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Innovation Insights by Stephen Shapiro

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Although I have six published books under my belt, there is always something new to learn.

In the past, I would write the manuscript and then have the publisher complete the editing, layout, and cover design. After that, the book magically appeared in bookstores.

Readers only saw the book when it was in finished form.

But for my next book, I am using a completely different strategy. One that involves readers in many ways long before the book is formally published. 

The attached ten steps I’ve used so far – and I am still 8 or 9 months away from the book being available in bookstores.

  1. I started the writing process in Scrivener. This is an excellent Mac tool for organizing thoughts. Once I had a good draft, I exported it to MS Word and printed it at the local FedEx. I edited the manuscript and repeated the process about ten times before I had a version I felt was worth sharing.
  2. Once I had a solid draft, I engaged ten beta readers using the helpthisbook (dot com) software. This is a fantastic way to get line-level feedback from your target audience. I received over 350 reactions in total. The readers were clients and innovation colleagues. 
  3. Based on their feedback, I edited the book. I added stories, restructured content, and simplified the language. I had something good at this point, but I knew it could be better.
  4. Therefore, I decided to bring in professional support. I hired the woman who was the editor of my very first book with McGraw-Hill. She now does freelance work and is fantastic. She did a “developmental edit,” which focused on the higher-level structure of the book. Based on her feedback, I made more edits.
  5. That version was then sent to 20 different reviews for their feedback. Again, I used the helpthisbook software. I received nearly 500 insights. This required me to add more stories, restructure, and do further edits.
  6. At this point, I had nearly 15 iterations of the manuscript, and about 30 individuals provided their feedback. Now it was time to pull it all together. I hired a copy editor on Reedsy who did a nice job correcting grammatical and punctuation issues. I now had a manuscript worth sharing with a larger audience.
  7. I imported the manuscript to Vellum. This is a very easy-to-use Mac software for book layout. It spits out both the ebook and print versions.
  8. Now I needed a cover. I used getcovers (dot com). They are super inexpensive, yet they did a nice job. They took my concept and created something that was perfect for the pre-release version. 
  9. The digital version of the manuscript was then uploaded to BookFunnel. This cloud-based software allows you to share your book with readers quickly and automatically. Right now, I am limiting it to past clients, colleagues, and others I know and trust.
  10. I also sent the print version to Walch Printing, and they produced a short run of 50 books that I will give to clients. It looks beautiful. You can see the image above.

Continue reading >>

For the past few years, organizations have been reactively responding to disruptions caused by the pandemic. This has led to another pandemic, one of perpetual pivoting.

Organizations have been spinning in circles, dissipating energy, causing confusion, and burning out employees.

It is for this reason that I have been writing my seventh book. It is the antidote to this nonstop pivoting.

And I am pleased to finally announce the title and share the cover.

PIVOTAL: Stop Pivoting in Circles by Doubling Down on What Matters Most

Here’s the copy from the back cover:

Innovate Where You Differentiate

In a world where pivoting has become the norm, Pivotal offers a refreshing alternative: focus on what remains constant to forge deeper customer connections and generate enduring value. This book will help you master the art of:

  • crafting timeless differentiators
  • strategically prioritizing investments
  • cultivating a culture of differentiation that ignites employee engagement and value creation
  • applying the principles to both individuals and organizations

Pivotal delves into the vital link between an organization doubling down on its differentiator and becoming indispensable to customers. It’s about strengthening relationships and creating long-term sustainable value in a world where disruptive technologies and shifting business models are the norm. This isn’t just about standing out; it’s about balancing the need for stability and agility in a ceaselessly evolving landscape.


Note that this book will not be formally released for another year. The cover will change at that time. The title might even change.

At this time I am printing a limited number of pre-release copies for clients and colleagues. I may also make digital copies available for select individuals. If you are involved with innovation, strategy, or leadership for a large organization and would like a pre-release copy, please contact us.

The book is not available for purchase anywhere at this time, and won’t be until the Spring of 2024.

You can stay abreast of the latest updates here

With that, here’s the cover. Continue reading >>

Combining the digital and physical worlds enhances both.

Let’s get phygital is not a song by Olivia Newton-John. It is about how your organization can leverage the blending of the physical and digital worlds.

