Anatomy Of A Business Breakthrough, In 3 Steps – Forbes

For every size business, there is a thirst and at times a significant or even urgent need for a breakthrough. So how do entrepreneurs “will” a breakthrough to happen? Today I interviewed serial entrepreneur Patrick Gentempo, in New Jersey, who recently sold his largest business (a chiropractic practice) to embark on his newest venture, Action Potential Holdings, to study, coach and share ideas with others about business “as an art form,” he says.

We’ve all read and heard about the legends of the great eureka moments that have changed business and history. The inventor who makes an amazing discovery after thousands of failed experiments. The business innovator struggling to gain traction who suddenly bursts onto the scene with the magic ticket to fame and success, or even the blue-chip company whose stock declines and then suddenly develops an idea or an efficiency that propels its market success and stock to new highs.

Are these scenarios random good luck? A by-product of intense commitment and work? Or the outcomes of particular levels of genius? After 25-plus years of entrepreneurship that includes great successes and bitter failures, Gentempo has studied these questions with the hope of finding some kind of underlying formula that could be consistently reproduced. His result was less complicated than he’d thought. “The Anatomy of a Breakthrough” goes like this:

  1.  Intention, then
  2. Peel off the layers, then
  3. Outside inspiration, and voila. Breakthrough.
Jack Andraka, high school student, revolutionized the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer (Image courtesy of Forbes.com)

Jack Andraka, high school student, revolutionized the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer (Image courtesy of Forbes.com)

As an example of how the application works, Gentempo shared the story of a young genius, Jack Andraka, who he recently met in Washington, D.C. When Jack was 15 years old, he created a new diagnostic test for pancreatic cancer that is 20 times faster, 26,000 times less expensive, and over 100 times more sensitive than the current diagnostic tests for pancreatic cancer. And—bonus–the test also works for ovarian and lung cancer as well. This breakthrough earned him Grand Prize, the 2012 Gordon E. Moore Award, at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. How did he do it?

1. Intention

Jack had an uncle who seemed perfectly fine and healthy and then one day was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Shortly after that, his uncle was dead. The speed at which this occurred was startling to Jack and very painful to his family.  “Why is it that once pancreatic cancer is diagnosed that is too late to do anything about it?” he asked. Jack set a clear intention to find a way to diagnose pancreatic cancer much earlier so that peoples’ lives could be saved and other families wouldn’t have to suffer the way his family had.

2. Peel Off The Layers Of The Known

Jack studied and researched everything he could find about what was known relative to the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.  He obtained every bit of information available to help him understand what data and premises have brought us to our current state-of-the-art in pancreatic cancer diagnosis. As one might suspect, all of these “layers of the known” led him to the current conclusions that doctors, researchers, and scientists had all drawn relative to the best way of diagnosing pancreatic cancer.

Gentempo notes here, however, that this part of the process is vital preparation for the breakthrough to occur. Layer by layer, the onion of current knowledge has to be peeled back as a shedding process before a breakthrough can push through.

3. Outside Inspiration

One day while sitting in his high school science class as the teacher was droning on with a lecture, Jack was reading an article in a technology magazine under his desk about carbon nanotubes. The article had nothing to do with pancreatic cancer or even healthcare. But lurking in the back of Jack’s mind was his intention, coupled with everything he’d learned about the current state of pancreatic cancer diagnosis. Then it suddenly struck him that carbon nanotube technology could be applied to the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, that doing so would lead to much earlier detection and much greater sensitivity in the accurate diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.

Because Jack had a clear intention and had peeled off the layers of the known, he was prepared for outside inspiration from an entirely unrelated source of input, and he accomplished a world-changing breakthrough.

Patrick Gentempo, business expert, serial entrepreneur (image courtesy of PatrickGentempo.com)

Patrick Gentempo, business expert and serial entrepreneur (image courtesy of PatrickGentempo.com)

How does this process apply to entrepreneurs? Well, let’s think about a few examples, large and small.

First, an example from small business. Automated inventory. Until not so many years ago, it was assumed that until a company reached roughly $2-3 million in revenue, their financial software was likely QuickBooks (still is) and their inventory solution was…. paper towels (no kidding), spreadsheets taped to the wall, or some kind of third party utility suite. Then, magically, at the revenue turning point the company would migrate into a full-on (or at least “lite”) version of IT-intensive MRP (Materials Requirement Planning) or ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning). Quite the leap. My friends at Fishbowl Inventory (we have no current business relationship, but I have worked with them in the past) set an intention to find a better solution for other small businesses like their own. They dissected and studied the process and parts of all known inventory solutions, large and small.

The result: They discovered small businesses didn’t need every part of an MRP or ERP solution (and they especially didn’t need the heavy cost and maintenance of all the extra IT). But they very much needed 3-4 particular features. The company was able to develop an entirely new approach to the inventory problem small-to-medium businesses face by integrating with QuickBooks (instead of trying to replace or recreate it) and producing a solution that since 2007 has brought the company (and its customers) a great deal of success.

What Next?

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