Enhance Productivity and Efficiency with Stephen’s Innovation Insights

Innovation Insights by Stephen Shapiro

We continue with the “Shift” part of the FAST Innovation Model (Focus, Ask, Shift, Test).

In the last video I shared why expertise is the enemy of innovation. Today I provide two scientific studies that prove this to be true.

Be sure to watch the previous videos!


In the last video, I talked about expertise being the enemy of innovation, and today I want to provide a little bit of scientific evidence to back this up.

There are two studies in particular which I find fascinating. The first study was done by a professor at Harvard Business School, who analyzed 17,000 patents. What he quickly realized was that most of those patents were derivative or adaptive. That is they were built on some other patent. And in most of those situations, an expert did indeed solve the problem and file the patent. This makes sense.

But when they looked at the discontinuous innovations, the radical innovations, the innovations which did not build on a previous patent, in every situation, these were solved by either somebody from a different discipline or area of expertise, or from a multidisciplinary team. Multidisciplinary teams bring a greater divergent view to your problems.

When everybody’s cut from the same cloth, you get innovation quickly, but it just might not be that different…

A similar study done at 3M, looked at their employees and the products that they created and the revenue generated by those products. What they found was that the products created, not by the deep experts, so if you were an expert in adhesives, and you created a new type of adhesive, that wasn’t where the breakthroughs came from. The breakthrough’s actually came from when an adhesives expert worked with a reflectives expert, or someone from a different area of expertise and the products mashed together. Or better yet, the biggest breakthroughs were from a person, an individual who had deep expertise in multiple areas.

In those situations, the products that were created generates substantially greater revenues for 3M than the products created through a single product line or a single area of expertise.

So remember, expertise is the enemy of innovation.

Take a look at your life, your business. Where do you consider yourself to be an expert? Although this is a very good thing, start to recognize it may make it difficult for you to think differently. Start asking, “Who else might have solved a similar problem?” This will help you kick-start your innovation efforts.

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