For most of history, we were a physical society. We met in person and all interactions occurred with physical products. Then, as technology became more accessible to the masses, we moved to a digital world. People became increasingly disconnected from the real world as they spent their time on their phones, tablets, and computers.

During the pandemic, the pendulum swung even further towards digital, as meeting in person became more difficult.

But the real opportunity is in the blending of technology and the real world. As we become increasingly detached from the physical world, people are now craving in-person face-to-face human interaction – combined with digital technologies.

One simple, fun, and older example of this 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. Continue reading >>

In my push to get the manuscript done for my next book, I (once again) locked myself in a hotel room to stay focused.

People have asked me what I do during these sessions and how I get organized. The process is really very simple.

  1. I choose a place that has a full kitchen. For me this is critical as I want to leave the room as infrequently as possible. I eat all of my meals in the room. I typically stay in a timeshare, but you could certainly check VRBO or Airbnb to find a place. A nice view is a bonus. I like working on the balcony. Now, all of the places I stay are a short drive from where I live. But in the past, I have flown to a resort for a complete change of scenery.
  2. The first day is all about preparation with very little actual work. I stock the refrigerator. I organize my space. And I then plan out what I will do every day. I outline my goals for the week and travel with a portable whiteboard that has 5 columns. I try to schedule as few calls as possible. I turn on “do not disturb,” turn off all notifications, and I get ready to focus.
  3. I tend to work between 12 and 14 hours a day Tuesday through Thursday. Sitting for that long can be tiring. So I try to use the pomodoro technique. I set an alarm for 25 minutes. I work nonstop and then take a 5 minute break where I rest my eyes and stretch my back. Occasionally, I will go for a walk and listen to my manuscript (see previous post) or listen to an audiobook on book writing/editing. At the end of each day, I reflect on what I accomplished (celebrate) and then plan for the next day.
  4. I join writing sprints. In earlier posts I talked about some groups I have joined to help me stay motivated. These writing groups give me a social aspect for the week, while allowing me to stay focused on the task at hand.
  5. When the room has a large soaking tub or jacuzzi, I often end my day with a bath. It is a great way to reflect and wind down. Getting a good night’s sleep is critical. If a bath is not an option, I tend to read something relaxing to calm my mind so that I am not ruminating while sleeping.
  6. Given I have to check out of the hotel on Friday, I do a lighter workload in the room and then head to the pool. I try to have my manuscript printed so that I can stay off the computer. I use erasable pens to annotate my work. If you don’t have erasable pens, get them in multiple colors!
  7. When the week is over, I reflect on what I did so that I have a sense of accomplishment.

I wrote Personality Poker, Best Practices are Stupid, and Invisible Solutions using this strategy. And of course, I am using this approach for my next book. Although it works for me, you need to adjust this to suit your needs.

There is no one correct way to do this. Maybe each day you set a goal, and when you hit it you call it quits for the day. Maybe you have more time away from the desk to clear your mind. Choose whatever approach works for you.

What have you tried?

This is post #3 about the writing process for my next book. Here’s #1 and #2.

Sometimes a challenge for people in writing is making the time or having the support. Admittedly, I’m a pretty good self-motivator. I make the time.

Quite often I lock myself in a hotel for a week or two so that I can make progress without distractions. I find a place with a full kitchen so that I can load up the refrigerator with food the first day and never have to leave.

It’s a good thing I can dedicate the time, because I am not the most efficient writer. I iterate – a lot. For Invisible Solutions, I think I had printed out over a dozen different versions before it went to press. This book is already up to iteration number 5 (see the picture) and we are still in the earlier stages.

In addition to sequestering myself, this time around I’ve found it useful having a community of people to tap into. One group I am part of is organized by AJ Harper, the author of Write a Must Read. 

Her “Top Three Book (T3B) Authors’ Club” is a group of people who meet 2X a day for an hour each session. This gives you 10 opportunities per week to work with other authors – and the facilitators. AJ makes an appearance quite frequently and answers questions.

The call starts with about 5 minutes of Q&A. We then write for about 25 minutes. We have another 5 minutes of Q&A with a final 25 minutes of writing. 

Being part of this group has helped me in two ways: Continue reading >>

Given my last post about my next book generated so much interest, I’ve decided to document my journey here in the hopes that it benefits others.

This is book number 7. Although I have published books as far back as 2001 (with an even earlier one from 1996 when I was at Accenture), I am always learning something new.

