Some of today’s ordinary activities were seen as “impossible” dreams just a few years ago. For example, 20 years ago decoding the human genome was viewed as being one of the world’s most difficult yet-to-be-accomplished projects. Yet today, an individual’s genome can be decoded in a few weeks for about $1,000, a tiny fraction of what was spent for the first one.

Consequently, we need to realize that those who seize the right opportunities can benefit millions in new ways, establish massive industries where none exist today, and enjoy unprecedented organizational growth and profits. However, to succeed requires differentiating what cannot soon be done from what can be at reasonable cost.

From studying how many “impossible” achievements were turned into routine tasks, I have observed seven key questions that could have been used to anticipate sooner the potential for such advances. Let me share those questions with you to guide your search for such valuable opportunities.

1. What improvements are needed to turn an “impossible” achievement into a routine task?

In the case of low-cost decoding of individual genomes, someone had to identify which parts of the genome contained the most valuable information and learn how to interpret what is found. Equipment costs for gathering the information needed to be greatly reduced. Software was also needed to automate data analysis. Those who would interpret and use the analysis needed to learn how to do so in simple, effective, low-cost ways.

2. What rate of progress would normally occur in each contributing improvement?

The best way to answer this question is by combining time-series analysis (compounding past improvement rates) with discerning how rapidly experience will be gained (expecting total costs in constant dollars to drop by 20 to 30 percent every time accumulated experience, think serial numbers, doubles) for each area where improvements are needed to turn the “impossible” into the usual.

3. How long will it probably take for the current rates of improvement to turn the “impossible” into the “routine”?

The answer will be determined by the slowest of the essential developments. Be sure to note what these developments are and why they will take longer.

4. How can the slowest essential developments be sped up or bypassed?

In the case of decoding the human genome, one organization noted that supplying standard equipment to all those working on the task would greatly accelerate cost reductions. Further, it was observed that “brute force” calculations could speed analysis for the first time, as well as pave the way for “off-the-shelf” automated analytical techniques.

5. How can one organization profitably benefit by speeding up the rate of development?

Celera, a pioneer in these efforts, identified three possibilities: acquire valuable patents, supply sequencing equipment, and become an information provider.

6. How does the cost of accelerating improvements compare to the value of making the benefits available sooner?

Unless the cost of accomplishing the speed-up is low, the attractiveness of the opportunity mostly depends on the value to those who will benefit. Individual genome decoding permits therapies to be used that could greatly reduce suffering and lengthen life for those who would not benefit from “one-size-fits-all” treatments. Such benefits are highly valued, and many people would be happy to pay a reasonable cost to acquire them.

7. What can be done to reduce the risk of not sufficiently accelerating the rate of improvement?

In many cases, it will be feasible and affordable to engage in multiple activities aimed at speeding up the essential improvements that are expected to take longest. When such is the case, the opportunities to do so will be easier to finance and accomplish.

How practical is it to use these seven questions to speed the “impossible” into becoming routine? I asked innovation expert, Dean Alan Guinn of Rushmore University, to comment. Here are his observations:

“We live in an age when developing data, extracting useful insights, and applying new views can occur at a rapid rate with relatively low costs for almost any activity. As a result, so-called boundaries and barriers can be obliterated at a mind-boggling rate.

“While it is obviously exciting to observe such events, businesspeople should take seriously the possibility of being the source of such accelerated advances. Doing so can be a reasonable route to unprecedented business success for those who routinely ask and answer these seven essential questions.”

Are you interested in overcoming the “impossible” as part of your business’s developments?

If yes, when you will ask and answer these seven questions?

What are you waiting for?

Author's Bio: 

Donald W. Mitchell is a professor at Rushmore University who often teaches people who want to improve their business effectiveness in order to accomplish career breakthroughs through earning advanced degrees. For more information about ways to engage in fruitful lifelong learning at Rushmore University to increase your effectiveness, I invite you to visit