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Here is the transcription for Episode 11 of the Invisible Solutions podcast. It’s not perfect, but if you prefer reading vs listening, this is the way to go. Enjoy!


What if all problems are equal yet, some are more equal than others?

Welcome to Invisible Solutions. I’m your host, Stephen Shapiro. Each week, we tackle your most complex problems using the lenses from my book, Invisible Solutions. If you need the lenses, go to getthelenses.com. And with that, let’s get started with today’s episode.

Today, we’re going to explore why we need to prioritize our innovation investments.

We’re going to need to determine what are our most important problems. What are our biggest opportunities? In his book, Animal Farm, George Orwell wrote “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” This is an important mantra to remember when creating an innovation program. All problems are equal, but some are more equal than others.

You don’t innovate the same way for every opportunity in your business.

In Episode 9, I talked about why you want to innovate where you differentiate. What’s most important to your business? Why do customers do business with you and not someone else?

When I asked this question of CEOs, top executives, employees, and others, there’s typically a very long, uncomfortable silence.

Clearly defining your focus will help you allocate your innovation investments much more effectively, but most people don’t think of their business in these terms.

Let’s talk about how you prioritize your investments in time and money.

Once you identify your differentiator — the reason why people do business with you and not someone else — you can then use this information to develop your operating strategy. This is the way you run your business. This is how you prioritize your investments. Continue reading >>

In Episode 9, I briefly talked about differentiation and why it is an important part of innovation.

In this episode we do an even deeper dive into the topic. And in particular I share my Innovation Targeting Matrix. The premise is that there are three levels of activities/opportunities – and they aren’t all equal. When you better understand how to prioritize your innovation investments, you will get the biggest bang for your buck.

The three levels are:

  • Support – creates internal value
  • Core – Table stakes/customer expectations
  • Differentiating – The reason someone does business with you

By determining which level your challenges focus on, you can best determine your innovation strategy.

Although the Innovation Targeting Matrix was not in the Invisible Solutions book (it was in Best Practices are Stupid), I felt it was a useful tool to include here for listeners.

Download a copy of the Innovation Targeting Matrix

Download the lenses from Invisible Solutions

Learn more about Best Practices are Stupid

Submit any problems you want me to solve on the show

Episode #10 of the Invisible Solutions podcast is now live.

In today’s episode we explore one of the lenses from Invisible Solutions: #19 PAIN VS GAIN.

We often hear the expression “Build it and they will come.” With innovation, a more accurate statement is “Eliminate a pain and they will come.”

2020 was a year of crises and innovation. Challenges and opportunities. Last year we saw the rapid adoption of new virtual technologies during the pandemic. We saw a similar adoption of new technology during another crisis 40 years ago. This is the story of technological adoption, adaptation, and innovation.

Download the lenses from Invisible Solutions

Submit a problem to be solved on a future episode

Happy New Year!

I was recently interviewed for an article for Investor’s Business Daily.

The topic of conversation was how reframing a problem can lead to better solutions.

Here is the very start of the article:

Racing to stay a step ahead of rivals, leaders often rush to find new innovations. They state a problem and tell their team to solve it. Yet jumping right into brainstorming can backfire if you don’t set the proper backdrop first.

It’s better to invest more time in framing the issue before trying to fix it with new innovations.

Defining what’s at stake, why it matters and how an innovative solution will help consumers’ lives enhances your team’s understanding of the task at hand. Putting a narrow problem in a broader context generates more buy-in.

“Sometimes, the way we frame a problem can open up new possibilities,” said Stephen Shapiro, author of “Invisible Solutions.”

Read the rest of the article here.

Episode #9 of the Invisible Solutions podcast is now live.

Today we start by answering the question, “What if trying to innovate everywhere can negatively impact your innovation effort?” The key is to innovate where you differentiate. Not all opportunities are equal. Therefore you want to invest in the areas that help you stand out from the competition.

