Enhance Productivity and Efficiency with Stephen’s Innovation Insights

Innovation Insights by Stephen Shapiro

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Today we get into the meat of the Invisible Solutions book. Chapter 1 starts with my baggage claim story. Here it is, exactly how it appears in the book. Enjoy!

P.S. If you missed the introduction, you can watch it here.


Today I share with you the introduction to my latest book, Invisible Solutions: 25 Lenses that Frame and Help Solve Difficult Business Problems.

But instead of sharing a boring PDF, here is the videobook version – broken into three parts. The videobook is the unabridged reading of the book with cool graphics and animations.

I will be sharing a new 3 to 5 minute segment from the book every Tuesday and Thursday on social media. So that you don’t miss any chapters, connect with me on LinkedIn or subscribe to my newsletter.

I hope you enjoy these. If you do, please buy a copy of Invisible Solutions and leave an honest review. Thank you!

Introduction Segment 1

Introduction Segment 2

Introduction Segment 3



hot seat demonstration virtual


It seems as though everyone is touting their virtual prowess these days. Everyone boasts that their technology is better than everyone else’s:

  • “I use a mirrorless DSLR to broadcast crisp video.”
  • “I use OBS (or Ecamm Live or Wirecast) to do wild animations and overlays.”
  • “I use a 5-point lighting system with green screen and dozens of high-res virtual backgrounds.”
  • “I have a $1,000 small diaphragm overhead microphone to provide the ultimate audio.”
  • “I have 4 different studios in my house, with multiple cameras, switchers, and the latest high-tech thingamabobs.”

If you want your audience to feel like they are watching Saturday Night Live, then all of these could be important.

But do you want your audience to simply be watching a TV show? Or do you want them learning, engaging, and applying?

Although I have some cool technology, that’s not my differentiator.

My content and the process I use to engage people is my differentiator.

Four Steps that Drive Results

Here are 4 steps that I use for virtual and in-person experiences:

  1. Presentation: Share content, stories, ideas, and frameworks. This is the standard materials we do for keynotes. This can be done live or via a pre-recorded video. It can be viewed prior to the event (asynchronously) or it can be viewed live with everyone watching at the same time (synchronously)
  2. hot seat demonstration virtualDemonstration: Now it is time to show how the material is used. I like to do hot seats. For my work, I use my “25 Lenses” (from my Invisible Solutions book) real-time to solve someone’s problem. I get one person from the audience to share a problem. I then show the lenses on the screen and circle them as I discuss how I would use them (see screenshot from a hot seat session). This allows everyone to see how to use the frameworks, tools, and concepts.
  3. Application: Now that everyone has seen the content demonstrated, it is now time for the audience to try it out for themselves. We send people into breakout rooms where everyone uses the 25 lenses to solve (or more accurately, reframe) their own problems. They collaborate and gain new insights. Sometimes we will give them access to custom developed tools we created to help them go even deeper into the content. 
  4. Reflection: We bring everyone back to reflect on what worked and where they struggled. We talk about how they can continue to apply the lenses in the future. In some cases we’ll create a competition or a set of actions we want people to take to continue the application and learning. The goal is to keep the content alive long after the event.

The Presentation Only Sets the Stage

When you use this approach, the “presentation” only sets the stage. Although it is necessary, in some respects it is the least valuable part of the process. Someone could watch your video and have a similar experience. People gain their deepest insights with steps 2 – 4.

And what is nice is this approach can be used with any size audience.

I use this process with both my in-person and virtual events. Although the approach is slightly different, the general concept is the same. 

This process creates deep learning, incredible engagement, and long-term business results.

I look forward to your comments and questions.

Boat in storm - innovation

Boat in storm - innovationI was recently interviewed by David Benjamin and David Komlos for their Forbes column.

The article is titled: Why This Could Be One Of The Greatest Times In The History Of Innovation

This one was particularly interesting as they focus on what they call Brody Moments (from Jaws’ Police Chief Brody and his famous line “you’re going to need a bigger boat”).

We talked about the types of “boats” people need to innovate during the current pandemic. I also shared my backstory of how I got into innovation in the first place.

I hope you enjoy this.

Read the article



This week I had a chance to meet (virtually) with Phil Libin. You may know him as the mastermind behind Evernote.

This week he launched a new app called mmhmm.

His goal is to inject some fun into Zoom meetings. And he succeeded.

You can quickly add overlays for slides so that it has the feel of a newscast.

Yes, there are competitors in this space: Ecamm Live (which I’ve been using for a while now), OBS, and Wirecast.

What sets mmhmm apart is the fact that it is SUPER easy to use. Within an hour, I was able to create (from scratch) a presentation that was ready to be delivered.

Here’s a brief video that shows some of the cool features. My favorite is shrinking and moving my face around the screen.

This video was recorded in Zoom with no edits. This is live as someone would see it.

You can get on the waitlist for the beta at mmhmm.app.


In my latest book, Invisible Solutions, I share 25 lenses that can reframe and help solve nearly any difficult business problem.

To demonstrate the power of the lenses, I am creating a series of videos that show how they can be used to generate creative – and sometimes previously hidden – solutions to some common challenges.

In this first video, I use the lenses to provide different ways to solve the problem of virtual meetings. We are all meeting virtually right now. But are we really taking full advantage of what the digital world offers?

Try these lenses the next time you are stuck for a creativity solution to your problem.

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

ATM in Blizzard

ATM in BlizzardDisasters and crises have lead to some of our best innovations–just look at the history behind ATMs…

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.”  The ultimate success of the automatic teller machine (ATM) is a great example of this. The story is extremely relevant given our current circumstances.

