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The Formula for Breakthrough Growth: Andrew Ballard (Transcript)

Andrew Ballard at TEDxSnoIsleLibraries

Here is the full transcript of growth strategist Andrew Ballard’s talk titled “The Formula for Breakthrough Growth” at TEDxSnoIsleLibraries. In this talk he believes that personal and professional breakthroughs can be achieved through the application of a simple formula.

Andrew Ballard is author of “Your Opinion Doesn’t Matter” and operates a research-based growth strategies company, Marketing Solutions, with his wife and CEO Sandra Ballard.

Andrew Ballard – TEDx Talk TRANSCRIPT

I’m here today because there’s something I want. There’s something I want for you. You, too.

I want it for you because I found it for myself, and that’s breakthrough growth. I’m talking about life-changing success.

Have you ever wondered why some people and some organizations achieve just remarkable success?

Well, I always have, and from 25 years of researching and working with successful leaders and organizations, I discovered that most of them have three common traits. So I put them into a formula.

But before going there, we need to address the enemy in the room. Status quo is the enemy of success. And I think the reason so many people feel content with the way things are and avoid change is because of fear, specifically, the fear of failure, and that’s because of our relationship with failure.

But failure is not the absence of success. It’s part of achieving success.

So, how would you approach life differently if you knew you couldn’t fail? Just think about what you could accomplish, the impact you could have on your family and your business, even your entire community.

I know, other than death and taxes, not much in life is certain, but what I’m getting to here is that highly successful people have a different relationship with failure. It’s not that they think that failure is not an option. It’s that they approach life differently. They embrace failure as part of achieving success.

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So, why should success matter to you and me? Because if we want to achieve growth for ourselves and for the people and institutions we care about, we can’t be stymied by our fear of failure.

So, now that we’ve put failure in the proper context and shared why success and growth matter, I’ll share how we came to this formula.

I’m in marketing research, and our company has conducted thousands of interviews with leaders in business, government, and nonprofit organizations. The coursework I teach at the University of Washington studies the dynamics of successful and failed business ventures, and that’s how we discovered the three elements of breakthrough growth.

So, what is breakthrough growth?

Well, for me, it’s about generating a life-changing experience or accomplishment. Well, how is that possible? Vision plus insight plus innovation are what generate breakthrough growth.

So let’s break those three elements down.

1. Vision

First, vision.

By vision, what I mean is defining your preferred future. It establishes where you’re going, what you want to accomplish. It should be your North Star; it also should be aspirational.

JFK announced his vision. Fearing the Soviets would win the Space Race, in 1961 JFK announced his vision for putting an American on the moon within that decade. That audacious vision led to one of the most amazing accomplishments in the 20th century.

A little closer down-to-earth example resides right here in Edmonds, Washington in a nine-year-old girl named Kayla. Her vision is to help displaced animals by funding local rescue shelters. With the help of her parents, this budding entrepreneur started a kids’ clothing line of T-shirts that had animals on them dressed up in cute costumes. You do not need to be president to have a vision.

Next. Yeah, that’s a little closer to home than I expected.

Second. I didn’t say this would be comfortable.

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2. Inspiration

Second, inspiration. Maya Angelou said that when we know better, we can do better. Insight is about knowing better. Gaining insight is about gathering the relevant information.

We gather information on our clients’ customers and competitors. Essentially, we bridge their information gap. Recently we worked with an IT company, and they were convinced their customers cared most about network administration. The insight our customer research exposed was that the customers weren’t worried about their networks. Their greatest fear was on security and data breaches.

Had we innovated a new go-to-market strategy without that critical insight, we would have put our client on the wrong path. Insight puts you on the right path.

3. Innovation

Last, third, innovation. Something new, the first of its kind. More often innovation is about improving on something that already exists. Either way, innovation or renovation is about creating a better experience.

The original iPhone was introduced in 2007. It was the first of its kind. A year later, Apple improved on that existing product by releasing the 3G. Both products generated breakthrough growth for the company. And Apple is known for continuous innovation.

Since 2007, they’ve released 44 different versions of this product!

I’m a statistician by trade, and I’ve run the numbers and figure in 20 years they’ll be releasing the iPhone 3000.

Not likely; my point is that innovation and breakthroughs lead to other breakthrough opportunities. Certainly they’ve seized on that.

If we want to achieve a breakthrough, we need to innovate by doing something new, special, or different.


Yes, sequence is important, because vision inspires insight, and insight informs innovation.

Back in the early ’90s, when I became the executive director of a local March of Dimes chapter, we were not hitting our financial targets, and it was the first time I had ever run an organization before.

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So I met with as many people as I could to learn more about our chapter and understand how we were viewed. My last meeting was at the University Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit where I was introduced to baby Rose.

At 22 weeks gestation, she only weighed one and a quarter pounds. She was so tiny. Encouraged by the nurse, I reluctantly eased my arm through the sleeve of the incubator, and I gently placed my little pinky in Rose’s hand. She latched on like her life depended on it.

That floored me; that experience has changed me forever.

But at that moment, I realized we needed to put the mission of the March of Dimes in the hands of our leaders. So we held our next board meeting at the hospital, right across the hall from the NICU, the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

And before starting our meeting, we all walked across the hall to meet baby Rose, each of us experiencing her fragility, watching her cling to life. Rose humanized our vision by giving every baby a healthy start at life, but we knew we had to start hitting our financial goals to continue funding that vision.

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