Enhance Productivity and Efficiency with Stephen’s Innovation Insights

Innovation Insights by Stephen Shapiro

Latest Posts

Instead of always shifting direction, sometimes the best strategy is to go deeper….

Given I have dedicated my business life to innovation, people (rightly) assume I will be innovating my business. The question I am often asked is, “What are you doing to pivot your business?”

This question implies that I am changing direction. But maybe this is the wrong question.

Lately when people ask me this, I reply, “I’m not going to pivot. I’m going to divot.”

Continue reading >>

Technology is important to all businesses, but the human element can not be ignored…

We all want the latest and greatest technology for our businesses. But there is one important factor that needs to be addressed, as is evidenced by a recent experience of mine.

After a long trip, I arrived at a hotel ready to check in. I was immediately told, “We are sorry. Our computers are down and we can’t assign you a room.”

Given I travel as much as I do, I was understanding. These things happen. They were polite and I could see they were frustrated. I hadn’t eaten all day and was hungry so I asked, “Is there somewhere in the hotel where I can get some food?” They pointed across the lobby to the restaurant that was open.

I walked in and the place was quiet. There was one table where people were finishing their meal, with the waiter clearing their plates. I sat at the bar waiting for someone to get me a menu so that I could place my order. The people at the table left and the waiter finished cleaning. I sat there for ten minutes when the waiter eventually barked from 20 feet away across the room, “No food. Computers down.” Continue reading >>

As the prevalence of a problem decreases, we may find problems that don’t exist…

Does it sometimes feel that no matter how hard you work on solving your business problems, you never seem to make enough progress? Does it seem like you are on a treadmill going nowhere?

If so, you are not alone. In fact, it is quite common for people to make excellent progress with solving a problem, yet be unaware of that progress.

What we experience in business is common in society. Although the world is improving in so many areas, polls indicate that people believe differently.

New research by Daniel Gilbert, a well-known Harvard professor, explains why. Continue reading >>

I am pleased to announce that my next book, INVISIBLE SOLUTIONS, will be released March 2020.

What’s this book about?

Solve Any Problem Faster, with Less Risk and Lower Cost

What if your organization had a systematic approach to deal with any problem?

Having all the answers is not the answer. To find better solutions, you first need to ask better questions.

The questions you ask determine which solutions you’ll see and which will remain hidden from you. Each of the 25 “lenses” in this book uncovers solutions you might otherwise miss.

This book will help you:

  • Discover why we are hard-wired to ask ineffective questions
  • Understand the power of well-defined questions
  • Reframe any problem in multiple ways
  • Move from idea-based innovation to question-based innovation to increase ROI


In addition to the book, we are developing supporting tools and technologies (e.g., chat bots, playing cards, videos, etc). Continue reading >>

The brain loves to be correct, so even when you are wrong, you get a “rush” that can increase innovation failure rates….

In a previous article, I wrote about why “wow this is a great idea” can lead to higher failure rates of your innovation efforts. This results in wasted time, money, and effort that could be invested in more valuable solutions.

We now have scientific evidence as to why this is true.

According to a recent study, “When updating beliefs about their future prospects, people tend to disregard bad news.” This has traditionally been called Confirmation Bias.

According to researcher Bojana Kuzmanovic, “In complex, confusing situations, we run the risk of making a biased judgment as soon as we prefer one conclusion over another.”

The study goes on to indicate that these judgments are not influenced by new information that contradicts the original conclusion. In other words, we ignore information that is not aligned with our beliefs.

Why? Continue reading >>

Your best source of revenue typically does not involve chasing new customers…

Over the years I have tried many methods for growing my business.

I’ve hired internet marketing firms to implement outbound marketing programs or improve my Search Engine Optimization (SEO). I’ve worked with public relations (PR) firms who secured me key spots in national newspapers, magazines, and television. And I’ve paid out large sums of money for online advertising campaigns.

The objective in each case was to expand my network, increase traffic to my website, build my mailing list, and raise awareness of my brand and services.

After all of this work and expense, I conducted a post mortem and discovered something quite interesting. Continue reading >>

We can learn a lot about innovation by studying linguistics…

The other day I found some old VHS tapes (for those a bit younger than I am, this was the predecessor to the DVD). On one was a speech I gave to a couple thousand executives about 20 years ago. I talked about a topic that fascinated me at the time, yet I did very little with the concept since. But it is as relevant today as it was two decades ago.

In linguistics, there is the concept of deep structure and surface structure. By digging into these, we can gain some insights into the way innovation really works.

Deep versus Surface Structure

The deep structure is the meaning; what you want to convey.

The surface structure is the actual configuration of words, used to express what you want to say.

When a client asked me to help them polish the words in their mission and vision statements, I passed. I didn’t feel it was a worthwhile endeavor.

When you debate the specific words that should be in your mission or vision statement, you are automatically focusing on the surface structure.

But if your goal is alignment and understanding, the words are not as important as the intent – the deep structure.

Access to the deep structure is not intellectual. It is visceral.

To do this, I suggested that the team visit/interview clients. Talk to individuals and organizations that have been impacted by their work. Talk about “why” you are in business. Have each person on the team share personal stories. Get emotional.

