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Innovation Insights by Stephen Shapiro

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In my last post of the year, I shared my process for planning the new year.

In summary, instead of resolutions, I set themes. Themes are not goals to achieve. Rather they are words that help guide and shape the year. I first wrote about this concept in my 2005 book, Goal-Free Living

And now it is time to reveal my themes for 2018.

I am in the middle of my “innovation retreat week.”

And although the week is not over, themes have started to emerged. This theme popped into my head during a meditation on the hot tub:

“Question Everything”

This means questioning and challenging every part of my business.

What assumptions am I making? What has worked in the past that may be a liability in the future? Who are my typical clients and who do I want them to be in the future? What should my content be focused on? How do I deliver my content?

Of course I will keep what is working and what I like (e.g., I love keynote speaking). But asking these questions may force me to blow up some aspects of my business, or add new elements.

In line with this theme, I will soon be announcing a new “offering” that will give mid-sized companies direct access to me for a fraction of what it would normally cost them. This is a new way of delivering my content to a potentially new audience. Look for my “Innovation Intervention” over the coming weeks.

Interestingly, my 2018 theme is almost the opposite of my 2016 theme: Nothing NewThat year, my goal was to leverage my existing offerings, content, clients, and ideas.

As part of this process, it has been fun to reflect on my past themes. To help you think about what might work for you, here are a few of mine from previous years: 2007 Creating a Movement | 2009 Cool Things | 2012 More Money, Less Work, Greater Impact & Rituals & Perfection2017 Orlando & Investment

What are your themes for 2018?

How do you spend the first week of the New Year?

For many, it is back to the grind stone, picking up where you left off in 2017. The new year becomes an extrapolation of the past year.

My intention is to use the new year as a chance to innovate and create.

Therefore, I have a long standing tradition for the first week of the year: an innovation work retreat.

Every year I head to a resort. Given I own a timeshare, I go there for the week and I get a one bedroom suite with a kitchen so that I can stay in the room all day.

The first day is preparation day. I start by going to the supermarket and buying healthy food for the refrigerator. I also organize my workspace so that I can be as productive as possible when I get started the next day. Then I typically plan out the activities for the week.

After the first day, my routine is pretty much the same…

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2018 is around the corner. Time to make some changes in your life. Right? Ready to set some resolutions?

Before you do, did you know that only 8% of people are always successful in achieving the desired results. 92% fail!

(if you are interested in some fascinating statistics about resolutions, read this article: Interesting New Year’s Resolution Statistics)

But all is not lost. There is a better way.

Here is an article a wrote a while ago, but is timeless: Making Resolutions That WorkIt remains one of my most often cited articles.

Or, if you prefer, you can read the variant of this article that appeared as a full-page article in the Wall Street Journal several years ago (jpg).

The general premise is that instead of setting resolutions that are specific goals (e.g., lose 10 pounds, stop smoking, exercise 3 times a week), you want to create themes that help guide you and your decision making throughout the year…

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I was recently interviewed by Erika Andersen for her Proteus Leader Show.

She’s an amazing interviewer who gets right to the heart of the matter quickly.

As a result, we covered a lot of territory in a little more than 10 minutes.

I think you will enjoy this. Check it out on iTunes.

10 years ago I write Goal-Free Living. The book as impacted more lives than any book I’ve written. But at the same time, it has remained relatively obscure in the scheme of things.

When it was published, someone told me the book was a decade ahead of its time. It seems as though they were accurate.

Lately there’s been a number of articles and academic research papers published on the downside of goal-setting. Most recently is an article from the BBC

One of the open paragraphs of the article includes a quote from me:

“We get so emotionally attached to a goal that we’re setting ourselves up for failure and disappointment,” says business advisor, author and speaker Stephen Shapiro. “The key for success is, if you have somewhere you’d like to be in five years, don’t be so attached to it that it drives everything you do.” 

Please enjoy this article by Amanda Rugger called Why we should all give up on goals already.

I am pleased to announce that this blog was recently selected as the #1 blog for articles on Innovation Talent by the innovation software company, Swarm Vision.

