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Innovation Insights by Stephen Shapiro

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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 3rd D of Differentiation – Disruption-Proof.

Be sure to watch the previous videos!


In the last videos, I talked about why you need to innovate where you differentiate and the five D’s of differentiation. Today we’re going to cover the third D, which is about being disruption-proof.

Your differentiator does not have to be disruptive. It doesn’t have to change the game. But you need to understand that the world is changing around you, and if the pace of change outside the organization is faster than the pace of change within you’re going to be out of business.

Therefore you need to choose a differentiator that’s not going to be subject to disruption.

If we look at the taxi industry, we all know that Uber is starting to disrupt the taxi industry. And we’re seeing the same thing happening almost every single industry. So what you need to understand is, not who’s is your competition today, but who will be your competition in the future.

What are going to be the buying habits of millennials and others that may make your products and services less relevant? Are there going to be new entrants from completely new areas that might disrupt you, and put you out of business?

lets get phygital

lets get phygitalIf your head is filled with images of Olivia Newton-John jumping around in leotards and donning a headband, please re-read the title.

This article is not about exercise but is focused on the “phygital” movement; the blending the physical and digital world.

In life, most trends swing like a pendulum. For most of history, we were a physical society. Then as technology become more accessible by the masses, we’ve moved to a digital world. More and more, people are disconnected from the real world and spend their time on their phones, tablets, and computers.

More meetings are going online via Skype and TelePresence. More companies are allowing employees to telecommute. More people are spending time with their friends on Facebook and Snapchat.

But the pendulum appears to be swinging towards the middle. As we become increasingly detached from the physical world thanks to technology, people are now beginning to crave face-to-face human interaction.

Hence the emergence of the new phygital movement. This is the blending of the physical and digital worlds.

One simple and fun example I love is the Twizzard.  During Black Friday weekend in 2014, Mall of America® , used Twitter to power a snowstorm inside the Minneapolis-area retail complex. The more people tweeted with the #twizzard hashtag that weekend, the lower the temperature got on a digital thermometer in the center of the mall. When there were enough tweets and the temperature hit freezing, the skies opened and it started to snow INSIDE the mall.

This generated massive buzz through social media and increased foot traffic 10% over the previous year. You can watch a 30 second video showing it in action. (This is a shortened video. If you want to see the entire video, go here.)

I recently heard of another use of phygital. Normally if a customer complains on social media, if the company is savvy, they will send a quick response back via social media. But one major airport took this a step further. If there was a complaint about something related to the airport, based on geolocation and the person’s social media picture, airport staff would seek out the individual and give them some chocolates. Very cool. However I do wonder if this increased the number of made-up complaints by traveling chocoholics.

Of course more and more retail stores are using phygical as a means of engaging customers and increasing sales. iBeacons and other technologies allow the store to push coupons, alert shoppers of sale items, remind people of products they might need, and provide useful product information. Phygital experiences may be what is necessary to combat the growing threat of Amazon and other online retailers.

What do you do that is phygital?

30day3I even have a phygital offering of my own. My 30-Day Innovation Challenge was originally designed to provide a reinforcement of my content after people left my speech. But one use that has been wildly successful is to use the technology while people are still together.

For example, when I do a daylong workshop, we set up the system so that at the first break everyone gets the first of 30 questions. During the break people are encouraged to respond, because the leaderboard is displayed when people return.  People love seeing their name high on the leaderboard and it creates a sense of friendly competition in the physical world enabled by the digital world. We do this several times throughout the day, with the game continuing after people leave the workshop. When we start the 30 Day Innovation Challenge with a phygital experience, we’ve had over 95% of people participate each and every day for the remainder of the competition.

The physical world can enhance the digital world and vice versa.

Where are you seeing the blending of the physical and digital worlds? How can you bring this concept to your organization?

P.S. This will be the first of many articles on this topic.

Shapiro podcasts

Shapiro podcastsI’ve been interviewed many times on many podcasts over the past couple of months and I’ve not had time to post them all here. So here, in one post, you will find several of my more recent interviews. Enjoy!

  1. I had a fun interview with Will Barron. We explored the world of sales, and in particular what sales people can learn from innovators, and how sales people can innovate how they sell. Go to the salesman.red podcast page to listen and learn more.
  2. Deirdre Sanborn and I discussed a wide range of innovation topics, ranging from how unconscious biases impact innovation to why expertise is the enemy of innovation. Go to her Ambition Project Podcast for the recording.
  3. Seth Greene and I explored how you innovate with purpose for his Direct Response Marketing podcast (this link goes straight to iTunes)
  4. Kelly Scanlon over at Think Bigger Business Media, conducted a great interview about innovation. You can get it here.
  5. I was recently interviewed by Expernova, a French innovation company about Open Innovation and Crowdsourcing. Here’s the resulting article on their website.

There are other interviews that will be posted in a separate blog entry.


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 2nd D of Differentiation – Defensible.

Be sure to watch the previous videos!



In the earlier videos, I talked about how you need to innovate where you differentiate. And I talked about the five D’s of differentiation. Today I want to talk about the second D which is about being defensible.

I was doing some work for a company in the home assurance industry, and I asked them, “What is your differentiator?” Everybody agreed it was their pricing models. Their pricing models were unique in the market, and so they felt this is what truly set them apart.

When I asked them, “How soon after you introduce a new pricing model does the competition replicated it,” I was told, on average two weeks.

Now, I don’t know about you, but to me this doesn’t sound like a differentiator. It sounds like you doing the hard work for your competition.

So, the key with being defensible is that you have a differentiator that others can’t replicate quickly.


Today’s Innovation Minute: The 1st of the 5 D’s of differentiation – Distinctive

Be sure to watch the previous videos!


In the last video, I talked about the five Ds of differentiation. Today I want to talk about the first D, which is being distinctive.

The key to being distinctive is that you do something that sets you apart from the competition. And it shouldn’t be just replicating what someone else is doing, it should be distinctive, like the word.

I want to give you an example. There are two insurance companies that have very distinctive strategies.

State Farm, like a good neighbor, State Farm is there. They have the largest distribution network of agents. And this has led them to be able to get 40% of the homeowners market. Even in the day where the Internet prevails, State Farm is focused on their personal touch; their distribution network.

On the flipside you have USAA. They will only offer insurance and financial services to those in the military, and their family. They know that these individuals are moving around, they could be deployed, therefore, their strategy is to give them the tools to have them feel at home no matter where they are. And using this strategy USAA has achieved a number one, or number two customer service rating of any company in any industry year after year.

One key to innovation is to be distinctive.

And that’s the first of the D’s. We’ll cover the other D’s in the subsequent videos.

Innovation eLearning course

Recently I shared the fact that I have a new eLearning course. It has been getting RAVE reviews!

We received this unsolicited feedback from Jerry Cox, President of TTNLearning:

Love it. The best course I have seen on any subject this year… I could recommend the course to any executive without reservation. And – if he or she is a friend, I would follow up to make sure they viewed it.”

TTN Learning is a premier global online learning provider that offers tons of courses. We never asked him for any comments on this new course, so this was a huge surprise!

What is everyone so excited about? Check out our new promotional video that shows you in one-minute why this is not like any other course out there. You really do have to try it to see how great it is. Contact us for more details.


Today’s Innovation Minute – The 5 D’s of differentiation:

Distinctive, Defensible, Disruption-Proof, Desirable and Disseminated.

Be sure to watch the previous episodes!



In the last video I talked about differentiation, and the fact that you can’t innovate everywhere, you only want to innovate where you differentiate. Today I want to talk about the five Ds of differentiation. This is how you know you have a good differentiator. The first ‘D’ is that it’s distinctive. That is it sets you apart from the competition. Next is it’s defensible, hard to replicate.

Next is disruption-proof. Doesn’t mean it has to be disruptive, but you want to make sure you’re not going to be put out of business by someone who’ll disrupt you. Next, it has to be desirable. If the market doesn’t care about your differentiator, it’s not going to make any difference. And finally, it needs to be disseminated.

That is everyone inside the organization, not just the top people, but everyone needs to understand how you differentiate so that they can use that as a method for prioritizing innovation investments. In the next video, I will talk deeper about those five Ds. I look forward to seeing you soon.


Installment #2 of The Innovation Minute. Today I discuss differentiation, a critical aspect of improving innovation ROI. You can watch all of the videos here.


Today I want to talk about the first part of my FAST Innovation Model which is the F, which means focus.

There is a belief in the world of innovation that everyone should be innovating. And I absolutely agree with that. But there’s also the belief that everyone should be innovating everywhere. And this is a mistake.

Not all opportunities in your organization are equal. You can’t try to solve every problem, because if you try to be great in everything, you’ll be great at nothing.

Therefore, I always say, “Innovate where you differentiate.” Innovate where you differentiate. Focus your energies on those activities and opportunities that will have the greatest impact in your organization because they’ll help you stand out from the competition.

eLearning Thumb

It has been a while in the making, but it is finally here!

In partnership with MindScaling, we are thrilled to announce the release of my new eLearning course. This is a highly graphical and interactive course that will engage people from the start. There are activities, assessments, and animations. We even provide downloads and cheat sheets that allow you to use the materials with your team when you are away from the computer.

Contact me to learn more. In the meantime, take a look at the course intro. Although it doesn’t do it justice, it gives you an idea of the quality of the production.



I know that a lot of you are really busy and have limited time to digest heavy innovation content. Therefore, I’ve decided to launch TheInnovationMinute.com, 60 seconds of innovation inspiration each Wednesday. Here’s the first installment where I introduce my FAST Innovation model. The first few videos set the stage (so please be patient). After that we are off running with some solid content.


FAST = Focus, Ask, Shift, Test


Hi, I’m Steve Shapiro and welcome to the Innovation Minute, where I’ll be sharing 60 seconds of innovation inspiration every week. And today I want to introduce you to the framework that I’ll be using in the series. I call it the FAST Innovation Model.

FAST stands for:

F, focus. Focus your innovation efforts on the areas that are going have the greatest impact on your business, not all opportunities are equal.

The A is all about asking better questions. The questions we ask will lead us down the path of the solutions we get.

The S is about shift. We need to move away from an expertise mindset and shift to one of relational thinking, where we find connections to people who have solved similar problems.

And the T is about testing. It is about experimenting. It is about changing our relationship to failure.

I look forward to seeing you each week where we will spend one minute talking about innovation I’m Steve Shapiro, see you soon.

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