The specific wording of a purpose, mission or vision statement (the surface structure) is not as important as the meaning behind the words (the deep structure). This is where you tap into implicit motivations.

The Deep Structure of Your Business

Continue reading >>

The key to convincing people that your innovation is great is to sell them on something other than your innovation…

“What’s the best way to sell innovation?” This was a question I was recently asked by a client.

He’s an innovation leader in his company and he wanted to sell the concept of innovation internally, to sell specific ideas internally, to sell the solutions externally, and maybe even pitch to potential investors.

I thought about books he might read. For his last need, I recommended Pitch Anything: An Innovative Method for Presenting, Persuading, and Winning the Deal​ by Oren Klaff. This is a book I’ve read twice and listened to on audio book. It’s a brilliant approach for pitching to investors.

There were other books I considered. But in the end, when I looked at the bigger picture of his innovation challenge, I recommended some ancient wisdom: Aristotle’s “Rhetorical Triangle.” This was his approach to using language to persuade others.

The three corners of this triangle are “ethos, pathos, and logos.” Ethos is credibility, pathos is empathy, and logos is logic. I find that selling your ideas using this construct, typically in that order, leads to more persuasive arguments and more effective sales pitches.

Ethos: Credibility

First, establish your credibility. You need people to listen to you before they can truly hear your ideas. They will only listen if the think you are worthy of their time. Why should they believe you? So, before trying to sell your ideas, make sure people believe you, trust you, and want to listen to you. You want to do this without it sounding like you are hyping yourself, because that can quickly turn off listeners. Therefore it is useful to get someone else to sing your praises. Testimonials and social proof can build credibility. A warm introduction from someone who has already established credibility with your target audience can go a long way. In my role as a professional speaker, this “warming up the audience” is critical. Therefore, before taking the stage, it is customary for an executive from the client to read an introduction that establishes my credibility. If you are selling internally, then maybe this step is not necessary, or can happen very quickly.

Once people are bought into “you,” it’s time to build an emotional connection.

Pathos: Empathy

Continue reading >>

Price drives the perception of value, and unfortunately most customers don’t understand value…

Do you know what your customers really value? When I first started my business as a professional speaker, I realized that I didn’t have a clue.

In order to find out, I did an experiment called PW3 – “Pay What We’re Worth.

Instead of using the traditional model to determine speaking fees (where the speaker sets the rate before the work is done), with PW3, as an experiment, I turned this model upside down. Instead of quoting a standard rate, the client would determine my fee after the work was done.

The plan was to send the client a blank invoice after I gave a speech, and they would pay “what they thought it was worth.”

The only stipulation was that we would have a conversation about value up front. I wanted to learn the value they got from previous speakers. How were the concepts reinforced after the presentation? How were ideas implemented? How was value measured?

What did I learn? Surprisingly, none of the companies I worked with were able to define value, at least in terms of tangible results. In fact, in nearly every situation, when I asked them how they would determine what to pay me after an event, they said, “Um, I guess we’ll pay you what we paid the last speaker.” In fact, with 90 percent of my speeches, the client asked me for my standard fee and just paid that.

If our customers aren’t the ones defining value, what drives the perception of value?

Pricing Can Determine Perception

One week after starting my speaking business back in 2001, I met with the owner of a speaker’s bureau in London to discuss representation. Bureaus are agents who place speakers with events. In the meeting he expressed serious interest. So much so that a few days later he called me about a potential gig.

The call came to my mobile phone as I waited for a train. It was difficult to hear him due to the noise on the platform. However, through the ruckus I could hear “What is your speaking fee?” I was ill prepared. I honestly had never thought about it. I did some quick calculations and pulled a number out of the air. “Thirty Five Hundred” was my response. He thanked me and hung up.

Later that day he called back. I quickly realized that he too must have had a hard time hearing me during our previous conversation, because he asked me, “Was that Thirty Five THOUSAND dollars or Thirty Five THOUSAND pounds (at the time about $60,000)?”

I stumbled for a moment, debating how to answer. I then sheepishly responded, “Thirty Five HUNDRED DOLLARS.” Again, he thanked me and hung up.

Continue reading >>

There are two types of games. One kills creativity and the other is for kids…

Business is serious. Right?

But what if we could game playing to enhance our businesses? Games can be a useful tool for enhancing creativity. They make work more fun, they reduce stress, and they get people in action.

However, not all games are created equal. There are adult games and kid games.

Adult Games

With adult games, there tend to be rigid rules, the games have an ending, and there are winners and losers.

Think about nearly every adult game we play: Monopoly, poker, or basketball.

They typically have a complex set of rules that all of the players need to adhere to. If you break the rules you “go to jail,” are disqualified, or get penalized.

Adult games end. The game is over when all of the other players are out of money, when the “clock” says there is not more time, or when everyone has had their turn.

And nearly every adult game has a winner and one or more losers. They are competitions.
The world of business is an adult game. Deadlines. Budgets. Failures. Losers.

Contrast this with kid games.

Kid Games

Kids play games with very loose rules, the game continues until they say it ends, and there is no concept of winner/loser.

Continue reading >>

Bring Stephen’s innovation insights to your next event!