Enhance Productivity and Efficiency with Stephen’s Innovation Insights

Innovation Insights by Stephen Shapiro

Latest Posts

TheInnovationMinute

Today we use solving the “education system” problem as an example of how changing the question can lead to different solutions. When questions are too abstract, we get very low quality solutions.

We are in the “Ask” portion of the FAST Innovation Model (Focus, Ask, Shift, Test)

Be sure to watch the previous videos!

Transcription:

In the last video, I talked about the Goldilocks Principle and how we sometimes ask questions that are too abstract.

Today, I want to give you another example of that. Some work was being done in the U.K. by a non-profit to improve the education system. Think about that for a moment. The education system. Education systems and the Goldilocks principle, obviously it is too abstract. There is too many moving parts. Education system is teachers, teachers’ pay, curriculum, classroom size, infrastructure, nutrition, busing, technology. The list goes on and on. Trying to solve the education system problem is way too complex.

So instead, when looking at the problem, what they realized is maybe first of all, we don’t want to talk about the education system because that’s the process; it’s the means to an end. The end is a child’s learning. How do we improve the way a child learns?

Now, think about the question. Education system or a child’s learning. Fundamentally different questions, which are going to lead to fundamentally different solutions.

They took it a step further. What they did was they asked the question, “What is the one thing that has the greatest impact on a child’s learning?” If we want to improve a child’s learning, there must be one thing that’s scientifically proven to have the greatest impact. The answer is parental involvement, positive parental involvement. Not helicopter parenting as some people do, but actually engaging in a positive way in the child’s learning is the great means of getting a child engaged in learning.

When they ran a challenge to find how do we get positive parental involvement to get a child to learn, they found a solution in Bogota, Colombia where they have 100% parental involvement. It’s a fascinating solution. They would have never gotten to that solution had they looked at education system by changing the question to positive parental involvement, they got a very different solution very quickly.

bright ideas for business by BBVA Compass

I was recently interviewed by the financial service firm, BBVA Compass. They asked for my thoughts on failure. I said that failure was overrated and that we needed a different mindset. Here are some sound bites from my interview/article

“I don’t believe that failure is necessary in general. I also don’t believe that the answer always resides in books, articles, or training classes. The key is running small, scalable experiments. Experiments only fail when you fail to disprove an incorrect hypothesis. Unfortunately, we are wired as human beings to prove what we believe to be true. As Scott Cook, co-founder of Intuit once said, ‘For each of our failures we had spreadsheets that looked awesome.’”

“When you have an idea you want to test, start small. What’s the least expensive, fastest, lowest risk way to prove the concept? More importantly, what’s the safest way to disprove the concept? First, test things out in a “laboratory” but quickly move to test the idea with the market. What do they like? What don’t they like? Run some online tests via Google AdWords or other means to test interest… Continue reading >>

Make Impossible Possible

I was asked by BigSpeak to write an article with three activities that would stimulate innovation with teams. And I needed to do it in under 1,200 words. Here’s the result:

Companies are becoming irrelevant faster than ever. Why? The pace of change outside of organizations is moving faster than the pace of change within.

The antidote to this rapid obsolescence is innovation. I define innovation as an end-to-end process that incorporates four basic steps.  These are represented through my FAST model.  F = Focus (innovate where you differentiate), A = Ask (identify better questions as a means of finding better solutions), S = Shift (because expertise is the enemy of innovation, look elsewhere for solutions), and T = Test (don’t fail; experiment).

To help develop the “Ask” and “Shift” components of this model, participate in three quick activities with your team. These will transform your perspective and help you find potentially better solutions.

Activity #1: Predict What the Competition Will Do Next

When innovating, companies often focus their attention on their current products and services. Similarly, they tend to look for solutions to today’s problems, such as responding reactively to a competitor’s move. While these approaches may lead to bigger, faster, and cheaper versions of what you have today, they may also prevent you from seeing bigger, longer-term shifts in your industry – ultimately blindsiding you.

Invariably, a more proactive approach is to determine what the marketplace and your competitors will do in the future.

Think about it. When is the last time you asked the following questions?

  • What are we most afraid our competition will do to us?
  • Who is not a competitor now, but might be in the future?
  • What shift might happen in the buying habits of our customers that may make our product/service less appealing?
  • How can the sagging economy help our business? What emerging products or services may make our business irrelevant?

The list of questions like this can be endless – and valuable.

So next time, with your team: Continue reading >>

TheInnovationMinute

Today we discuss The Goldilocks Principle. This is a method for asking better questions by avoiding ones that are too “hard” or too “soft” and looking for those that are “just right.”

We are in the “Ask” portion of the FAST Innovation Model (Focus, Ask, Shift, Test)

Be sure to watch the previous videos!

Transcription:

In the last two videos, I talked about the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

Today, I want to talk about the Goldilocks Principle. Remember Goldilocks and the three bears? She goes into a house, one bed is too soft, one bed is too hard, and one is just right. The same thing is true with the questions that we ask.

Some questions tend to be too soft, too abstract, too fluffy, sort of like, “How do we stop the flow of oil in the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion?” That invites a lot of noise. “How do I increase sales? How do I increase productivity? How do I increase margins?” These invite a lot of wasted energy. Continue reading >>

TheInnovationMinute

Today we look at the Exxon Valdez oil spill.  For decades scientists could not find a way to extract the oil/water mixture from the icy waters of Prince William Sound in Alaska. But when the question was changed, a two-decade old problem was solved within weeks.

Be sure to watch the previous videos!

Transcription:

In the last video, I talked about the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion.

