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Innovation Insights by Stephen Shapiro

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It is so difficult to see our own blind spots, which is why clients hire me to help illuminate theirs. Of course that’s stating the obvious since if we could see them they wouldn’t be blind spots! So let’s call them “missed opportunities that are right in front of our noses” – or MOTARIFOON. Sadly I don’t think that acronym will catch on.

Regardless, I discovered a MOTARIFOON I’ve had for nearly 10 years. And when I saw it, I felt so foolish that it had taken me so long.

About a decade ago I created Personality Poker and have been playing this with my clients ever since. Some events are small with 20 or 30 people. But most are groups are several hundred to over a thousand people.

To play, we deal 5 cards to each person. But first I need to shuffle decks of cards; one deck for every 10 people. So for 1000 people I need to shuffle 100 decks. To complicate matters, I also need to remove the two jokers from each deck. This is a time intensive and boring process, and my hands are often cramped afterwards.

Then one day I had an epiphany. One of those aha moments, which felt more like a d’oh moment.

Instead of having the cards printed in “new deck order” (2, 3, 4, 5, etc), what if I had them printed in shuffled order without any jokers?  It’s not as though the cards need to be completely random as we aren’t gambling. In fact, in printed order I can ensure they are really mixed up so that each person gets a different range of colors, numbers, and suits. This is, for the purposes of this game, even better than true randomness.

So now, the cards I use for my speeches are specially printed in shuffled order without jokers. The cards I sell are still in new deck order.

I kick myself when I think about how much time I could have saved over the past 10 years if I had thought of this previously.

What similar aha/d’oh moments have you had in your life/business?

It is that time of year.

Many of you created your New Year’s Resolutions last week. And although we are less than 2 weeks into the new year, I suspect that many of you have already failed in keeping your resolution.

This would not be surprising as a study I conducted showed that only 8% of people are always successful in achieving the desired results. 92% fail!

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know that there is a better way. Instead of resolutions (where failure is an option), I suggest themes (a game to be played).

Here is an article a wrote a while ago, but it 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.

These themes get you excited about the New Year and make activities that might have seemed tedious, more enjoyable.

My theme for 2016 was Nothing New. No investments. No new content. Instead I found ways to leverage past investments and past relationships.

Although I’m still formulating my themes for 2017, two are emerging:

  • Orlando – I moved to Orlando a year ago and recently bought I house. Last year I also got engaged to an amazing woman. Therefore, I would like to find ways of making more income that don’t involve getting on a plane. I want to enjoy my life here in Central Florida. I used to think that the way to do this was through “passive income” (e.g., products and other items that don’t require any time on my part). But I am seeing that it can also be accomplished through local events, bringing clients to me, and working remotely (email, phone calls, Skype, webinars and other virtual method).
  • Investment – As I mentioned, last year was about avoiding investment. And it was great. I finished some projects I had started previously and found ways of using content I had created in the past. And of course I saved a few dollars in the process, while still maintaining the same level of income. This year however is about making investments, investments that will yield benefits in the future. These investments might require money, but not necessarily. For example, I will be writing a new book this year, which will require an investment of time.

What are your themes for the new year?

P.S. If you want to learn more about how to live a more powerful life, read Goal-Free Living  To this day, I receive emails from people who read it 10 years ago and said it changed their lives.

colt revolverI was recently listening to an old-time radio broadcast and heard a commercial that ran back in 1959. It shared the story of how the Colt Revolver was invented. As it is told, when he was younger, Samuel Colt, was fascinated with gun powder and weapons.

However, he was dissatisfied with the “one-shot” pistols that were on the market. To create the revolver, he recalled a sea voyage he took when he was 13. He used the concept of the paddlewheel for inspiration to create the six-shooter. This is a great example of how taking a concept from one industry and applying it to another can be a great stimulus for new inventions.

The story continues with the common battle of any innovation: bringing it to market and gaining acceptance.

It is a fun listen and is only 75 second long. Enjoy!

Listen to the audio (streaming):



MacBook Pro Dongles[see update below] I received my new MacBook Pro 13″ the other day. I was both excited and hesitant. I’ve had my old 2010 unibody MBP for a number of years and it has served me really well. I maxed out it memory and added a 1T SSD. It is great and relatively fast for a 6 year old computer.

Did I really need a new one? What about the lack of ports that aren’t USB-C? I read that a number of  people returned their new MBPs because of what is called “donglegate” – the need for adapters to convert old devices to work with the new Mac.

