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Innovation Insights by Stephen Shapiro

Latest Posts

Pokemon Go Logo

Pokemon GoI’ve been talking/writing about the phygital movement for a while now. This is the blending of the physical and digital worlds. Be sure to read my recent article on the topic, “Let’s Get Phygital.”

In the past, we were a physical world. We didn’t carry electronic devices everywhere. When we said we were connected, we were connected to human beings or the earth, not a phone. We played board games with groups of people, not video games in the basement alone.

As technology progressed, we’ve become more and more connected to our digital devices that we’ve become less connected to others and the real world. But human beings crave this physical connection at a deep level; it is ingrained in us.

Therefore it is not surprise that the phygital movement is starting to gain momentum. The pendulum is swinging back from the purely digital and more towards the physical. Virtual reality did not achieve this because it is purely digital. But augmented reality provided some promise.

And that promise has been (partly) achieved with Pokemon Go. People are leaving their houses to participate in a digital game that integrates with the physical world. This is phygital, or at least it is a start… Continue reading >>

TheInnovationMinute

We continue with the “Shift” part of the FAST Innovation Model (Focus, Ask, Shift, Test).

In the last few videos I shared why expertise is the enemy of innovation. Today I provide a powerful examples of innovation in action, along with a useful concept for driving breakthrough thinking.

Be sure to watch the previous videos!

Transcription:

In the last few videos, we talked about shifting your mindset and why expertise is the enemy of innovation. Today I want to talk about probably my favorite example.

There was a group in Houston called Pumps and Pipes. These are a group of cardiologists who get together on a regular basis with people from the gas pipeline industry. And what they do is they share what they know about the cardiovascular system and how it would apply to the transmission of gas and vice versa.

Now, think about it. These are not two random groups. These are purposely brought together. They share something in common. It is all about the transmission of fluid through a tube. So, these are purposeful groups.

And if you think about the types of things that could be solved through these types of alliances and have been solved, think about gas pipeline. A big problem with the gas pipeline industry is they crack, they break, and they leak. Trying to find the cracks and seal those cracks is very expensive. But if you get a paper cut, you don’t run to the doctor, the body seals itself. And based on studying the body, they’ve now created a coagulant ingredient that goes inside of gas pipelines to seal cracks.

I call this “A Purposeful Tangent.” Two groups coming together with a shared purpose… Continue reading >>

TheInnovationMinute

We continue with the “Shift” part of the FAST Innovation Model (Focus, Ask, Shift, Test).

In the last video I shared why expertise is the enemy of innovation. Today I provide two scientific studies that prove this to be true.

Be sure to watch the previous videos!

Transcription:

In the last video, I talked about expertise being the enemy of innovation, and today I want to provide a little bit of scientific evidence to back this up.

There are two studies in particular which I find fascinating. The first study was done by a professor at Harvard Business School, who analyzed 17,000 patents. What he quickly realized was that most of those patents were derivative or adaptive. That is they were built on some other patent. And in most of those situations, an expert did indeed solve the problem and file the patent. This makes sense.

But when they looked at the discontinuous innovations, the radical innovations, the innovations which did not build on a previous patent, in every situation, these were solved by either somebody from a different discipline or area of expertise, or from a multidisciplinary team. Multidisciplinary teams bring a greater divergent view to your problems.

When everybody’s cut from the same cloth, you get innovation quickly, but it just might not be that different… Continue reading >>

TheInnovationMinute

We continue with the “Shift” part of the FAST Innovation Model (Focus, Ask, Shift, Test).

In today’s video I share why expertise is the enemy of innovation. Yes, it really is!

Be sure to watch the previous videos!

Transcription:

In the last video, I talked about toothpaste solution coming from a laundry detergent solution. We talked about, how do you ask who else has solved a similar problem?

This is a great tool for kick-starting any of your innovation efforts when you are looking for solutions.

Now, the reason why this is important is because I strongly believe that expertise is the enemy of innovation. Expertise is the enemy of innovation. The reason why is, the more you’ve thought about a topic, the harder it is for you to think differently about that topic.

So, if you’re an expert in a function, like HR, finance or sales, it’s going to be hard for you to think differently about that. If you’re an expert in an industry, like hospitality, financial services or manufacturing, it will be difficult for you to think differently about that.

Therefore, because expertise is the enemy of innovation, we need to recognize that connecting the dots to other disciplines is the key, and I’m going to talk about this more in the next video.

Toothpaste for innovation

A couple of days I posted a new video that introduces the “science of breakthroughs.”

For those who prefer to read rather than watch, here’s the transcription. (you can watch the video here)

Toothpaste for innovationToday, we move to the third part of my FAST innovation model. You’ll remember that FAST stands for Focus, Ask, Shift and Test.  Today, we’re gonna talk about shifting your mindset. I’m going to do that through a fun example.

A group of dental experts were trying to create a whitening toothpaste that didn’t use abrasives or bleach. If you think about the problem they were working on, they were asking the question, “How do we, the experts in dental care, create a toothpaste that whitens teeth without abrasives or bleach?”

They went off and they tried a number of different solutions, none of which worked…until they asked a different question. They asked, “Who else has solved a similar problem?” Not necessarily the same problem, but a similar problem.

They realized that, when they asked the question, “Who else makes whites whiter, without abrasives or bleach?”, possible answer would be laundry detergent.

As it turns out, the company that was working on the toothpaste problem also has a laundry detergent group. So, they decided they would have a conversation with them, and they asked, “Hey, when you’re not using bleach, how do you make whites whiter?”… Continue reading >>

TheInnovationMinute

Today is the first video in the “Shift” part of the FAST Innovation Model (Focus, Ask, Shift, Test).