Today, I want to talk about a different oil spill. One from 1989. This is the Exxon Valdez oil spill. For those of you remember, 10.8 million gallons of oil seeped into the icy waters of Prince William Sound in Alaska. Clean-up crews tried everything possible to try to extract the oil water mixture. Unfortunately, because the oil water mixture was dense and it was in cold temperatures, 32 degrees, every time they try to extract the oil water mixture, it would freeze. For two decades, they had experts in oil trying to solve the problem of how do we prevent an oil water mixture from freezing, and they got nowhere.

Ultimately, in 2007, a non-profit called the Oil Spill Recovery Institute took a stab at it. What they realized is maybe the problem has nothing to do with oil. Maybe it has nothing specifically to do with temperature. Maybe it’s a common issue in fluid dynamics called viscous shearing. Without getting too technical, basically what that means is any dense liquid put under a force or acceleration, if you try to extract it, its molecules could seize up. Continue reading >>

TheInnovationMinute

Today we move to the “Ask” part of my FAST Innovation Model (Focus, Ask, Shift, Test).

In this installment we explore a well-known challenge and one unsuccessful method used to solve it. This method is one that is common inside of organizations…and it rarely works.

Be sure to watch the previous videos!

Transcription:

Today, we move to the second part of my FAST model. If you remember correctly, FAST stands for focus, ask, shift, and test.

Today, we are going to talk about asking better questions as a means of getting better solutions, the 2nd part of the FAST model.

And we’ll start with a well-known example. On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, and over the course of 87 days 180 million gallons of crude oil pumped into the gulf coast of the United States. After about seven different innovative ways to stop the flow of the oil, none of them which worked.

With nowhere else to turn, they tried something that a lot of people in the world of innovation have been turning to these days: crowdsourcing. That is, asking crowds for solutions, ideas, and questions. They created a website. Basically what it said is, “We have a problem. Do you have a solution?” Over the course of just a few weeks, they received 123,000 submissions. Continue reading >>

TheInnovationMinute

Today’s Innovation Minute…

In the first video I introduced the FAST Innovation model: Focus, Ask, Shift, Test

Then I introduced the 5 D’s of Differentiation.

In a previous video I introduced this framework:
innovation strategies support-core-differentiating

Today I discuss how to make sure your investments in differentiating capabilities don’t become core in your industry too quickly.

Be sure to watch the previous videos!

Transcription:

Today I want to talk about my three levels of innovation framework where we talk about support, core, and differentiating. And I want to talk about one specific aspect, which is the pace of change.

We need to recognize that whatever is differentiating today may become core in the future. That is, something that made us unique and special at one point is being replicated by others.

And this pace of change is causing us to invest a lot of energy and innovation that doesn’t sustain. We’re on a treadmill running really fast but not making a lot of progress. Continue reading >>

TheInnovationMinute

Today’s Innovation Minute…

In the first video I introduced the FAST Innovation model: Focus, Ask, Shift, Test

Then I introduced the 5 D’s of Differentiation.

In the last video I introduced this framework:
innovation strategies support-core-differentiating

Today I discuss how to shift your investments from core (and support) to differentiating as a way of increasing innovation ROI.

Be sure to watch the previous videos!

Transcription:

In the last video, I introduced a framework for being able to prioritize your innovation investments. And we looked at the fact that activities that we perform inside of organizations are either support, core, or differentiating. Today I want to dig a little deeper into this. And in particular, I want to focus on core versus differentiating.

One of the things we need to understand is that if we look at how companies invest in innovation, what I found is that in most cases 80% of their efforts are invested in things that are core not differentiating.

This means that you’re putting your most important time, energy, and resources into things which won’t even set you apart from the competition. Continue reading >>

TheInnovationMinute

Today’s Innovation Minute…

In the first video I introduced the FAST Innovation model: Focus, Ask, Shift, Test

Then I introduced the 5 D’s of Differentiation.

Today I discuss the final D of Differentiation – Disseminated.

Use this framework while watching the video as it helps bring the concepts to life:

innovation strategies support-core-differentiating

Be sure to watch the previous videos!

 

Transcription:

In the previous videos, I talked about why you need to innovate, where you differentiate, and introduce the five D’s differentiation. Today, I want to talk about the last one, which is disseminated. This is going to take a little longer than a minute, so bear with me.

When we look at an organization’s innovation portfolio, and where they spend their money, and the activities that people do, they fall into three categories.

There are activities (the first level) that people do that would be, what I would call “support.” Continue reading >>

TheInnovationMinute

Today’s Innovation Minute…

In the first video I introduced the FAST Innovation model: Focus, Ask, Shift, Test

Then I introduced the 5 D’s of Differentiation.

Today I discuss the 4th D of Differentiation – Desirable.

Be sure to watch the previous videos!

 

Transcription:

In the previous videos, I talked about why you innovate where you differentiate and I introduced the five D’s of differentiation. Today, I want to talk about the fourth D, which is about being desirable. And I want to do this through an example.

I used to live in Boston, would go down to Atlantic City. I love Atlantic City. I think it’s a great, fun place.

In 2012, they built a casino called The Revel. The Revel casino, built in 2012 for $2.5 billion. It is a spectacular casino. I’ve been there. Sophisticated, classy, high-end. There’s only one problem, the people who go to Atlantic City aren’t. The people who go to Atlantic City go to the beach with their kids, they eat cotton candy and hotdogs. Maybe they’ll play nickel slots, but probably not the ideal place for a sophisticated, high-end casino.

The Revel was built for $2.5 billion in 2012 and in 2014, it went bankrupt. It shut its doors, and as of this video it is still closed and it’s questionable whether or not it will ever open. Continue reading >>

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