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Innovation Insights by Stephen Shapiro

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The Kindle version of Best Practices Are Stupid is now available for order on Amazon.

Today is the 12th anniversary of the book’s original publication.

Today marks the formal release of the updated e-book edition.

The paperback version will be available very soon!

Note that the original version (with the yellow lightbulb on the cover) is available from resellers only. To get the latest and greatest, be sure to buy the one with the purple cover.

Order your copy here

Penn Jillette (of Penn & Teller) has some brilliant advice on how they develop their act.

“(We) knock around ideas. We are not in any way supportive. As soon as the germ of an idea comes up, the other person tries to crush it, because if there’s something bad about it, we want to find out as soon as we can. We never compromise, because that can only lead to mediocrity. If one of us doesn’t like something, we try to come up with another idea we do both like.”

I love this advice!

All too often, we fall in love with our ideas or innovations.

But instead of adoring them, what if we ripped them to shreds? What if we focused on why they won’t work?

Failure should never be the goal of innovation. By questioning your ideas – and through proper experimentation – you can minimize the risk of failure.

When I posted this elsewhere, others blasted this perspective. They felt this idea was a bad idea, and they ripped it to shreds. Many believed that we should be nurturing ideas rather than shooting them down. Continue reading >>

Woo hoo!

The Kindle version of Best Practices Are Stupid is now available for pre-order on Amazon.

The updated editions of the ebook and paperback will launch on September 29th – the 12th anniversary of the book’s original release.

Note that the original version (with the yellow lightbulb on the cover) is available from resellers only. To get the latest and greatest, be sure to buy the one with the purple cover.

Pre-order your copy here

Summary of Tip 6 (of 40) from Best Practices Are Stupid.

The Difference Between a Pipeline and a Sewer is what Flows Through It

With tip 6 (of 40), we move into the “process” portion of the Best Practices Are Stupid book.

We explore the need for diversification.

Too many safe bets, in the long run, are unsafe.

If you only invest in incremental innovation, you may miss big opportunities. Conversely, if you always swing for the fences (i.e., placing risky bets), you may fail too many times before you have a success.

The key is creating an innovation portfolio with four different categories of risk: Continue reading >>

How do you summarize a 40,000-word, 200+ page book into one page?

When the book was originally released, Sacha Chua created this wonderful infographic that summarizes each of the tips.

Although a few of the names have changed in the updated edition, the concepts remain the same.

To save this document, right-click and save on your computer.


After 16 months of waiting, the USPTO has finally approved my FAST Innovation® trademark.

FAST Innovation is more than a buzzword. It stands for the four key steps of the innovation process I have been using for over a decade:

F = FOCUS: Innovate where you differentiate. Focus on the parts of the business that have the greatest impact. This is the topic of my book that will be released in 2024.

A = ASK: Ask better questions as a means to finding better solutions. This is the topic of my Invisible Solutions® book.

S = SHIFT: Shift your focus away from your area of expertise to find breakthrough solutions. This requires collaboration, and my Personality Poker® system can help with this.

T = TEST: Don’t glorify failure. Instead, embrace effective experimentation as a means of reducing risk. Best Practices Are Stupid – my soon-to-be-rereleased book – addresses this topic and more.

Continue reading >>

Summary of Tip 5 (of 40) from Best Practices Are Stupid.

Expertise Is the Enemy of Innovation

Today’s tip is about finding breakthrough solutions.

My perspective is that our past experiences can limit our ability to see new and different futures. In other words, expertise is the enemy of innovation.

This was validated by Lee Fleming’s research at Harvard, which showed that breakthroughs often arise from multidisciplinary collaboration, achieving results often more valuable than specialized teams.

How do we deal with this?

If we want to look outside our areas of expertise, one powerful question to consider is, “who else?”. Who else has solved a similar problem but for a different problem set?

One example I love is a toothpaste manufacturer that wanted to create a whitening toothpaste without harsh abrasives or bleach. They found a solution by talking to people in their laundry care division. The blue dye helps make clothes whiter. Armed with this idea, they created a toothpaste with a blue dye that helps make teeth look instantly whiter.

One of the expressions I used during my 2009 TEDxNASA speech sums it up nicely: Continue reading >>

Summary of Tip 4 (of 40) from Best Practices Are Stupid.

Don’t Think Outside the Box; Find a Better Box

This tip is the reason I wrote the book Invisible Solutions. The concept is so important yet overlooked.

Leaders often encourage employees to “think outside the box” to boost creativity. However, this unbounded approach can lead to impractical solutions. A more effective method is to offer a “better box” with constraints, as this can guide and amplify creativity. This aligns with the notion of “Challenge-Centered Innovation.” Companies have an array of challenges, from technical to marketing to HR. The key to innovation is to accurately identify and address these challenges. A challenge-centered approach to innovation has several benefits over the typical idea-driven method:

  • It focuses on relevant solutions for organizational needs.
  • ROI can be measured for each challenge.
  • Owners, resources, and criteria can be pre-assigned, ensuring efficient solution-finding and implementation.

Continue reading >>

Summary of Tip 3 (of 40) from Best Practices Are Stupid.

Asking for Ideas is a Bad Idea

This is a favorite of mine and one that so many organizations get wrong.

Companies often seek innovation by soliciting ideas from employees, but this approach typically yields impractical, low-value suggestions, cluttering the innovation process. This inefficiency underscores the importance of the “signal-to-noise ratio” in innovation. Originally an engineering term, the signal-to-noise ratio differentiates valuable input (signal) from irrelevant or unproductive noise. In innovation, the ‘signal’ represents valuable, implementable solutions, while the ‘noise’ includes impractical or irrelevant ideas. To optimize this ratio in innovation, organizations should reconsider open-ended idea solicitation. Traditional suggestion boxes often get flooded with ‘noise,’ making the identification and implementation of the few valuable ideas time-consuming and challenging.

This chapter goes into a lot more detail and sets the stage for the next tip, which was the inspiration for my Invisible Solutions book: Don’t Think Outside the Box, Find a Better Box. Continue reading >>

Summary of Tip 2 (of 40) from Best Practices Are Stupid.

How Can You Avoid Becoming a One-Hit Wonder?

Lipps Inc, The Sugar Hill Gang, and Haddaway, known for hits like Funky Town and What is Love, exemplify “one-hit wonders.” This phenomenon parallels businesses that shine momentarily but later fade. To prevent becoming a corporate one-hit wonder, make innovation predictable and sustainable, treating it similarly to other organizational capabilities, like finance. Key components for sustainable innovation are:

Continue reading >>

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