Are Breakthroughs a Matter of Luck?

By: Ted Santos


This article presents a dilemma for me. My commitment in this article is to give you a new perspective on problems/disruptions. In fact, I am asking you to completely alter your relationship to problems and see them as empowering. And I know that I am asking that in a country with a culture that says avoid problems. I am asserting that what is missing from your life is a big enough problem. I am not saying you can turn problems into opportunities. I am asking you to consider that you have to go through the problem before you can intentionally create a breakthrough. So you can forget about solving problems in your life or organization. I am asking you to invent problems.


This article talks about some of the tools required to allow you to effectively create breakthroughs that cause big problems for you to work through. With the proper tools, problems are still problems. However, you are more likely to keep your focus on the outcome and less likely to be derailed from accomplishing the breakthrough.

Letís look at it from the perspective of the corporation.

Every enterprise runs according to some current or momentum, much like a stream. Some streams have currents that dry up and disappear. Other companies disrupt the market and evolve into raging rivers that swallow up everything in their path. Whatever your organizationís current, it represents business as usual. It includes the processes, metrics and management required to create a perpetual enterprise.

While nearly all companies intend to become a raging current, most grow in increments. They rely on cost cutting to increase profitability or they acquire competitors to demonstrate growth. However, you cannot cut your way or buy your way to a breakthrough. If you cut too much, the stream eventually dries up. Likewise, too many acquisitions will dry up your cash flow leaving you standing in the mud. A company needs something truly innovative to achieve its greatest potential.

Breakthroughs represent one such way of turning a meandering company into a thrashing river. The right breakthrough adds value to stakeholders and creates new revenue streams. Moreover, once successful, it enhances the brand name and impacts what happens in the business as usual current as well.

In the case of Apple Computer, their incredible growth spurts have resulted from breakthroughs that have gone outside of their core competencies (e.g. a computer company producing cell phones) and disrupted the marketplace. Moreover, their innovations have increased the flow of the existing current or business as usual. They sell more computers as a result of iPods, iPhones and iPads.

Some people explain breakthroughs as luck. A company just happened to have the right product in the right place at the right time. Others can only explain how it worked after the fact. They are like the Monday morning quarterback who knows what should have happened once it has already been done. None of these explanations can establish a workable platform for achieving breakthroughs.

Whatever allows for breakthroughs is invisible. It serves like the operating system in your computer. While you never see it, it is responsible for allowing computer programs to function independently or collectively. However, like an operating system, it is still a replicable model once you are able to distinguish it.

Taking Action Leadership Integrity Committment Quotes Disruptive Leadership Model by Ted SantosFrom personal experience and working with extraordinary athletes, musicians and business leaders, I have created a process called the Disruptive Leadership Modelô. The model can be taken apart in pieces and put back together in various combinations to accomplish the same goal: breakthroughs.

To distinguish the method for creating breakthroughs on purpose, it will be important to look at the pieces of the puzzle. However, first letís understand why it is called disruptive.

It is called disruptive because most breakthroughs are initially disruptive to the organization. It requires people to think and do things differently. Perhaps that is the reason most companies avoid breakthroughs. Disruptions are problems if you are not skilled at managing yourself and others. It is the reason they are not a matter of luck. Without structures to support breakthroughs, they just look like problems. And most people just want to get rid of problems. Therefore, there is a certain mindset needed to effectively manage breakthroughs.

Throughout my 20 years as an international traveler, C-Level executive, sales trainer, trusted advisor to C-Level executives, and record-breaking performance as an athlete, I have distinguished patterns in my performance as well as the extraordinary performance of others.

Here is how I have distinguished the elements of the model. Although the whole is greater than the parts, if you remove a part, the value will be diminished.

Responsibility is the ability to identify oneís contribution to an outcome, whether a success or failure. Realize that you individually have a purpose in achieving the outcome. And what you do or donít do can impact final results. This includes what you say and donít say.

Accountability is taking ownership. It is the segment of the project one will own. Whether you are overseeing operations or contributing to them.

Integrity is when your actions reflect or are correlated with what you say. If you say you will do something, do it when you said and the way you said. If there is a reason you can no longer fulfill the task on time, communicate that to the appropriate parties immediately. High integrity dissolves mysteries in projects. Oftentimes, people expect you to just know what and when they will accomplish a task. High integrity requires you to say what and when you will do something and then keep your word.