In the mid-1970s, Citibank was the second largest bank. In 1977, after investing hundreds of millions of dollars in ATM technology research and development, Citibank decided to install machines across all of New York City. At first, they were not very popular. The technology was confusing to first-time users, the machines were not always accurate (they sometimes dispensed the wrong amount of money), and they were impersonal.

The ATM might never have been a hit if it weren’t for a natural disaster.

February 1978 will always be remembered for a blizzard that dumped as much as four feet of snow in the Northeast. In New York City, nearly two feet of snow brought the city to a grinding halt. Banks weren’t open. Instead, people got their money by cashing checks at local supermarkets. But most of the supermarkets quickly ran out of money.

This created a massive “pain.”

Where did people turn?

The ATMs. It is estimated that during the storms, use of the machines increased by more than 20 percent. Soon after, Citibank started running TV ads showing people trudging through the snow drifts in New York City. That’s when the company introduced their wildly popular slogan “The Citi Never Sleeps.” This was the real birth of the automatic teller machine.

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Although we can’t meet in person, it doesn’t mean we can’t create incredible learning experiences with networking conversations and deep learning.

The short video below shares insights on a new collaboration I established with Action Learning Associates to provide the ultimate virtual learning experience.

This specially curated environment (called the Virtual Executive Education Campus, aka VEE-Campus) includes main stage sessions, small group discussions, and collaborative tools. It is the closest thing you will experience to the live in-person event.

It’s more than just a platform; it’s a process that enables you and your team to learn the latest tools to help you solve your most difficult business problems.

NOTE: This approach is not for everyone or for every type of event. But for those times when you want deep collaboration and networking between attendees, this might be the ultimate virtual experience.

Even if this avatar-based environment isn’t right for your event, I have other innovative options that can be delivered on any platform. It’s the process that matters.

Learn more about my wide range of virtual options, including my 5-step process that focuses on  delivering results. Contact us to learn more.



The key to good virtual meetings is to avoid replicating what you do in real life…

The way we conduct meetings changed over night. Or has it?

Given we are no longer able to meet in person, event organizers and professional speakers have been scrambling to recreate their live meetings using virtual platforms. In other words, automate what has been done in the past.

If a speech was to be given in front of a live audience, it is now delivered as a webinar. Same content. Same delivery method. But now in front of a camera instead of 1,000 faces.

Unfortunately, nearly every virtual meeting I have attended simply tried to replicate the face-to-face experience – and it failed.

Asking Better Questions About Meetings

To create better meetings, we need to ask different questions. What if we didn’t just replicate, but instead we innovated? Here are some questions that might get your thinking differently about your next virtual meeting:

  • What can we do in virtual meetings that we can’t do with live in-person meetings? How can we take full advantage of virtual options? For example, how can we take advantage of the ability to break people into smaller groups instantly – for short periods of time? How can we use polling to drive the direction of the conversation – and make real-time shifts in the content?
  • What aspects of meetings do not require real-time participation? For those, what other options do we have for delivering that content? How can we maximize the value we get from the live virtual meeting? For example, how can we limit the live virtual experience to the interactive components, and deliver the rest via pre-recorded video that is sent prior to the meeting?
  • How can we go beyond the meeting? What processes can we put in place to sustain results over the long-term? What happens after the event? For example, how can we get attendees to apply the concepts from the meting? How can we create cohorts that tackle real-world problems? How can we measure the actual impact of a meeting? How can we engage people long after the meeting is over?
  • When we return to face-to-face meetings, what aspects of virtual meetings will continue to out-perform the in-person meeting? For example, how can we use technology before and after an event to maximize the value we get from the live meeting?

This is just a starter list of questions. There are literally dozens (or hundreds) of different questions that you could ask that would reveal previously invisible solutions.

Don’t Replicate or Automate, Innovate

The point is, don’t simply replicate or automate what you have done in the past. Rethink the entire meeting experience: before, during, and after the event. Use technology the best way possible to get the best results. Sometimes the ideal solution isn’t a live meeting.

My Approach

My plan for 2020 was always to increase the number of my virtual offerings. From a personal perspective it would mean less time on the road. But from a client perspective, when done correctly, the virtual environment can deliver even more value. Although I was shifting to virtual, I didn’t expect the entire world to do the same virtual over night. I’ve been rethinking the way I deliver my virtual content for over a decade.

If you would like to learn more about my approach, visit my “Virtual Page.” Or if you are looking for something completely different, check out my “Ultimate Virtual Meeting” avatar-based offering.

This video shares my 5-step process for delivering value in a virtual environment. Please contact me if you are interested in learning more about anything you see. We have so many interesting ways to deliver content digitally.

This article originally appeared on the Inc. website

Don’t just look to other companies for inspiration, look in your backyard…

Here in the United States, it’s Memorial Day Weekend. A time when we are outdoors enjoying nature. Maybe this is a great time to find some new innovations.

Expertise is often the enemy of breakthrough thinking. The more you know about your company, industry, customers, and competitors, the harder it is to think differently about it.

So where can you turn to develop new ideas? Looking to other industries is a good start, but sometimes the greatest breakthroughs are derived by studying the world of biology.

As an example, let’s take a look at a concept for a self-generating tire. Two challenges associated with traditional tires are:

  1. They wear down over time, creating a waste problem.
  2. They can’t adapt to different driving conditions, such as dry roads, rain, or snow.

Goodyear built a concept that could address these challenges. How did they do it? They borrowed two concepts from biology:

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Bring Stephen’s innovation insights to your next event!