And then we tackle a “listener” submitted question: “How can Santa more effectively deliver all of his packages in one night?” Yes, the North Pole is a listener of the podcast. 🙂

Santa is getting older and his elves are worried about his health. They would like to find a more efficient way to deliver the gifts each year.

To reframe this problem, we use three of the lenses from Invisible Solutions:

  • #12: REASSIGN

Hopefully the ideas in this episode can help any organization who has to deliver packages or services.

Download the lenses from Invisible Solutions

Submit a problem to be solved on a future episode

Happy Holidays!

Episode #8 of the Invisible Solutions podcast is now live.

In this episode, I explore why some people are luckier than others – and how you can create luck.

Contrary to what some experts say, luck is not just about hard work. It requires something else.

I share a probabilistic model that explains why focusing on specific outcomes reduces the  likelihood of success.

I then explore how you can increase your creativity and luck through a very simple technique that can be done immediately and does not take any extra time.

Download the lenses from Invisible Solutions

Learn more about Goal-Free Living

Submit a problem to be solved on a future episode

Wishing you a happy, healthy, and lucky 2021.

Episode #7 of the Invisible Solutions podcast is now live.

What if loving your ideas can lead to failure? I first address this question and why confirmation bias and positive test strategy can destroy your innovation efforts.

Then I have on my first guest, Jack Elkins, the former Director of Innovation for the National Basketball Association’s Orlando Magic. He and I discuss the question: How can we help organizations solve their own problems in a collaborative environment?

We explore a number of key points for setting up the right environment:

  • Generate laughter and listening through improv comedy
  • Reduce anxiety
  • Reinforce why they are there – and remind them they have permission
  • Remove labels and hierarchies

We also discuss a great story on how observation led to a problem-reframe for a college football team, along with a few other helpful tips.

This one is an action packed 17 minutes!

Connect with Jack.

Download the lenses from Invisible Solutions.

Submit a problem to be solved on a future episode.


Episode #6 of the Invisible Solutions podcast is now live.

In this episode we discuss the Performance Paradox (Lens #18 in Invisible Solutions) and Goal-Free Living.

The Performance Paradox is based on the perspective that the more you focus on a goal, the less likely you are to achieve that goal.

This lens is based on an earlier book of mine called, Goal-Free Living. It is not about living without goals, but rather changing your relationship to goals. It is the approach we use to tackle the problem: How can we move forward when the future is uncertain?”

The essence of Goal-Free Living is “meandering with purpose.”

Learn more about Goal-Free Living.

To download the lenses from Invisible Solutions, go to www.GetTheLenses.com

If you are interested in more of the statistics from the book, read them here.

And finally, if you want to learn more about scientific research that is the basis of the Performance Paradox, read about the Yerkes–Dodson law.

If you want to learn more about the study on the correlation between happiness and wealth, you can read it here


Episode #5 of the Invisible Solutions podcast is now live.

We will explore why sometimes changing just one word in a problem statement can fundamentally change the range of solutions you see. We often don’t give enough thought to the language we use when problem-solving.

Also, we will use the lenses to reframe a listener submitted problem: How can an association executive help transform a risk-averse board into one that embraces innovation?

Although this the question is specifically about associations, the conversation applies to any organization.

We will use 4 lenses in today’s episode.


Although there are many other lenses that could apply, for this and future episodes, I will limit myself to 3 or 4 lenses. This will make it easier for everyone to follow along.

To get the lenses and learn more about the book, go to www.GetTheLenses.com

To submit a problem that you would like solved on the program, go to www.InvisibleSolutionsPodcast.com


Episode #4 of the Invisible Solutions podcast is now live.

In this episode, we start by exploring why expertise is the enemy of innovation. The more you know about a topic the harder it is to think differently. But not all is lost. You can leverage your expertise to generate breakthrough solutions.

We then put the question: “How can I increase podcast downloads?” through the 25 lenses. I think you’ll find the reframes quite interesting as they can lead to a lot of different solutions.

To get the lenses, go to www.GetTheLenses.com


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