Getting the right people in the right roles is a critical part of the innovation process. Personality Poker® is just one of the many tools we have for helping make this a reality.

Swarm Vision’s research methodology is as follows (in their words):

  • First we identified the top 60 blogs using several online lists
  • We then focused on those blogs with at least 5,000 Facebook fans or Twitter followers, of which there are 31
  • We then analyzed recent months of these 31 blogs, looking for any articles on innovation talent
  • We also searched key terms on each of 31 blogs to unearth older articles of relevance
  • We tagged each article on the aspects of innovation that it discussed (e.g. creativity, leadership, teams, hiring, retention, culture of innovation)
  • Finally, we rated each blog on the percentage of articles related to innovation talent, and on the quality of those articles. We defined quality as offering clear advice (not fluff) based on empirical results, not just assertion.

You can read the full article on InnovationManagement.se.

Thanks for the honor!

As many of you know, I have been involved with an incredible movement called Girl Starter. The goal is to empower young women to launch their own businesses by giving them the tools and support they need to be successful.

I first got involved during the filming of the television show. Season 1 (6 episodes) aired on TLC between April and June of 2017. It is being rebroadcast on the Discovery Family network.

However, now that the final episode has been aired to the public, I can finally share snippets of the videos with you.

The first episode I appeared on was Episode 2: Plan It. This is the week where the girls developed their initial ideas, launched in Episode 1: Start It, and create their plans. They gathered input from the market (by conducting surveys on the street). And they presented their ideas to the mentors. This week’s mentors were yours truly and Tiffany Pham Founder and CEO of Mogul.

This two minute video contains highlights from some of the feedback sessions. The three teams that are included here are the ones that were eventually eliminated from the competition. Here’s my post-mortem on what happened with some ideas of what you can do in your business…

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I’ve been on some cool podcasts lately, and here’s another. This time I was with Andy Paul, a sales guru. Nice guy. We had a great conversation about the relationship between sales and innovation.

Listen to it here

KEY TAKEAWAYS (from Andy’s site)

[2:23] Stephen says the single biggest challenge facing sales reps is the same challenge facing companies: differentiation. What do you do to help yourself to stand out? Stephen suggests recognizing what makes you special?

[6:21] Why best practices are stupid: replication is not innovation; what works for one, may not work for another; and best practices undersample failure. You hear about the successes, but not the failures from the exact same process.

[8:14] Stephen teaches best practices, with skepticism. Use the lens of, does this really make sense for me? Do I really believe this was what caused them to be successful? If you are going to be unique, why would you copy?

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I was recently interviewed by the amazing Ian Altman. When it comes to growing businesses, this guy rocks! His podcast is called “Grow My Revenue Business Cast.”

Here’s the copy from his his site about our episode:

My guest today is speaker, author and innovation expert Stephen Shapiro. Stephen believes all companies need to innovate if they want to remain relevant and competitive in their fields. Innovation, he says, helps differentiate a company and make it “disruption-proof.”

Stephen and I talk today specifically about the mistakes people make when they think of innovation; the primary drivers for innovation; and where companies fall short in their efforts.

“The biggest mistake is confusing creativity with innovation and confusing ideas with problems,” Stephen says. “If you look at most innovation programs they’re really just suggestion boxes…from my perspective, that just doesn’t work.”

As I am sure you can imagine, we had a great time and shared some mutually interesting tidbits.

Listen to it here

He has had some amazing guests on his show in the past and I encourage you to look and listen.

I recently met Dr. Diane Hamilton at a conference. We started talking and I discovered that in addition to being a wonderful human being, she’s the host of a nationally syndicated radio talk show. She’s had some amazing guests, including Steve Forbes and Jeffrey Hayzlett. When she asked me to be on her show, I leapt at the opportunity.

I discovered that on the same show with me was also the amazing Scott McKain. I’ve known Scott for many years. In fact, he and I did a 75-minute webinar together a while back about differentiation and distinction. It was a blast and we’ve been threatening to do it again soon (so stay tuned). If you missed that, you can watch it here.

To listen to our recent interview with Diane, you can stream it here:

Or you can visit her podcast website.


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