Enhance Productivity and Efficiency with Stephen’s Innovation Insights

Innovation Insights by Stephen Shapiro

Latest Posts

Busy entrepreneurs need to step away from the business in order to grow their business…

As entrepreneurs, we are all busy. There never seems to be enough time to complete even the basic tasks we need to accomplish. So, when do we have time to innovate?

5 years ago, I realized that it felt like I was on a treadmill. I was running fast yet getting nowhere. I needed to slow down the pace. But how?

An Innovation Retreat Week

I decided the key was a week-long innovation retreat. This is not a vacation. It is a week of locking the doors, turning off the phone, and getting work done. And this is accomplished away from my office and home.

Since 2013, I’ve done this at least once a year, starting the first week of January. But some years I will do this two or three times. In fact, last week I finished my second innovation retreat for 2018.

Think about how you typically start your year. After the Holidays, it is back to the grind stone, picking up where you left off the previous year. As a result, the new year becomes an extrapolation of the past year. There is no delineation.

Therefore, my intention is to use the start of the new year as a chance to innovate and create. Hence the innovation retreat week.

Every year I head to a resort. Given we own a timeshare which is about five miles from our house, I go there for the week. I get a one-bedroom suite with a kitchen so that I can stay in the room all day. I sleep there, even though my home is only a few miles away. The location doesn’t matter; the environment does. You want to be as productive as possible with minimal distractions. Maybe a log cabin in the woods is better for you.

Of course, prior to starting your retreat week, you need to first delegate all activities that might need to be completed. Although some of you might think it is impossible to get 100% of the work off you plate, with some creativity (and trust) it is almost always doable.

The Routine

The first day is preparation day. I start by going to the supermarket and buying healthy food for the refrigerator. I also organize my workspace so that I can be as productive as possible when I get started the next day. Then I plan out the activities for the week. Continue reading >>

Your past experience could be creating blind spots that are limiting your ability to see better opportunities…

In an earlier article, I wrote about why expertise is the enemy of innovation.

Our past experiences blind us to potentially new and different opportunities in the future.

Therefore, we somehow need to shift our view of the world to be open to new perspectives. Unfortunately, this is not always easy.

We see the world through “filters” we have developed over time based on our failures, our successes, our education, our family, and all of the experiences we’ve had during our lifetime. As a result, we don’t see reality.

Unfortunately, it is difficult to “see” your filter. Our view of the world is all we know.Therefore, to shift your perspective, instead of shifting your filter, replace your filter with a completely different one.

Try this. Each morning when you wake up, make believe you are someone different… Continue reading >>

In a post last week, I shared with you my most recent demo video. Over the years, I’ve had several different versions.

In this post, I share my four primary demo videos from over the years. Although I’ve had other videos for specific purposes (e.g., a Personality Poker demo video), they aren’t included here.

I’m sharing this to help other speakers evaluate their own demo videos. Besides, some of these are good for a laugh.

So with that as background, here’s the evolution of my speaking video, starting with my first one from 2002…

2002: Style over Substance (3 minutes)

This video contains primarily footage of me speaking at a large Accenture event (where I worked from 1986 – 2001), combined with some clips of speeches I did in Singapore. You’ll notice in the opening montage, I am playing the saxophone in one clip. This is from Nice, France when I used to play my saxophone during my speeches. You have to love the double breasted jacket and the dot matrix fonts. As I was just starting out speaking professionally, my goal was to feature large stages where there was more of a focus on entertainment than content.

2009: Unedited Video: TEDxNASA (6 minutes)

7 years later, I decided to retire my first demo video and replace it with my unedited 6-minute TEDx talk I gave to 1,700 rocket scientists. The title of the speech was “Rocket Science Isn’t Always Rocket Science.” The premise is that sometimes the best sources of innovation come from outside your industry. The video proved to be very effective. I had clients say, “If you could deliver that much value in 6 minutes, we can’t imagine how much would be delivered in 45.” This is the only completely memorized speech I’ve ever given, so I certainly didn’t feel relaxed. Regardless, it had a positive impact on my business.

