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Innovation Insights by Stephen Shapiro

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Want to be a better problem solver? What if the solution is to get in the mud?

In this episode, I interview Joe De Sena. He’s the founder of Spartan and is the host of CNBC’s No Retreat: Business Bootcamp.

This incredibly powerful show puts business people in physically challenging situations as a way of getting them to be more resilient.

In this episode, here are some of the questions we tackle:

  • Why Spartan? He feels that businesspeople need to treat themselves like an Olympian – going for the gold metal.
  • Why the TV Show? A lot of people like the idea of being in business but might not be fully committed.
  • What is the Show? The use of military-style training, tackling obstacles to build resiliency skills.
  • Why Physical Challenges? If you can master being under tremendous physical and mental stress and still push through and keep it together, you’re unbreakable.
  • Why Do Businesses Fail? Most businesses fail because they quit when it gets hard.
  • How is the Show Constructed? Each week, three business issues are identified and then physical challenges are constructed to help them get stronger in dealing with them.
  • Why Does It Work? He uses an analogy on how steel is made: you heat it, pound it, and then drown it. His physical process is about tackling the problems and searing it into their brains.
  • What are the Results? Each week, at the end of the show, the positive impact is shared. For example, one company increased sales 170% in just three months.
  • How Has This Been Applied to Your Business? Joe shares how the pandemic decimated the Spartan business and how his process helped keep the company afloat (this is a very compelling story).
  • What are the Three Top Challenges for Businesses? 1) Communication, 2) Process (having Standard Operating Procedures), and 3) Cash.

And we covered so much more over the course of more than 25 minutes.

We also discovered that we both are Cornellians who lived in Boston and now live in the Orlando area. Small world.

This is an episode you won’t want to miss. Please share it with others who might find it valuable.

And be sure to watch No Retreat: Business Bootcamp 10PM ET/PT Tuesdays on CNBC. Learn more about the show here: https://www.cnbc.com/no-retreat/

It has been a while since my last podcast episode. I’ve been busy launching a new program and writing a new book. Therefore, to kick off the podcast season, I decided to do an episode just about my next book. The working title is DIVOT.

A divot is a term from golf. It’s when you swing at the ball, if you go too deep, a chunk of grass goes flying, and this is a divot.

And that’s the premise of the next book – how can we go deep and create more customer value?

Rather than changing direction (pivot) it is about deep value creation.

You may remember a podcast episode a while back (#14) where I said, “Don’t Pivot; Divot.” This episode takes this to a whole new level, and talks specifically about the concepts from the book.

I cover a lot of territory during 22 minutes of content:

  • Where do we double down on our investments?
  • How can we identify our differentiator and use that to prioritize investments?
  • How can the divot help create employee engagement and reduce burnout?
  • How can we best motivate employees (compensation, community, contribution)?
  • How can we provide stability for our employees (vs feeling like employees are working in quicksand)?
  • Why divoting is not the about standing still but is about going deeper.
  • The 5D of Differentiation (Distinctive, Desirable, Durable, Disruption-Proof, Disseminated)
  • Why we want a laser focus on investments rather than diluting and dissipating our energies

…and much more.

I hope you enjoy this episode!

If you have any stories to contribute to the new book, please drop me a line.

Goal-Free Living High Resolution Cover

In 2005, I wrote a book about living a life without goals. Sort of. I’m not anti-goal by any stretch. But there are times that an obsession with goals can negatively impact your performance and happiness. In the book, I talk about setting themes rather than resolutions for the new year. Here’s an article I wrote on that specific topic. The article was so popular the Wall Street Journal reprinted it on a full page (yes, on paper). In it, I share some interesting statistics from some research I commissioned.

Soon after, I received an email from a researcher at a major national TV talk show.  They were doing a episode on New Year’s Resolutions and saw my article. They wanted to know if I had more details on the statistics referenced in the article.

I went back to the research we did with the help of Opinion Corporation of Princeton, NJ, and found the following interesting tid bits.  The survey has a margin of error of 3%. Continue reading >>

Happy New Year!

For 2022, I am working on a new book – and I would love your input.

The general topic is the first step of my FAST Innovation Model.

FAST stands for Focus, Ask, Shift, Test.

Invisible Solutions® covered the “Ask” topic in depth.

This next book is a prequel to Invisible Solutions and addresses the “Focus” portion of the model.  One of the key principles is “Innovate Where You Differentiate.”

The book will go into depth on the topic of differentiation and how to use this to drive investment prioritization. I will drip more content about the book in the near future.

