This article is part of a growing set of articles called Pattern Breakers. This series helps highlight how the world’s pattern breakers change the world around them. The articles provide tactical and strategic approaches to breaking the patterns that are holding back your novel technologies. Each of the articles in the series will be adjusted and updated over time. 

Let’s imagine you have created something that changes the world. Your approach to solving problems is radically different and far more effective and efficient. 

You can describe how your technology can be used to solve really hard problems – making them easy. You know it truly changes the world.

But you can’t make progress. 

Instead of the world beating a path to your door, you’re pushing harder and harder to make minimal progress.

Your marketing, business development, and sales teams talk about all the excitement in the field. But your tech doesn’t create blowout projects. You give your kit away, you pay for organizations to use it, you get paid to deploy.

…but the momentum doesn’t come. In fact you’re feeling like you haven’t moved at all – or moved backwards.

Your API is amazing and developers rave about how easy it is to use and how thoughtful it is. Your SDK works on iOS and Android and is a thing of beauty. 

This means it likely isn’t your technology – though there are most certainly pieces in the technology that can be improved. 

Your big problem is that you are breaking an existing pattern. Patterns help people understand complex things. They are there to simplify things – including the change required to get to a given state. If you’re asking to break a pattern you’re breaking the comfort with the existing pattern.

Being a Pattern Breaker is hard. You’re facing many obstacles. 

  • Inertia – Your potential customers are either solving their problems a different (harder, less efficient) way and it is working; or they have put the problem in a “too hard to solve” bucket.
  • Hysteresis – Organizations are like organisms. Changes in one area cause things to shift and the organism works to bring things back to its known state.
  • Early Adopters – they aren’t what you think you need.
  • Old Way Works Well Enough – this is partly momentum and partly messaging.
  • Don’t Grok It – You think they understand what you’re presenting but they don’t. (hint: if your customer groks the word “grok” you’re probably talking to the wrong person.
  • Momentum – more physics here – you need momentum to overcome the inertia in existing systems.
  • Incremental Change Isn’t Exciting – incremental change where percentages point improvements are all you can see are hard to convince. Tweaking the old ways is how we look to solve this kind of problem not big change.

Over time the bullets above will be fleshed out with discrete articles – with strategies and tactics that help you look at the situation better. This is the framework that we use with our clients. They have been applied for over a decade with success in some of the hardest organizational areas. While some approaches are simple, it is the subtle use and application that makes all the difference. 

Keep being awesome.



Darrell O’Donnell, P.Eng.
Continuum Loop Inc.