2014: Longer Clips with Social Proof (6 minutes)

My next demo video was created in 2014. It was over 6 minutes and 30 seconds long. Maybe too long. The goal was to show longer clips (2 2-minute clips) that would give people a good sense of my content and style. Because we designed this through the lens of a sales video, there is a lot of social proof included. At the time, this helped me stand out from others who were newer to the business. But this “in your face” approach has hurt me in recent years as people no longer want to be told how great a speaker is – they want to see it. And the voiceovers were a tad cheesy.

2018: Pure Content

My latest video was designed to be pure content. No selling. The only “sales” aspects are some client logos that are subtly shown for a second, and two client testimonials which flash briefly. In an earlier version, we had a testimonial that I decided to remove because it was solely about my speaking style, and I wanted only to focus on results. Our goal was to create a video that was so compelling from a content point of view, that people would want to share it to learn about innovation (not necessarily about me). There is no point where I talk about me as a speaker. We didn’t include any clips of me on TV. I only talk about innovation. I hope you enjoy this!

I am thrilled to share with you my new demo video.

The team at Video Narrative did an incredible job of pulling this together.

We had one design principle: Don’t sell; educate.

We didn’t want this to be a sales pitch. Rather we wanted a video that was content-driven.

Therefore, this 3-minute video is pure content (other than two client quotes and a few client logos done subtly in the background).

In a future post, I will share with you my past demo videos – and earlier versions of this one. That will give you an opportunity to see how things have evolved over the years.

I hope you enjoy this video!

P.S. If you believe I would be a great speaker for an upcoming event, I would love to be connected with the event organizer.  

 

Although we’ve been told that goals are a key to success, what if goal-setting actually reduces performance?

Many years back I worked with a Formula One racing team. At that time, pit crews consisted of 19 guys who serviced the ultrafast, high-tech race– refueling cars, changing tires, and performing required maintenance in a matter of seconds. The pit crew members continually shifted positions to find the optimal configuration of the team. As they practiced, they used a stopwatch to measure their time to the millisecond. There was a point where they hit a performance plateau. No matter how hard they tried, they couldn’t go any faster.

Then, they tried a counter intuitive approach. Pit crew members were told that instead of focusing on speed they should focus on style. They were to go fast, but they were to think “smooth” as they performed their activities. Movement was more significant than speed. Astonishingly, the pit crew shaved several tenths of a second off their best time, even though they “felt” they were moving more slowly.

The more you focus on a goal, the less likely you are to achieve it. By worrying about the future, you take your eye off the present. And this reduces performance.

Selling Without Selling

This concept applies in all areas of life and business. Continue reading >>

When you are on autopilot, you are highly efficient. But when the rules change around you, this can lead to disaster….

I lived in London for several years. Before moving to England, I considered myself to be an excellent driver. But I quickly learned that some simple changes could make it difficult to operate a car.

I discovered that driving a car on the left side of the road in a right-hand drive car was nearly impossible. I felt incapacitated while behind the wheel. I never knew which way to look. I had a hard time judging the edge of the car and kept hitting the rumble strips on the side of the road. And attempting to drive a manual stick-shift vehicle proved to be even more comical.

After driving for two decades, my skills were on automatic without requiring conscious thought. This might be referred to as unconscious competence; a skill which is second nature.

Unfortunately, moving the steering wheel and driving on the “other” side of the road forced me to think. And thinking caused me to choke. What I had done so well for 20 years was now a complicated task.

What’s going on here?

Continue reading >>

Advances in 3D printing will revolutionize manufacturing and the supply chain…

Imagine you are an executive at UPS. What market shifts would keep you up at night?

Maybe it’s the fact the Amazon.com announced they want to get into the logistics business to compete head-to-head with UPS and FedEx. Maybe it is the rapid development of drone technologies as a way of delivering packages.

But there is something that has the potential to completely disrupt UPS and the entire supply chain: 3D printing.

