How leadership and drive create commercial innovations that sweep the world


Based on an international study of innovation conducted by Arthur D Little, Breakthroughs! testifies to the power that believing in one's dreams can give. This book is also a riveting study of people who, by finding big needs and little openings and filling them, made world-sweeping commercial breakthroughs that have in some way touched the lives of most of us. Behind each of these stories is a remarkable account of impossible visions made possible by human endeavor. It examines the creativity and ingenuity, determination and the special skills, the politics and perceptions that were required to open the way to new processes and products that have changed the way millions of us do things. The studies include: JVC and the video, 3M and the Post-it pads, Chem Lawn, Tajamet ulcer drug, Sony's Walkman, the CT Scanner, the microwave oven, Toyota assembly system, Nike trainers, the Nantilus exercise system, polypropylene, Federal Express, Club Mediterranean, Philips' CD.

Table of content


1 Introduction:

  • Stalking the Breakthrough
  • Defining Breakthroughs—Bisociative Thinking
  • Making Breakthroughs Possible

2 The VCR: A Miracle at JVC

  • "Be Very Polite and Gentle"
  • A Recorder the Size of a Jukebox
  • A Critical Meeting and a Crucial Breakthrough
  • Twelve Goals for a Home-Use VCR
  • The Inventor and the Enforcer Versus the Organization
  • The Oil Embargo and an Important Figure
  • The Sixty-Minute Difference
  • A Payoff to the Long Wait
  • An Unusual Sales Tool: Humility
  • Polite and Gentle, but Crafty
  • Finding the Value of VCRs
  • A Triumph of Chutzpah

3 3M's Post-it Notepads «Never Mind. I'll Do It Myself."

  • Putting Post-its in the Right Hands
  • Bottom-up Support for a New Product
  • Monomers and Polymers
  • The Search for a Purpose
  • A New Leader of the R&D Team
  • From Concept to Production
  • From Production to Marketing
  • The Roots of 3M Innovation

4 ChemLawn and Dick Duke's Lonely Battle

  • Good Work and Fair Dealing
  • I Don't Care What It Costs, Just Come and Do It
  • A Leader Committed to His Employees
  • Easy Lawn Care for a Growing Market
  • The Essential Personal Touch
  • Building a Process by Building People
  • A Poor Person in a Small Town
  • ChemLawn and Federal Express
  • Necessary Chemistry
  • The Thing Just Mushroomed
  • Southbound and Moving Up
  • Management by Bombshell
  • Keep Taking Care of People

5 Tagamet: Instead of Surgery

  • Gathering the Right People
  • The Philadelphia Story
  • Histamine and Antihistamine
  • Managing the Flow of Information
  • The Same Mistake for Four Years
  • A Company Waiting for a New Drug
  • Burimamide and Metiamide
  • Black, the Absent-Minded Professor
  • Eager Salespeople and a Huge Market
  • Metiamide Crashes; Enter Cimetidine
  • Tagamet at Last
  • The Cost of Success
  • The Birth of Bioengineering

6 The Walkman: Not Such a Dumb Product

  • Breathtaking Sound in Privacy
  • The Critical Connection
  • The Chairman Who Loved Gadgets
  • A Pervasive Skepticism
  • The Chairman Versus the Engineers
  • The Mysterious Market
  • Staying Ahead of the Pack
  • Whiskey, Sake, and Three Days at the Beach
  • An Amazing Feat of Product Development
  • No Monomaniacs at Sony

7 The CAT Scanner: Exploratory Surgery's Replacement

  • Told to Go Away and Think
  • Seeing Beyond X-rays
  • Preparing the Soil and Planting the Seed
  • An Intellect and Intuition Working in Harmony
  • Scanning a Live Person
  • The Prototype Was the Paradigm
  • American Attitudes Build a British Legacy
  • Resistance from Managers, Enthusiasm from Physicians
  • Laboratories Become Factories
  • Dropping the Baton
  • Just One More Thing

