Seeking and Seeing Breakthrough Moments

Breakthrough quote Soren Kaplan.png

Hate surprises? Plan on staying the same.

Surprises propel into the future or drive into the past.

Problem is, surprise signals uncertainty. Organizations hate uncertainty. Extraordinary leaders realize surprise is a catalyst not an enemy. Reject surprises to your own peril.

Surprise energizes innovation.

I asked the “expert on surprise,” Soren Kaplan, “If you could start over, knowing what you know today, what would you do.”

Soren replied:

  1. Embrace uncertainty rather than fight it.
  2. Use the natural paradoxes of life as a source of creativity.
  3. Seek out surprises to challenge assumptions.
  4. Never settle for incrementalism but rather always go for the breakthrough.”

Soren’s response helps me understand why organizations like Cisco, Colgate, Disney, Medtronic, and Visa consult with him.

Incrementalism or breakthrough:

I think breakthroughs are often the result of a series of incremental advances. But Soren said, “Never settle for incrementalism.” I called him to explore.

Soren doesn’t reject the power of incremental advances. He imagines, however, a life of maximum impact. He dreams of making a big difference, of breaking through.


Seek breakthroughs. Don’t wait for them to find you.

You may see breakthroughs coming. It’s more likely they’ll surprise you. One morning you’ll shield your eyes from their awkward glare.

Whether you see breakthroughs coming or they surprise you, seek them.

  1. Embrace uncertainty.
  2. Use paradoxes.
  3. Seek surprises.
  4. Never settle for incrementalism.

Sadly, breakthrough moments are missed because you don’t seek them or you don’t see them when they arrive.

Breakthroughs happen when:

  1. Frustration outweighs satisfaction.
  2. Someone believes in you more than you believe in yourself.
  3. Fresh eyes observe stale attitudes.
  4. Someone courageously names the elephant in the room.
  5. New faces cross your path.

Listen in: Soren talking with me about surprise.

Soren’s book: Leapfrogging. (A favorite of mine)

Soren on Leadership Freak:

How can leaders see breakthrough moments?

How can leaders seek breakthrough moments?