In today’s world, materials, parts, and finished products are shipped all over the globe. Raw materials are shipped to parts manufactures who ship their items to a company that assembles them into a finished product. The finished product is then shipped to a warehouse that ships it to the end customer. That’s a lot of shipping.

But consider how 3D printing has the potential to shake things up. Now, instead of shipping products you simply email a blueprint and you get the finished product where it is to be used and when you want it. The logistics network is pretty much eliminated.

Knowing this could be a major disruption to their business, UPS has launched an “On-Demand 3D Printing Manufacturing Network” that is designed to get ahead of the game. In addition, they’ve launched 3D printing capabilities in many of their stores.

Continue reading >>

Sometimes the best way to learn innovative approaches to innovation is to read something completely different…

If you want to be a better innovator, there are hundreds (maybe thousands) of great books on the topic.

But as I mentioned in an earlier article, expertise can be the enemy of innovation. The more you know about a topic, the harder it is for you to think differently about it. The solution? Look outside your industry or area of expertise.

The same is true with innovation.

If you want to be a better innovator, start reading books that have nothing to do with business or innovation.

Over the years I’ve had the pleasure of reading many non-business books that have shaped my views on innovation… and life.

Here are five that I recommend to anyone who is looking to look at the world differently.

Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!: Adventures of a Curious Character by Richard Feynman
This is one of my favorite book of all times. It is the autobiography of Richard Feynman, a Nobel-Prize winning physicist. He was a brilliant man who solved some of the most complex problems of our times. Fortunately, this book is not written for the Sheldon Coopers of the world (the nerdy character on Big Bang Theory who’s a big Richard Feinman fan). This book can be enjoyed by anyone. It is about his antics doing interesting and unusual adventures such as becoming a safe cracker, studying the movement patterns of ants, and playing music in Brazil. Each chapter is a different story. Each story has a powerful lesson for innovators. And you will laugh at loud. Continue reading >>

Don’t ask for great ideas only when brainstorming solutions to challenging problems…

When brainstorming, we typically ask people to give us their best ideas. But what if the path to finding great ideas is to intentionally find start with terrible ones?

Think about the world prior to vaccines. What would be the dumbest way to prevent an outbreak of polio? Inject everyone with the virus. But, of course, that is exactly how it is done.

Our flight to the moon was made possible through a worst idea. What if the rocket ship falls apart after take-off? That sounds like a crazy idea. But this concept was a critical factor in the success of the Apollo missions: The rocket boosters containing the fuel fall off early during the trip to the moon.

The “bad idea” concept doesn’t just apply to complex technical problems like health and space travel.

Imagine you are looking to sell more raisins. You might focus on the health benefits, the sweet taste, or the various uses ranging from cereals to desserts. In 1987, an advertising team working on this problem exhausted all obvious options, when one of the writers said, “We have tried everything but dancing raisins singing ‘I Heard It Through the Grapevine.'” As silly as it sounded, they ran with the idea and to their surprise, the commercial became wildly popular, spawning future commercials, two TV specials, and a Saturday morning cartoon series.

And at times, a bad idea can yield lifesaving results. Continue reading >>

You can create an environment where everyone can contribute to your company’s innovation efforts…

How do you structure your innovation teams? If you are like most companies, you put your most creative people in a room to develop ideas who then hand off those ideas to a team of implementers. But is this always the right structure?

A fascinating study may give us clues to what is most effective. And the answer may not be what you expect.

Managers who attended a leadership course at Eckerd College in Florida were tested to determine whether they were good innovators (those who do things differently and break the rules) or good adapters (those who do things better within the rules).

The managers were then broken into teams to solve a given problem. Each team was composed of two groups: the “designers” who had to work out a solution to the problem, and the “builders” who were charged with making it work. There were three teams, each made up of designers and builders.

The first team used “innovators” as designers and “adapters” as builders. The second team split everyone up, with both “innovators” and “adapters” doing the design before handing it over to the “innovators” and “adapters” doing the implementation. The third group turned things upside down, with “adapters” doing the design and “innovators” building it.

Which of these three combinations would you expect to be the most effective? Continue reading >>

Bring Stephen’s innovation insights to your next event!