Author Archives: Stephen Shapiro

New School is Old School

I just finished reading a mindless crime novel* – my favorite genre of book. The victim was the producer of an old television series who recently sold the rights to do a remake of the show. Fans were outraged. Most were purists who liked the original version and would do anything to prevent the new show…including kill the producer. The producer of the remake defended the decision to do a new version of an old show. He said… “New school is old school. It’s too risky for the networks and for the audiences. People are much more comfortable with the familiar. Re-imagination is the new new.” Basically he is suggesting that “re-imagining” something old is the latest way to innovate. But is it? Is “re-imagining” the same as innovation? Is remaking a classic television show innovative? “The Twilight Zone” remake, “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” or “America’s Got Talent” (a … Continue reading

Posted in Creativity, Innovation | 3 Comments
Should You Fish for Innovations or Catch Them?

On talk radio the other day, they were discussing the fishing industry. The conversation centered on how certain types of much more popular than others. I not sure of the specifics, but I think salmon, tuna, and sea bass are the hot fish. Most consumers, when they go to the supermarket, ask for those specific fish. They have a recipe in mind and want to cook that. It was suggested that it would be better if people asked the “freshest” catch instead. From their perspective, there are two reasons why requesting the freshest catch is good idea. The obvious reason is that the fish will most likely be tastier. But there was a bigger reason; one that is critical to the industry. If people stop asking for specific fish, it would allow fishermen to “catch” rather than “fish.” The distinction might seem subtle, but it is important. Fishing means you … Continue reading

Posted in Innovation, Strategy | Leave a comment
Insider's View on Microwork and a Sample Output

As readers of this blog know, I am always interested in exploring different forms of open innovation, collaboration, and outsourcing. Personally, I have used a number of sites including and I have used these for the development of logos, graphics, websites, and research. In most cases I would pay several hundred dollars for the work. An interesting trend has emerged: microwork outsourcing. This is work that can be completed in a matter of minutes and costs only a few dollars. My favorite microwork website is Here you can hire people to do lots of things for only $5. I saw that someone offered to write an article for only $5, so I hired her to write an article on innovation. I was impressed with how she could pull together something of high quality so quickly. This got me wondering: Can …

Posted in Innovation, Open Innovation | 3 Comments
It is Okay to Marry Your Work (Part 2)

Last week I wrote an article for American Express about marrying your work. Unlike the “ball and chain” picture that tends to pop into our heads, I espoused the merits of loving your job, just like you would marry a spouse you love. Be sure to read that article before reading on. I’ll wait. OK, now that you read the first part, here is, as Paul Harvey would say, the rest of the story… I’m on vacation this week in Mexico and I just had an epiphany. Tonight while cooking up some steaks on the barbeque, I looked through the window and saw everyone else on their computers working. In fact, all day long while I relaxed in the pool with my Kindle, everyone else was busy working away. Admitted, I work a lot, but I love what I do. I truly do. Regardless, I have not taken a “real” … Continue reading

Posted in Management, Psychology | Leave a comment
Why We Crave Goals

As many of you may know, my second book was called Goal-Free Living. Although it was originally going to be a book on how to be more creative, it morphed into a manifesto for a counter-cultural way of living. In fact, the “goal-free” philosophy will be featured in a major newspaper early next year. Stay tuned for that. Someone once asked me why people crave goals. It is a hard question to answer. But an interesting point of view was sent to me by Antony Woods from Australia, and I wanted to share it with you… He quotes a renowned 20th Century Burmese Meditation Master: “The fourth protection for your psychological benefit is to reflect on the phenomenon of ever-approaching death. Buddhist teachings stress that life is uncertain, but death is certain; life is precarious but death is sure. Life has death as its goal. There is birth, disease, suffering, … Continue reading

Posted in Psychology, Strategy | 1 Comment
Why Change is Hard

I am someone who loves change. In fact I sometimes change things simply for change sake. But I recently learned a powerful lesson on why change is difficult, even for someone like me who loves to stir things up. I bought a MacBook Pro a few weeks ago. Friends have been prodding me to buy Apple after a number of technical issues with my Windows-based machine. I have to admit, I really liked my PC. But for a variety of reasons, it was time for a change. I was excited. As I said, I love change. But what I discovered quickly was that I did not love my Mac. To be clear, there is nothing inherently wrong with my Mac. It is just different than Windows. I am so used to my old PC that I could do things so quickly with hotkeys. From my perspective, nearly everything was …

Posted in Apple, Psychology | 4 Comments
How to Motivate Innovators

Organizations use a variety of tools to motivate employees to participate in their innovation efforts. The most common form of motivation involves compensation via a points system. When you contribute an idea, solution, comment or vote, you get points – much like American Express Membership Rewards points – that can be used to buy a variety of items: company T-shirts, mugs, and other “exciting” things. For some reason this reminds me of the arcade games like skeeball where you would win tickets that could be exchanged for wonderful items like fake vampire fangs or rubber spiders. Some companies have taken the concept a bit further and allowed people to accumulate points that can be used in auctions. Once a month the company holds an auction for a trip to, say, Tahiti. Anyone with points can join the bidding. This encourages people to earn and save as many …

Posted in Innovation, Leadership, Management | 4 Comments