Enhance Productivity and Efficiency with Stephen’s Innovation Insights

Innovation Insights by Stephen Shapiro

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What if asking for ideas is a bad idea?

In this episode, I share Chapter 3 from Best Practices are Stupid. In it, we explore why looking for a quantity of ideas can be the downfall of your innovation efforts.

You will hear:

  • How several companies started with idea-driven innovation programs that led to the demise of their innovation efforts
  • Why the signal-to-noise ratio might be one of the most important measures to consider for innovation
  • The three categories of ideas, and why suggestion boxes lead to a lot of duds
  • Why idea programs can be useful for PR or for getting people on-board with innovation, but not for ROI
  • The behind-the-scenes story of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill innovation efforts

This episode provides one of the cornerstones of my work. In the next Best Practices are Stupid episode, we will go even deeper when we explore why you don’t want to think outside the box.

Get the Invisible Solutions® Lenses

Back in June, I posted here that Invisible Solutions® was given the bronze medal across all business and economics books (not just innovation) for the 2020 INDIES Awards. Here is the certificate which now hangs in my office. I love that their official color is purple!

What if the best solutions to your internal business problems can be found by looking externally?

In this episode, I have a conversation (using the Invisible Solutions® lenses) with my friend and colleague Jon Fredrickson. He is the Chief Innovation Officer for InnoCentive (a Wazoku company) and has 15 years of deep open innovation experience.

The conversation covered a wide range of topics including:

  • According to a study conducted by Harvard, over 80% of solvers of InnoCentive challenges would not fit the hiring profile of the client
  • One company replicated 15 years of R&D history with one problem with a 60 day challenge – and they got a better answer
  • If you start looking externally, you can find a kernel of a solution which can be brought back to the organization and adapted
  • Open innovation enables parallel processing of problem-solvingwhich can speed time to solution

There were so many stories, such as how a radiologist solved a problem on how to identify fractures and fissures in the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico to find natural gas or oil deposits.

I think you’ll really find this conversation fascinating.

Learn more about InnoCentive

Learn more about Wazoku

Read about my strategic partnership with Wazoku/InnoCentive

Get the Invisible Solutions® Lenses

This week I share Chapter 2 from Best Practices are Stupid: How Can You Avoid Becoming a One-Hit Wonder?

Last week in Chapter 1, I explained the three levels of innovation (event, capability, system). In this week’s episode I share more details on what it takes to create level 2 – an innovation capability.

When you think about innovation as a repeatable and predictable process/capability like any other part of the business (e.g., finance), it opens up some new perspectives.

An innovation capability contains 5 components:

  • Strategy
  • Measures
  • Process
  • People
  • Technology

We explore all 5 components briefly – which sets the stage for the rest of the book. The remainder of Best Practices are Stupid is organized around these pieces.

NOTE: Although it is not made clear in this chapter, one key difference between an innovation capability and (for example) a finance capability is involvement. Finance is a department with a limited number of people. Innovation is not. Innovation needs to involve the entire organization whenever possible. The role of the innovation team is to set standards and processes that the rest of the organization can use. More on that in later chapters.

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


In this episode, we explore why speed and power do not lead to long-term innovation. It’s not survival of the fittest; it’s survival of the adaptable. The content in this episode is from Chapter 1 of my Best Practices are Stupid book.

We explore why the ability to repeatedly and predictable evolve your organization is the key to long-term success. I share the three levels of innovation:

  1. Innovation as an event
  2. Innovation as a capability
  3. Innovation as a system

This is the first episode where I share content from my Best Practices are Stupid book.

Moving forward, every other week, I will share a chapter from the book. And then alternating with that content will be my problem-solving episodes.

As this is a different format, I would love your feedback.

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


I am pleased to announce that I recently inked a Strategic Partnership deal with Wazoku/InnoCentive.

I have been involved with InnoCentive, the premier external crowdsourcing platform, since 2005. Their approach to innovation has solved some of the world’s most complex problems.