Without this base, a corporation will eventually collapse. Itís the foundation that will keep you focused on achieving your goal even when the direction of your current seems uncertain or off course.


Commitment is who you become. For example, you can be a commitment to innovate disruptive technology that is more valuable than existing products or services. Or you can be a commitment to double production without adding resources. A commitment is an intention to create something. It is an intention to accomplish a possibility beyond what has already been achieved. A commitment is not a task or something to do. Extraordinary commitments require one to become the commitment, instead checking off a to-do list.

Stand is the end game or reason your business exists. This will be your mantra. You find leadershipís stand having a huge impact on the culture of an organization, department or team. It becomes the value system of the enterprise. It is the platform from which all stakeholders stand next to and partner with leadership. It is the life-blood of the company. It keeps everyone together in the face of success or failure. An example is the Founding Fathers of the US taking a stand for liberty and freedom.

Declaration is the willingness to speak the future into existence. Instead of reacting to circumstances, you create circumstances for which the competition has to respond. In essence, you invent the future, instead of having the best reaction to the future. It is a way of manifesting a new reality, even though there is no blue print for it. It requires putting a lot at stake. The Founding Fathers put their fate on the line to declare independence from Great Britain.

Without a stand or declaration, itís just talk. When you say what the future will be, instead of hoping, and your actions are correlated to the declaration, you stand a chance of making the impossible possible.

As you move through the Disruptive Leadership Modelô, it becomes clear that the process quickly shapes mental models in the direction of high performance. It also allows you to more effectively gain insight into what you really are committed to accomplishing as well as what stops you from getting it done. This holds true for every leader also.

From experience, the vast majority of business leaders have a vision that they would like to pursue. Except, they feel it is not the right time, the economy is wrong, their people are not ready, donít have resourcesÖ When people or companies are able to get clear about what they are committed to accomplishing and become comfortable declaring a future that currently does not exist, it is easier to develop plans and strategies.

The empowering part of this method is that it allows for people and organizations to be comfortable with the breakdown that declarations create. If you look closely, the moment you declare a future that has never existed and stand for it to happen, you have created a problem. If it has never happened, there is a good chance that you donít have all the answers to bring it to fruition.

The way people usually deal with problems like that is to ignore them or say it is not the right time. We are taught to only make bold moves when we can prove it can be done. However, when John F. Kennedy declared a man on the moon, there was no proof it could be done. There was a huge gap between the declaration and the reality of it happening. Declarations expose gaps in possibility. The job of everyone involved is to uncover whatís missing in the gap and then deploy resources to fulfill that missing. If it is done responsibly, what once looked insurmountable can be achieved with committed resources. In other words, there has to be some grounding in the past to support the declaration. An accountant who says next week I will build a ship to fly to the moon is just talking about a pipedream.

In addition to bridging the gap of a declaration, throughout the life of projects, disruptions will occur. Developing mastery with breakdowns allows projects to stay on course. It keeps everyone focused on whatís missing, instead of figuring out whatís wrong.


More importantly, intentional breakdowns can instill innovation and accelerate revenue growth. Some of the other benefits include new knowledge being acquired, motivation is increased, it is easier to attract top talent, people are more willing to embrace change, and the business becomes branded as leading edge innovators.

The Disruptive Leadership Modelô empowers organizations to purposefully reach that point which is outside of the business as usual current instead of depending on hope and luck. It is a very effective model for empowering people and organizations to responsibly come out of a comfort zone and produce results that would have never occurred in the paradigm of business as usual.

In fact, most breakthroughs change the future of the person or company forever. This model empowers people to intentionally and more effectively pursue breakthroughs as well as the inherent breakdowns that accompany them.

What do you think? I would love to hear your opinion. Or if you want to write me on a specific topic, connect through my blog


Ted Santos is CEO of Turnaround Investment Partners (TIP). TIP serves as an outsourced Chief Innovation Officer to companies that are not meeting revenue growth expectations. Ted partners with CEOs and board members, serves as a trusted advisor to companies going through change, and coaches executives to uncover and penetrate untapped markets, shift corporate cultures and align staff and management to the corporate vision.

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