in a small fraction the time and the resources.

There's an eight-step process that organizes your thinking to accomplish such exponential improvements. The steps are designed to help you access your most helpful memories as well as add new information that will improve your thinking. The 8 steps are:

1. Understand the critical importance of measuring performance. (Otherwise you cannot know whether you are improving.)

2. Decide what to measure. (Focus on the causes of greater performance.)

3. Identify the future best practice and measure it. (What will best-in-the-world performance probably look like in five years?)

4. Implement beyond the future best practice. (Combine cutting-edge practices that no one else has ever combined before.)

5. Identify the theoretical (or ideal) best practice. (This kind of "best practice" is the best anyone will be able to perform the task over the next five years by drawing constructively on the most powerful human emotions, instincts, and preferences.)

6. Come as close as you can to the theoretical (or ideal) best practice. (Shoot for perfection around the simplest possible model of employing human behavior.)

7. Identify the right people and provide the right motivation. (Establish conditions under which the change can succeed.)

8. Repeat steps 1-7 endlessly. (This is the most important point because you will have only scratched the improvement surface with your first 2,000 percent solution.)

My biggest challenge in leading people successfully through the eight steps are to get them to realize how little they know about what tomorrow's cutting-edge practices are going to be, how people routinely do something similar in virtually perfect ways very rapidly, and why it's critical to keep repeating the process.

Of those lessons, continually repeating the first seven steps of the process is the most important and least appreciated point. Here's why repetition is important: Like all new habits, you build skill with regular use. Until you've repeated this process several times and taught someone else, you won't make this a new habit. You may achieve an exponential improvement, but the potential benefits you've left behind when you stop developing the habit are enormously larger than any gain you get from the first time through.

Copyright 2008 Donald W. MitchellFree Web Content, All Rights Reserved

Article Tags: Exponential Improvements, Lovely Home, Best Practice

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Donald Mitchell is chairman of Mitchell and Company, a strategy and financial consulting firm in Weston, MA. He is coauthor of seven books including Adventures of an Optimist, The 2,000 Percent Squared Solution, and The Ultimate Competitive Advantage. You can find free tips for accomplishing 20 times more by registering at:

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