But for now, here’s what I need from you: Continue reading >>

I’m locked away in a hotel this week working on my next book. Today I want to share one small section which gets at the heart of the premise. It’s a story you may have heard, with a twist…
Although you may have heard the story of the optimist and pessimist who look at a half-filled glass of water, you probably only know half the story. There are two other individuals who are part of the conversation: an engineer and an innovator.
The optimist looks at the glass and says, “The glass is half full.”
The pessimist looks at the same glass and replies, “No, the glass is half empty.”
The engineer analyzes the situation and says, “There’s too much glass. Cut off the top.”
The innovator steps back and asks, “Why do we even need a glass? What do they really need? Hydration? Is there a better way to quench someone’s thirst?”
Although simple, this example highlights the power of innovative thinking. By asking better questions about the wants and needs of our customers, we can deliver more valuable solutions. Unlike the engineer who looks at the current solution and tries to improve it (and no, I’m not dissing engineers as I am one by education), the innovator steps back to the beginning and rethinks the “why.” Why are we developing this product or service? What’s the real problem we are trying to solve?

To celebrate Thanksgiving here in the United States, I decided to share a segment from my book, Goal-Free Living. Chapter 4 is entitled, “Want What You Have.” Instead of looking for more and creating a different future, appreciate what you have now.

Before we get to the podcast, I want to share two items:

  • My “Purple Monday” sale – $50 off the Personality Poker® Starter Kit and a free copy of Best Practices are Stupid if you buy a copy of Invisible Solutions. Sale ends December 3rd. Learn more here
  • The launch of my new yearlong peer-to-peer mastermind as just announced. Learn more here

In the podcast I share a number of stories that will hopefully inspire you to have a deeper appreciate for where you are in life, even if things are challenging at the moment.

Happy Holidays!

Happy belated Thanksgiving to my friends here in the United States.

Although the Black Friday sales might be over, I’ve decided to throw in a little color into the mix with two special offers as part of my Purple Monday.

This week only (through December 3rd), I am offering my Personality Poker® Starter Kit for $50 off – a more than 25% discount. It’s a great chance to try it out with your team. It is the most fun and fastest way to determine if you are “playing with a full deck” (i.e., you have all of the right innovation styles in the right roles on your team).

Get started with the Starter Kit now. No coupon codes needed.

And, if you’ve been waiting to get your hands on Invisible Solutions®, now is the time to get it. If you buy a copy (hardcover, Kindle, or Audible) on Amazon between now and December 3rd, you will get a copy of Best Practices are Stupid at no extra cost.

Just order your copy of Invisible Solutions on Amazon and then email the receipt here: bookoffer@invisiblesolutionsbook.com.

Once we confirm the order, we will email you back a link to a password protected PDF copy of Best Practices are Stupid.

I hope you will take advantage of these offers. Both expire December 3rd.

It is finally here – my Invisible Solutions® Mastermind.

As a reader of this blog, you know how passionate I am about innovation. I truly believe that it is the key to solving your most complex challenges and revealing hidden opportunities.

Over the past 25 years, I have worked with hundreds of organizations to support their innovation efforts. And I am on a mission to help many more.

Therefore, I have decided to launch a new innovation mastermind to help my clients make innovation a reality. It is designed to give innovation leaders greater access to me (and other innovation leaders) at a fraction the cost of my typical programs. In fact, the investment is just a little more than the cost of an hour keynote.

To be clear, this isn’t just education; it is a “get things done” program where you and a team member produce real results over the course of 12 months.

Because I want to give personal support to all that participate, we are limiting the first cohort to 15 non-competitive organizations.

This isn’t for everyone. This is only for innovation or strategy leaders from larger organizations. We only want the best of the best in this group.

We are scheduled to start Q1 2022.

Given you’re here, this might be a fit for you or for someone on your team.

If you want to learn more, please contact me directly and I will send you more information.

Thanks in advance for your consideration!

This podcast celebrates 20 years since the launch of my first book, 24/7 Innovation. It also marked the time when I left Accenture and started my own innovation business. In honor of this special period in my life, I read the Prologue to that book and share some thoughts on where we have come in the last two decades.

In this episode, we explore:

  • how innovation and management theory have followed the times of the day (from Taylor to today)
  • why past innovation strategies have focused on “boxes” (activities) while newer models focus on “lines” (interconnections)
  • why jazz is a good metaphor for innovation in that it is a collaborate and improvisational approach that adapts to new realities
  • the recent progress innovation has made to move towards “lines” rather than boxes
  • why relevance and adaptability is more important than ideas or novelty

Thank you to everyone who has made the past 20 years possible!


What if instead of thinking outside the box, you want to find a better box?

This is Chapter 4 from Best Practices are Stupid.

We explore the power of Challenge-Centered Innovation (CCI)and why it leads to higher ROI than idea-driven innovation.

In this episode, we explore

  • Einstein’s perspective on innovation (hint: the problem is more important than the solution)
  • Hollywood’s point of view on thinking outside the box (hint: don’t)
  • The advantages of Challenge-Centered Innovation
  • The key things you do up-front with CCI: assign owners, sponsor, resources, funding, evaluators and evaluation criteria
  • How ideas are like fishing with a net in the middle of the ocean while CCI is like targeted fishing with the right lure.

The content in this episode is crucial to my overall work and sets the stage for future chapters.

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