Enhance Productivity and Efficiency with Stephen’s Innovation Insights

Innovation Insights by Stephen Shapiro

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:

If you are NASA and have one hundred aerospace engineers working on an aerospace engineering challenge, adding the 101st aerospace engineer may not help that much. But adding a physicist, a nanotechnologist, a chemist, a biologist, or even a musician may move your solutions in a completely new direction.

This is the essence of this tip.

In the “Best Practices Are Stupid” book, we dig much deeper into this concept.

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