One year ago, Wazoku, a UK-based idea management software and services company acquired InnoCentive. This brought together the best of internal and external innovation.

As part of our partnership agreement, I will work with Wazoku’s clients to help make innovation repeatable and predictable. In addition Wazoku will make my Invisible Solutions® content available to their clients.

Here’s the press release:

Continue reading >>

We assume randomness lacks a pattern. But there are inherent patterns in randomness. Unfortunately, our brain is wired to find patterns even when they don’t exist in order to create shortcuts that speed decision-making. But what if this very process can lead us down the wrong path?

In this episode, I start with a fun experiment where I show my (pseudo) psychic abilities. I think you’ll like this, so be sure to give it a try.

We then explore how pattern seeking can lead us to focus on the wrong problem.

I share a client example where they made assumptions about a problem when in fact the real problem was something completely different – caused by a different department. This is an illustration on Lens #21: REAL PROBLEM.

Finally, we tackle the topic of confirmation bias where I share a fascinating study that was conducted by the US Army to see how analysts make good (and not so good) decisions.

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

To download the US Army study on confirmation bias, go here

Be sure to scroll down (or click here) to see the zoomed in image of the book’s cover. Notice the words (pattern) hidden in plain sight!

On today’s episode, we look into ways of “cloning” someone digitally. In particular, we discuss how to take the knowledge from someone’s brain and convert it into workable tools.

The problem statement we start with is, “How can we create software that is so great that customers will be mad if we take it away?”

My guest problem solver is Adam Leffert, a freelance, C#, .Net Software Architect and Developer based in the Boston area. And he is the creator of the Invisible Solutions® Tools.

We use the Invisible Solutions® Lenses Chatbot as an example. This conversational tool asks you questions that walk you through the process of finding the best lenses to apply to your problem. We discuss the design principles behind the tool and then we use the lenses to identify ways to enhance the software.

The lenses we primarily used are:

  • #14: EMOTION – What emotion do we want people to feel? In this case, anger if the software is taken away.
  • #6: ANALOGY – Who else has solved a similar problem? How do medical chat bots help diagnose illnesses?
  • #3: REDUCE – What if we reduced the size of the problem set? What if instead of focusing on all 25 lenses, how can we go deeper into the 10 lenses that are used most often and have the widest applicability? This is related to lens #1: LEVERAGE.
  • #11: RESEQUENCE – How can we change the timing of the work? How can we get input earlier in the process of developing the software? How can we communicate asynchronously?
  • #24: VARIATIONS – Instead of designing for the exception, how can we design to handle the exception?
  • #4: ELIMINATE – What can we remove from the software to make it easier to use and/or easier to develop?

Learn more about the Invisible Solutions® Tools and take advantage of trial access to the Lens Browser. The Chat Bot that we discussed during this episode is still under development.

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

Back in 2010, Penguin published my Personality Poker® book. It was selected as one of the top five innovation books of the year by 800-CEO-READ (now Porchlight). The next year, when Penguin published Best Practices are Stupid, it was chosen as the best innovation book of the year by 800-CEO-READ.

When I published Invisible Solutions®, I decided I would not use a traditional publisher, but instead would hybrid publish. Because of this, it is considered an independently published book.

Each year, Foreword Reviews magazine chooses the best independently published books as part of their INDIES awards. I’m honored that Invisible Solutions® was given the bronze medal across all business and economics books (not just innovation).

I am incredibly proud of this book. I truly believe it contains some of my most valuable content. I have seen it help transform the way organizations do business and generate new innovations that were not thought possible.

If you want to learn how to solve nearly any difficult business problem or how to tap into unseen opportunities, please consider purchasing a copy of Invisible Solutions®. And if you read the book, I would appreciate it if you would write an honest review on Amazon.

Even if you don’t get the book, please be sure to download the free material we offer everyone.

Thanks for your support!!

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