Author Archives: Stephen Shapiro

About Stephen Shapiro

After a 15-year tenure leading a 20,000-person innovation practice at Accenture, in 2001 Stephen Shapiro launched his professional speaking career. He has presented his counterintuitive perspectives on innovation to audiences in 50 countries. His latest book, “Best Practices Are Stupid," was named the best innovation book of 2011. In 2015 he was inducted into the Speaker Hall of Fame. You can learn more about him at
Opposites Don't Attract

I remember a project I worked on many years ago. I was leading a large team and had a very large budget. I chose John to co-lead with me because we got along so well. I am a creative, spontaneous, and enthusiastic person and John was pretty much the same. The team loved working with us. We were fun, engaging, and motivating. And the project was a huge waste of money. The problem was that John and I got caught up in the novelty of our work. We were too focused on developing new ideas and making sure people were happy. But we never got any work done. We were a total failure. In hindsight, this failure probably could have been predicted. Our styles were too similar. In fact, if you look at any group of people who effortlessly work well together, odds are the individuals share a lot in … Continue reading

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Don't Do The Wrong Things When Things Go Wrong

No company is perfect. Something will eventually go wrong, even if you have the greatest Six Sigma or quality program on the planet. And it is how you handle these problems that can determine your relationship with your customers. For example, I needed a taxi from my hotel in Paris to the airport. According to the front desk, it was supposed to take only seven minutes. After ten minutes, the woman apologized and walked outside to see what was going on. The police had blocked the road and no cars could get down the street. She walked with me to the corner to see if my taxi was waiting there. It was not. She had me wait at the corner while she ran back to the hotel to call for another taxi. Given the road problems, they would not send another car. Instead …

Posted in Psychology, marketing | 5 Comments
Cathederal or Chaos?

The other day I gave a speech on open innovation at a conference primarily focused on open source software. One of the presenters at the event suggested that instead of trying to create a cathedral by controlling software development, we should instead be comfortable with a mess. The point of open source is to let creativity emerge from the mess. I thought that was an interesting point and was curious if this is how open source really works. Just then an audience member made a comment (paraphrased here) – “Nearly every major, successful open source software effort has been backed by (and loosely controlled) by a large group. For example, Mozilla’s support of Firefox and Oracle’s support of Open Office.” He listed a few others and concluded that the only one that was not organized this way was Apache. He implied that maybe the “mess” is not best. I’m not … Continue reading

Posted in Innovation, Leadership, Management, Strategy | 4 Comments
Are you a Firefighting Arsonist?

Imagine you are heading to a REALLY important meeting that is being held out of town. You have your bags packed. You have your airplane tickets, hotel and car rental reservations, and GPS. You hop on the plane and fly to your destination. After deplaning, you pull out your hotel reservation and type the address into the GPS. And then, you realize… you have a problem. A BIG problem. Although your destination airport was Buffalo, NY, the event is being held just over the border in Ontario, Canada… and you don’t have your passport. I am completely embarrassed to admit it, but this happened to me just last week. My speech was in Niagara Falls. For some reason I believed that the event was on the United States Side. This was a BAD assumption. A friend once described herself as a fire fighting arsonist. She was constantly putting out fires … Continue reading

Posted in Entrepreneurship, Innovation, Strategy | 1 Comment
Enhancing Creativity - Adult Games versus Kids Games

In my blog post, “How Can Goals Enhance Creativity” I said… “…As long as everyone in the organization believes they are playing a game which is designed to get them energized today, and it is not specifically about hitting the target, I can assure you that people will be more motivated.” Games can be a useful tool for enhancing creativity. They make work more fun, they reduce stress, and they get people in action. HOWEVER… Not all games are created equally. There are adult games and kid games. With adult games, there tend to be rigid rules, the games have an ending, and there are winners and losers. Think about nearly every game we play: Monopoly, poker, or basketball. They typically have a complex set of rules that all of the players need to adhere to. If you break the rules you “go to jail,” are disqualified, or get penalized. … Continue reading

Posted in Creativity, Headlines, Innovation, education | 12 Comments
Do We Get Less Creative As We Age?

In an earlier blog post, I included a quote from Voltaire. He once said, “Man can only have a certain number of teeth, hairs, and ideas. There comes a time when he necessarily loses his teeth, his hair, and his ideas.” This quote sparked a small debate between two blog readers. Dr.YKK chimed in with, “I don’t agree with Voltaire on the ideas part. As Einstein says, ideas are unlimited. I would like to add, ‘at whatever age.’ We don’t lose ideas, we gain ideas and wisdom with age.” Gareth Garvey responded with, “Maybe the number of ideas we can have is unlimited. Our problem can be that as we get older we can find it harder to accept new ideas and end up rejecting our own ideas before we have voiced them. We need to remind ourselves to think young, at least some of the time.” This is an … Continue reading

Posted in Creativity, Headlines, Psychology | 6 Comments
One Simple Action Can Change Your Life

Recently, a number of people have asked me how I became an author and professional speaker. I reflected upon it and realized that it all started with one simple action. And maybe, to make major change happen, that’s all you need: one small move. The year was 1993. I was a relatively junior person at Andersen Consulting (now Accenture). I was 7 years out of college and was working on projects like everyone else. I blended into the woodwork and was not distinguished from any of the other 40,000 consultants. And then one day I had an idea: I realized that I was interested in “cultural transformation” work and felt that Andersen’s culture could use a little transforming. Therefore I decided to call the CEO, George Shaheen, and ask for a meeting to discuss this, um, idea. Yes, I admit, it sounds a little …

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