8 The Microwave Oven: 'Tis Black Magic!

  • Frontlines to the Home Front
  • Money Down a Rat Hole
  • A New Beginning in Japan
  • A Fresh Approach
  • Strange Bedfellows
  • Meeting the Price
  • First, You Get the Mule's Attention
  • Testing the Market
  • Educating Fears Away
  • Quality-of-Life Improvement
  • Why So Long?
  • Affordability
  • The Savior of Radarange

9 Toyota: A Supermarket for Cars

  • Exceptional Efficiency
  • Just-in-Time
  • Toyota's Towering Sensei
  • The Importance of Jidoka
  • Never Trust a Machine
  • The Quiet Assembly Line
  • A Progressive, Logical Reinvention
  • Always Think Ahead
  • A Timeless Method of Learning
  • The Die Is Recast How Life Should Be

10 Nike: The Competitive Response

  • Coach to Cobbler
  • Just Do It
  • A Blueprint for Chaos
  • The Nike Mystique
  • A Revolutionary Crusade
  • A New Industry Standard
  • Resisting a Takeover and Regrouping
  • A New Name, a New Focus
  • Riding the Wave of the "Me Decade"
  • Grass-Roots Advertising
  • People Who Like Being Together

11 Nautilus: The Unfinished Breakthrough

  • A Move to Fitness
  • A Lifelong Passion
  • Real Experts Understand
  • Refusing Limits
  • Starting Over
  • A Rotational Animal
  • Measurable, Adjustable Results
  • Risky, Hard Work
  • Mr. America Means Nothing
  • A Blessing and a Curse
  • The Undeveloped Potential
  • Dumb as Einstein
  • Enemies Everywhere
  • The Next Generation

12 Modern Polypropylene: Dreams Deferred

  • An Explosion of Research
  • Ambition Postponed
  • A New Japanese Enterprise
  • Pathfinding
  • The Dark Age
  • Catalysts
  • A Brief Reprieve
  • No Bureaucrat
  • A Union and a Reunion
  • Bigger Problem, Bigger Advantage
  • Pilot to Production
  • No Sleep for Two Years
  • A Still Happier Ending
  • Finding the Best People

13 Federal Express: Knights on the Last White Horse

  • More Work, No More Time
  • In the Trenches Together
  • Roots of a Revolution
  • In the Real World
  • Baptism by Fire
  • Testing the Waters
  • A Sense of Urgency
  • Flexibility and Finding the Right People
  • Opening Night Fiasco
  • Guerilla Tactics
  • More Bad News
  • A Conflict of Leadership
  • Perspective
  • Owning the Market
  • Hello-o-o Federal
  • Selling Peace of Mind

14 Club Mediterranee: Dreamers, Accountants, and Entertainers

  • The Gentils Organisateurs (GOs)
  • The Chef de Village
  • A Holiday More Remote, More Natural
  • Protocol
  • Nomadism and No Money
  • Too Much Success
  • The American Adventure
  • Clubs Today and Tomorrow
  • Keeping the Spirit

15 Philips's Compact Disc: The Dutch Giant Thinks Small

  • An Unlikely Explosion
  • The Proof Is in the Hearing
  • Optical Beginnings
  • Adapting to an Existing Market
  • Selling International Standards
  • A Catalog of Problems
  • Feeding the Dragon
  • Technical Difficulties and Secrets Shared
  • Convincing Record Makers
  • Averting a Conspiracy
  • The Critics Convinced
  • Unexpected Demand
  • Breaking Tradition
  • A Favorable Echo

16 Message to Managers

  • Myths and Realities About Breakthroughs
  • Eliminating Barriers to Breakthroughs
  • Spotting Breakthroughs and Nurturing Them
  • Investing to Get Information
  • Managing for Innovation
  • Endnotes
  • Bibliography
  • Index


P. Ranganath Nayak, John M. Ketteringham