Innovation: 15 Steps to a Breakthrough

Meld is a curious word first used to announce displaying your hand in cards. In 1939 the idea of merging or blending appeared, particularly in making whisky. Both of these culminated, for me at least, when the mind-meld was born on the TV series, Star Trek, demonstrated by Mr. Spock, a member of the Vulcan alien race. In a Vulcan mind-meld people share their inner most thoughts, including experience and know-how.

While mind-melds may not be possible today, I have the next best thing. I call it a Breakthrough Session. It is a special kind of meeting that brings people together to pool their collective intelligence, overcoming obstacles to collaboration so they work together enthusiastically and reliably generate breakthroughs. In other words, it builds a collective spirit of ingenuity focused on overcoming obstacles to create significant achievement.

This is no ordinary meeting. It is a face-to-face event in which people talk openly without the usual games that keep them apart.They get deeply involved, engage in thinking closely together, leveraging their different viewpoints for maximum results. Every bit of personal experience is called into service. In a very short period of time, measured in minutes, the group forms a brain-trust. The session stretches and pushes everyone into high-performance. Honestly, people love it. Here in a nutshell, is how you create this event:

1. Create your scope – Identify the details of the breakthrough you will create.

2. Identify Most Valuable Players (MVPs) – those whose participation is required for a true breakthrough.

3. Interview the MVPs one-at-a-time to build trust and learn.

4. Summarize the interviews and distribute to all MVPs

5. Schedule the Breakthrough Session around your MVPs availability.

6. At your meeting, provide cues that a breakthrough is happening, and all required support materials. Maintain an atmosphere ofbusiness casual. Arrange the room for maximum collaboration.

7. Introduce people highlighting each person’s relevant experience and role.

8. Demonstrate the value of multiple perspectives, encouraging people to embrace differing points-of-view.

9. Report what you learned from the MVP interviews

10. Deliver short, story-based educational presentations. Let listeners drive the elaboration.

11. Capture issues as they arise, then group them to create issue nests.

12. Using cross-functional teams, tackle the issue nests and identify solution possibilities.

13. Highlight solutions that are satisfactory to everyone in the room.

14. Map out follow-up actions, including timeline and responsibilities.

15. Distribute documentation including: follow-up actions, a narrative of what happened not to exceed one page, and contact information for everyone.

This process reliably and systematically creates breakthroughs in complex systems. If you want to apply it to your organization, give me a call: 301/229-2221, or send me an email: