Enhance Productivity and Efficiency with Stephen’s Innovation Insights

Innovation Insights by Stephen Shapiro

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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.


The other day I decided to check “broken links” on my website. Basically these are links from my site to other sites. In most cases, these were articles I referenced, books I promoted, or interesting people I highlighted.

Since 2006, I have posted over 800 blog entries. ( I started my website back in 2001)

I was shocked to find that I had over 300 dead links on my site! This means that 300 times I thought there was good content on another website, and that website is no longer running.

Congratulations to those of you who have had an active website for the past decade. It is sometimes good to be reminded that longevity is not a given and that staying in business requires dedication and determination.

Owning your own business is not for everyone.

There are ups and downs. Joys and heartaches. Wins and losses. Ebbs and flows of income.

There have been moments when I was unsure when the next paycheck would arrive (it’s happened more often than I’d like to admit). And although there seems to be an endless number of opportunities, I suspect most are distractions disguised as opportunities (making investment decisions difficult). Plus this year I’m taking on some massive projects (for my business) that are exciting yet quite scary.

Despite all this, I feel more blessed than ever to do what I do.

Today is Independence Day in the United States; something that was achieved with struggles and battles. But of course, in the end, it was worth it.

Today I am also celebrating my work-independence. It’s not always easy, but I can’t imagine working any other way.

Happy Independence Day to all of my entrepreneur friends!!

Tonight at 7PM ET/6PM CT on TLC, the season finale of Girl Starter will air.

The winning team will get $100,000 plus support for launching their new business.

In addition to yours truly as one of the judges, the show features Shira Goodman, the CEO of Staples. Plus there is a special guest who will be making a surprise appearance.

Be sure to watch the show and support young women entrepreneurs everywhere!

According to Klout, there are 190,000 experts on innovation. #1 is Fast Company. #2 is WIRED. And #6 is the Harvard Business Review. And I am listed as #4. I’m not sure what criteria was used to make this determination. Regardless, I am please to be on this list.

I was invited to participate in the new television reality series, Girl Starter, to mentor young women in launching their businesses. The show pairs eight “girls”, ranging in ages from 18 – 24, into 4 teams. Each team develops a new idea from scratch and goes through the process of planning it, validating it, and launching it. All of this was done over a 6-week period, with $100,000 being awarded to the winning team to put toward the development of their business.

As I write this, the second of six episodes just aired where I was featured as a mentor and judge. I was brought in to share my 30 years of experience with these young woman. And while I was able to provide an insight or two, I feel like I was the one who learned the most from this inspiring experience. (below you will find a brief video clip where I and co-mentor Tiffany Pham provide our two cents)

Although filming is completed and the winner determined, there are four more episodes left to air. With this in mind, I share my observations in a way that will continue to keep you in suspense.

Listen, Learn, and Pivot

Having been part of the show during weeks 2, 4, and 6, I had the opportunity to see the evolution of the business plans. Some teams were headstrong and opted to not listen to the advice of the mentors. Some teams made very few adjustments from day-to-day and week-to-week, while others made massive shifts. Those teams that were open to learning and adapting were deemed as the stronger businesses by the judges. Additionally, those teams that listened to potential customers and pivoted accordingly, rather than being headstrong, performed better.

Knowledge May Hurt

The show’s producers did a great job of bringing in girls with a diverse range of personalities, experiences, and interests. Some of the women were more artistic. Others were more entrepreneurial. And others were more technical. It was fascinating to see that experience and technical competence were not always helpful. Past experiences sometimes interfered with their ability to think more creatively about their businesses. Or in some cases, technical knowledge led to solutions that were leading edge yet overly complex.

Stories Impact Reality

Throughout the show, teams pitched their businesses and ideas to the judges. In addition, most weeks had mini-challenges (e.g., Visa, a show sponsor, had the girls work on a new payment device concept) that they needed to present. As a judge, I focused on which ideas/businesses had the greatest potential. However, it was amazing how the pitch influenced the perception of the business. Pitches that were emotional and created visual images in our minds fared better than the ones that were “just the facts.” Our reality is shaped by stories and can influence our behaviors. Decisions are not always rational.


Some teams were all over the map, attempting to appeal to everyone. Although this may appear to create a larger base of buyers, it typically leads to a less successful start-up. The ideas with wider appeal seemed to be watered down solutions and ultimately less attractive. The ones that were more focused on specific demographics or only solved a limited set of problems for a target group were deemed as more valuable in the minds of the judges. This was evident in week two where the winning team had initially started with a much larger vision but pared it down to the most viable aspect.

Passion Matters

Only one team could win the $100,000. It would be easy for the losing teams to pack up their bags, go back to their lives, and call it quits on the business. Without giving away the ending, I can tell you that none of the girls did this. I am writing this one month after the winner was chosen, and all eight women are still actively involved in developing their businesses. Even in the face of defeat, they are still committed to their dreams.

These insights are the tip of the iceberg and it is my pleasure to present to you this first in a series of articles garnered by observing the hearts, grit and determination of these young ladies. It is clear that the opportunity to learn is an ageless phenomenon.

Be sure to watch Girl Starter Friday nights, 7PM ET on TLC. You can also catch past episodes online at https://www.tlcgo.com/girl-starter/ or on-demand.

Here’s a short clip where we provide out advice to the Girl Starters:


This Friday, May 5 at 7PM, I will be on the new TLC television show, Girl Starter.

This show encourages young women to create their own businesses through a playful, yet serious competition.

Eight young women, 18-24 years old, build businesses from scratch over the course of 6 weeks. The winning team gets up to $100,000 of investment and services to support their business.

The first episode aired this past Friday and concluded with the 8 women being paired into four teams.

The episode this Friday is where the business building begins. Each team will develop an idea for their business and start to plan it out.

I am a mentor and judge, along with Tiffany Pham from Mogul.

Although we finished shooting the entire show, I can’t tell you much more until the episodes air. So, you’ll have to tune in!

Be prepared for some laughs, inspiration, and surprises.

I’ll be on the show May 5, May 19, and the finale on June 2.

Tune and in support young women become business owners.

Here’s a quick preview of the show:

You can learn more about the show/movement on Parade.com

I am known for wearing funky shirts by Robert Graham, Bugatchi, and English Laundry.

I guess I always liked to be a little funky as evidenced by my high school graduation picture.

Back in the late-70’s/early-80’s, the wide lapel was the “in thing.” And I guess the man necklace was too. Then again, I performed in musicals, so I don’t think anyone thought of me as “cool.”

Although I loved that look back then, it doesn’t work as well today.

Unfortunately my collars seem to like that old look. Here’s me in a Bugatchi shirt, in its natural state:

All I need to do is at the gold-plated chocker and I could transport myself back to the 80’s without anyone giving me a second look.

But I want to look a bit more modern. And therefore, I use a solution that has my collars look like this:

Notice how the collar looks like it is buttoned down, without buttons?

How did I do this?

There are many ways to tame your collar. My approach is to use metal collar stays that are magnetic, and then use small rare earth magnets underneath the collar to hold it down:

You slide the metal collar stay in the usual way and then you attach the magnet on the underside.

There are pre-packaged solutions out there that are expensive and achieve the same result. Given I lose magnets and collars stays quite often, I prefer the inexpensive do-it-yourself approach.

I get my magnetic stainless steel collar stays here: Less than $8 for 3 dozen on Amazon.com.

And I get the magnets here:  30 8 mm x 2 mm Disc – Neodymium Rare Earth Magnet, Grade N48 for about $12 on eBay.

So for $20 I get enough to last me a lifetime, assuming I don’t keep losing a set each month.

I’ve played around with different size magnets and these seems to have the best combination of hold and size. I sometimes use a smaller size (1/4″ x 1/16″) magnet, but these have a higher likelihood of falling off. Someone I know uses black magnets so they are less visible then the shiny silver ones. Given the collars lay pretty flat, I’ve not seen this as an issue for me.

So now you can have the cool, funky shirts you love without looking like you arrived in a time-machine from the past.

Bring Stephen’s innovation insights to your next event!