In this video I share a fun example that provides a different approach to finding breakthroughs. Hint: your years of expertise may not be helping!

Be sure to watch the previous videos!

Transcription:

Today, we move to the third part of my FAST innovation model. You’ll remember that FAST stands for Focus, Ask, Shift and Test.  Today, we’re gonna talk about shifting your mindset. I’m going to do that through a fun example.

A group of dental experts were trying to create a whitening toothpaste that didn’t use abrasives or bleach. If you think about the problem they were working on, they were asking the question, “How do we, the experts in dental care, create a toothpaste that whitens teeth without abrasives or bleach?”

They went off and they tried a number of different solutions, none of which worked…until they asked a different question. They asked, “Who else has solved a similar problem?” Not necessarily the same problem, but a similar problem.

They realized that, when they asked the question, “Who else makes whites whiter, without abrasives or bleach?”, possible answer would be laundry detergent.

As it turns out, the company that was working on the toothpaste problem also has a laundry detergent group. So, they decided they would have a conversation with them, and they asked, “Hey, when you’re not using bleach, how do you make whites whiter?”… Continue reading >>

TheInnovationMinute

Today is the final video in the “Ask” part of the FAST Innovation Model (Focus, Ask, Shift, Test).

With this, we sum up with WHY asking questions is so important. We discuss why you should not “think outside the box.” And we talk about the upsides of challenge-centered innovation over idea-driven innovation.

The next installment will most us to the Shift part of the model.

Be sure to watch the previous videos!

Transcription:

I’m going to wrap up the “ASK” part of our FAST model with a perspective.

In the world of innovation, we keep on hearing this expression, “Think outside the box.” But if you reflect on everything that I’ve talked about, this might actually be bad advice.

In fact, what I suggest is that you don’t think outside the box, you find a better box.

The issue is not the expansiveness of your thinking. Going back to the Goldilocks principle, thinking out of the box actually reduces the level of creativity, increases the level of noise, and actually increases the amount of wasted energy involved. The issue isn’t expansiveness. The issue is you’re looking into the wrong place.

If you spend your time trying to speed up bags, you’ll never think to slow down passengers. If you spend your time trying to get clothes clean, you’ll never try to think of ways to keep clothes clean.

Changing the question changes the solution. Don’t think outside the box, find a better box.

Here is the bottom line in all of these. In studies that we’ve done, we found that when we move from an idea-driven innovation process where we ask people for their ideas through a suggestion box or an idea management system, we move from that to a challenge-centered innovation process where we invite people to provide solutions to well-framed challenges, we improve innovation ROI a minimum of tenfold. The reason for this is that well-framed challenges can focus on a differentiator. We can reframe them multiple times, but also, and here is the really important part, ideas don’t have a home. They’re in a suggestion box. You need to get somebody to fund them.

Challenges, before you even get started working on them, they have owners, sponsors, funding, resources, evaluators, and clear evaluation criteria. So when you objectively find a good solution, you have everything in place to start implementation.

So don’t think outside the box, find a better box, move away from idea-driven innovation to challenge-centered innovation, and you will start to see a massive return on your innovation efforts.

In the next segment, we will move to the shift part of the FAST innovation model.

Choose Your Business Partners Carefully

Choose Your Business Partners CarefullyI am a big fan of business partnerships. My mantra is, “Innovate where you differentiate, and partner with others for everything else.”

There’s an important caveat to this. Be sure to choose your partners carefully.

Think about the bad experiences you’ve had with a company. Were they the company’s fault? Or was a business partner somehow involved?

I bought a sofa online through a major retailer. The sofa is great, but the delivery company broke it during the move. I did not realize this until the next day when I sat on the sofa. Not a problem. Accidents happen. I called the retailer to get the broken sofa replaced. They were fast and responsive. Sadly the same could not be said for the delivery company. They did everything they could to make the replacement difficult. I was getting no satisfaction. The retailer said they were doing what they could (short of finding a new delivery company which would have been nice), but the delivery company kept dragging their feet. One of the world’s largest retailers was helpless. This was the worst delivery experience I’ve ever had. I will no longer buy anything from this retailer if it needs to be shipped by a freight company. Their partner ruined my perception of the company.

I started doing business with a new bank. The experience was good at first. But once their business partners got involved, everything turned sour. There were major delays on some important matters. Although the bank worked hard to solve the problem, but the partner was in charge. Things ground to halt and all the bank could do was offer excuses and say, “It’s not our fault. We can’t do anything about it.” Blaming the partner is not the solution. My relationship with this bank will not last long.

When it comes to choosing business partners, choose wisely. The quality of those partners will directly impact the perception of your business. Your brand and reputation are at stake. Although you want to trust your partners, you have to have safeguards in place to override their actions when it will impact the customer experience.

Customers don’t care if your partner is at fault. In the end they will blame you.

TheInnovationMinute

Today we explore a page from Einstein and his perspectives on asking questions. The key is to avoid focusing on solutions and instead focus on the problem.

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

Be sure to watch the previous videos!

Transcription:

At this point in the innovation minute, we’ve been talking about asking better questions.

I want to turn to a quote from Albert Einstein, at least it’s a tribute to Albert Einstein. He reputedly said, “If I had an hour to save the world, I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem, one minute finding solution.” Fifty nine minutes defining the problem, one minute finding solutions.

The reality is in most organizations, I find that people are running around spending 60 minutes solving the problem that don’t matter.

So if you ask better questions, if you ask better questions, you will get better solutions. Because better questions are those questions that help you differentiate coming back to the focus part of our FAST model.

They help you differentiate. You can reframe them multiple times. So, when we ask different questions, we will always get different solutions and usually more valuable solutions.

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