Late last week I sent the beta version of the book to a dozen reviewers. These are individuals that I know and trust. People who know my content and know innovation. They are primarily clients who will give me open and honest feedback.

To gather feedback, I am using the “Help This Book” software that Rob Fitzpatrick talks about in his book, Write Useful Books.

I loaded up the entire manuscript and asked my beta readers to tell me what they liked, what confused them, and what needed to go. The image is the actual dashboard for the first few chapter. In the first few days, I’ve already received 100 reactions from 5 of the readers. We still have a couple more weeks for reviewers to provide feedback.

Continue reading >>

Yesterday I submitted the manuscript for my next book to early readers. Although this is book number seven, I am using a different strategy than I have in the past.

The big influencers were two books I read on the writing process:

Write a Must Read by AJ Harper is a truly fantastic book. The key concept reinforced throughout is, “Don’t write about something, write for someone.” Simple yet brilliant. Figure out your ideal reader and then make sure everything you write solves their pain. Her suggestions on the editing process are also extremely helpful, even to seasoned authors.

The second book I loved was Write Useful Books, by Rob Fitzpatrick. The key takeaway from this one is that you want to get feedback early and often. Typically, I write the book, bring in professional editors, and then get feedback. For this book, I have my beta reader involved before any professionals have looked at it.

I just sent the manuscript off to about a dozen of my most trusted innovation partners. Clients, innovation experts, and others I truly respect.

I recall reading in Rob’s book that if you don’t feel nervous and embarrassed when sending out the manuscript to early readers, you’ve waited too long. Well, my stomach was churning when I emailed it yesterday, so I guess that good.

Continue reading >>

Like millions of others, I have been playing around with ChatGPT. In an earlier post, I asked it some generic questions and got some generic responses. So I decided to put it to the test and see how it would do with my Invisible Solutions content. Can the AI system reframe problems better than the 25 lenses?

To put it to the test, I decided to ask it to solve the baggage claim problem. If you are not familiar with it, be sure to watch this video. The short version of the story is, to reduce wait time, instead of speeding up the bags, the airport slowed down the passengers.

Solutions to the Baggage Claim Problem

I asked ChatGPT:

Q: I work for an airport. People are complaining about how much they have to wait at baggage claim for their checked bags. Is there a better way to look at this problem? Are there good solutions?

A: There are a few ways you can approach this problem. Here are a few ideas: Continue reading >>

2023 is around the corner. Time to make some changes in your life. Right? Ready to set some resolutions?

Before you do, did you know that only 8% of people are always successful in achieving the desired results. 92% fail!

24% (one in four people) NEVER succeed and have failed on every resolution every year. That’s pretty depressing.

(if you are interested in some fascinating statistics about resolutions, read this article: Interesting New Year’s Resolution Statistics)

One key finding: there is no correlation between happiness and resolution setting/success.

But all is not lost. There is a better way.

Here is an article a wrote a while ago, but is timeless: Making Resolutions That WorkIt remains one of my most often cited articles.

Or, if you prefer, you can read a variation 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 you want to create themes that help guide you and your decision making throughout the year.

These themes get me excited about the New Year.  They also make activities that might have seemed tedious, more enjoyable.

What are your themes for the new year?

P.S. If you want to learn more about how to live a more “present moment” life, read Goal-Free Living  This is where I originally wrote about the concept of themes vs resolutions. 

It seems like everyone is playing around with ChatGPT right now. It is an AI based chatbot that can answer a wide range of text-based questions and commands.

College students are writing papers using it. Authors are playing around with it to generate titles, subtitles, and even content. People are writing social media posts using it.

I’ve been goofing around with it, and at times it is impressive. And at other times, it gets thing totally wrong. But overall, it is quite convincing and promising. So I decided to see if ChatGPT could write a blog entry for me.

I asked it: “Please write me an 800 word blog entry on why innovation is important to large organizations. Be sure to include your definition of innovation and 5 steps on how to make innovation a reality.”

Here’s its response (bolding is my way of making it more readable):

ChatGPT’s Response:

Innovation is the introduction of new ideas, processes, or products that create value for an organization. It can come in the form of a new product or service, a new business model, or a new way of doing things.

Innovation is important for large organizations for a number of reasons. Continue reading >>

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