Author Archives: Stephen Shapiro

Redefining Failure

I view life as a series of experiments. When you look at it through this lens, failure means something completely different. One definition of an experiment is: “A test or investigation, especially one planned to provide evidence for or against a hypothesis.” The only way an experiment can fail is if you don’t get the evidence. Even if the evidence proves your hypotheses was wrong, the experiment itself was a huge success. When you view innovation through the lens of experimentation, it redefines failure. When developing new ideas, the best approach (especially when there is “market” uncertainty) is to create small experiments that can be scaled over time. The experiment can give you one of four outcomes: Our hypothesis was validated by the experiment. Let’s make a larger investment in a larger experiment. Our original hypothesis was wrong, but we found a different direction that looks promising. Let’s create a … Continue reading

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Measures - Will you get what you want?

I recently spoke with a new client who shared with me their innovation measures. When I looked at their measurement system, I immediately saw flaws. But before addressing these imperfections, let me first provide you my perspective on innovation measures. In general, there are three types of measures associated with “challenge-based” innovation (be sure to read this article if you are unfamiliar with the concept of challenge-based innovation): Process Measures – These measure the activity associated with your challenges (e.g., 500 registered solvers, 40 submissions per challenge, 80 votes per challenge, etc) Solve-Rate Measures – These subjectively measure how well you solved your challenges (e.g., 82% of challenges were partially solved, 61% of challenges were completely solved, etc) Value Measures – These measure the actual value accrued (e.g., increased revenues by $25M, reduced costs by $35M, etc) The last measure (value) is where the rubber meets the road. This is … Continue reading

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There is No GPS for Innovation

OK, after 2 weeks of sleep deprivation due to manuscript deadlines, I am now back in action here. The final version of the manuscript went to the publisher on Saturday. I then played Personality Poker in Memphis with nearly 100 representatives from Penguin’s gift sales on Sunday. These individuals sell books into non-traditional bookstores, gift stores, hospital gift shops, department stores, casino, and similar places.Last weekend, I played Personality Poker with a couple hundred people at a conference in Canada.After the event, over a dozen of us decided to go to dinner together. Half the people fit into taxis. After the taxis departed from the hotel, the remaining individuals went in two cars, one of which I drove. We had the address and a map. I, being Mr. Technology, plugged the address into the GPS. The other individual had the map, but also relied on directions he received from the … Continue reading

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Is Crowdsourcing Disruptive?

There was an excellent post by Hutch Carpenter on this website. In the article, he asked the question – “Is Crowdsourcing Disrupting the Design Industry?” He makes an excellent case for the value (and pitfalls) of crowdsourcing design work. As loyal readers know, I have used design crowdsourcing on several occasions.In response to the article, I wrote:I use crowdsourcing for some of my designs. And I have to admit, I do sometimes feel a little bad. It’s clear some people put a fair amount of thought into their designs. Sadly, there is typically only one winner.Having said that, as a consultant, no one feels bad for me when I spend days or weeks developing a proposal that does not get awarded to me. We recognize that it is the cost of doing business.Let’s face it… for some design work, it might be just as fast to develop a rough concept … Continue reading

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The Performance Paradox

Every leader dreams of finding the magic bullet that will increase creativity, boost productivity, and improve morale. Surprisingly, one of the most effective solutions may be the most counterintuitive: sometimes less effort, not more, yields optimal results.Keep Your Eye on the PresentA few years ago, I worked with a Formula One racing team. Pit crews, consisting of 19 people, serviced the ultrafast, high-tech race – refueling cars, changing tires, and performing required maintenance in a matter of seconds. The crew members continually shifted positions to find the best combination for the optimal configuration of the team. As they practiced, they used a stopwatch to measure their time to milliseconds. Yet, ultimately, no matter how hard they tried, they couldn’t work any faster. They had hit their performance plateau.Then, they tried a new approach. They decided not to concentrate on their time, but on their style instead. Now, their movements became … Continue reading

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Reverse Knowledge Management

Last night I went to a seminar. On the whiteboard, the seminar leader drew an oft-used framework:There are things you “know.” – For example, I know I can speak English.There are things you “know you don’t know.” – I know I can’t speak Chinese.And there are things you “don’t know you don’t know.” – Obviously I don’t have any examples of this.But it got me thinking. There is one dimension that is never mentioned…There are things you “don’t know you know.”Inside of organizations, there is so much untapped knowledge. To combat this, over the past two decades, companies have invested millions of dollars in knowledge management systems. The objective has been to capture the company’s knowledge.The problem is, the knowledge management databases usually become so large and unwieldy that they are unusable. I can attest from experience that these systems often end up becoming digital piles of untapped information. Finding … Continue reading

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Is Open Innovation a Tournament?

A magazine asked me to write a book review of “Innovation Tournaments” by Christian Terwiesch and Karl Ulrich. The book arrived in the mail yesterday and I immediately turned to the index to see if InnoCentive was listed. Sure enough, we are mentioned in several places in the book.This got me thinking: Is InnoCentive a tournament?The word tournament is derived from the French word for “medieval sport” and is now used to describe a wide variety of competitions.Most competitions/tournaments are quite entertaining. And by their very nature, there is always a winner. One could argue that tournaments are “spectacles designed to find a champion.”Given this widely held point-of-view, using the word tournament as a descriptor of InnoCentive seems to be inaccurate.The NCAA basketball championships are a tournament. The “World Series of Poker” is a tournament. American Idol is a tournament. With each of these, there is always a winner. The … Continue reading

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