Given these concerned, I ordered my new Mac and it arrived last week and I’ve had a chance to play around with it. Here are my observations… Continue reading >>

Disruptive innovation forcesI was recently asked by a European magazine to provide my list of the most disruptive companies of 2015/2016.

I thought about it and struggled to answer. For me it is not companies that disrupt but platforms, industries, and other macro forces that disrupt.

Given that I provided my top 7 disruptive forces…

  1. Peer-to-peer – This is causing disruption to all industries and will continue to do so. Uber, Airbnb, and platforms from every industry, including banking and insurance. No one is immune.
  2. 3D printing – Although it is not disrupting massively today, it will in the very near future. Cars and motorcycles have now been 3D printed. Houses too. The disruption isn’t just to manufacturers, but the supply chain/shipping companies. When you can print your product at home (just like a printer today), you don’t need to ship anything.
  3. Autonomous/electric vehicles – I realize these are two categories lumped into one. Just today the first autonomous truck (a beer delivery) was “driven” over 100 miles – on real highways – with human intervention only on the exit ramps. The implications for self-driving cars is massive – not just to companies and industries, but to society. And electric storage (not just for cars) will reshape our relationship to fossil fuels.
  4. On-Demand Video – This is a board category, but for the first time we are seeing Netflix and Amazon win Emmy awards. You can subscribe to individual stations rather than paying a one-size-fits-all cable package. YouTube falls into this category too. The AT&T/Time Warner merger will certainly add an interesting twist to this area.
  5. Millenials – A generation is disrupting every industry. Their decision making process is different. Their desires are not the same as past generations. They are social and technologically savvy. This is forcing every industry to change their business model. Every client of mine is struggling with this one…more than any other disruption.
  6. Blockchain – A biggie for banking industry, but has ramifications in many industries including the music industry. It will even disrupt the disrupters as it will eliminate the need for intermediaries like Uber.
  7. Virtual Communications and Augmented Reality –  We are in the early stages of this, but these will disrupt so many industries. Meetings and travel industry (e.g. hotels and airlines) will be impacted. Pokemon Go is just the start of augmented reality. This will ultimately become a virtual communication tool also for people to engage with others who are not physically there. Facebook is already working on some cool things in this space (having recently purchased Oculus VR).

What are your thoughts on disruptive forces? Which ones concern you the most? Which do you think are fads and will not become mainstream?

P.S. Someone commented on another platform that AI is another, and I tend to agree. Whether it is really AI, machine learning, or some variation thereof, machines will continue to do tasks better and faster than humans. This coupled with enhanced robotics will provide some major disruptions to the workforce.

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

In the last video I discussed why confirmation bias will cause you to run faulty experiments. In this episode I share several techniques for overcoming this issue.

Be sure to watch the previous videos!


Today I’m going to give you some specific techniques you can use to run better experiments, and overcome the brain’s confirmation bias…

In the past videos I talked about why the brain wants to prove our beliefs to be true. We run experiments designed to confirm or disprove our beliefs, but most of the time we prove them to be true because if we believe it’s a great idea, we’re only going to find evidence to support that idea.

However, there are some things you can do, in order to overcome this natural tendency… Continue reading >>

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

In the last video I mentioned the need to focus on experiments. Unfortunately most experiments lead to ultimate failure due to a psychological tendency we have.

Be sure to watch the previous videos!


Today I am going to talk about why the brain is designed to cause you to run faulty experiments, which will ultimately lead to your failure…

In the world of innovation, we seem to think that “Yeah, but…” is the enemy of innovation. But guess what, it’s not!

We need disproving evidence. We need people to prove why maybe our ideas are bad.

The real enemy of innovation is the, “Wow! This is a great idea.” Here’s why… Continue reading >>

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

Although failure seems to be the buzzword in innovation, it is actual detrimental to an organization’s success. There is an alternative: experiments.

Be sure to watch the previous videos!


Today on the Innovation Minute, I’m going to talk about why failure is a bad thing for innovation…

In the world of innovation, we seem to think that failure is a good thing. If we’re not breaking eggs, we’re not innovating. But this, to me, is faulty reasoning. We don’t want to fail. We want to experiment. Let me talk about this a little bit. Experiments are designed to prove or disprove a hypothesis. There’s nothing wrong with running an experiment and disproving what you believed to be true. When we run experiments there are possible outcomes… Continue reading >>

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 >>

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!


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 >>

Bring Stephen’s innovation insights to your next event!