We Have Liftoff…

October 30, 2010

On Thursday, the Personality Poker book started rolling into stores everywhere.

People have been telling me about sightings in airport books stores and Barnes & Noble stores.

Yesterday, I walked into my first bookstore – the MIT COOP – and there it was, face out.  Check out the picture.

Today I will be traveling around Boston looking for the book in stores.

If YOU see the book in a store, please take a picture of it – ideally with you – and send it to us at info@24-7innovation.com.

We would love to see your smiling face holding a copy of the book.

We will be running a competition in the near future to encourage people to go exploring for the book.

If you haven’t done so, please check out our new Personality Poker book website.

Ok, off to check out some stores!

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One Day More…

October 27, 2010

For me, tomorrow is a big day.

My third book, “Personality Poker,” will be available in less than 24 hours.

A lot of people have asked me what it is like to publish a book.  Well, let me tell you…

It is exciting and nerve-racking.

Sleep is a rare commodity these days and my social life is even rarer.

Writing the book was the easy part.  Promoting it is all consuming.

I compare the past 2 months to a political campaign.  It’s go go go until the election day.  Or in my case, until book launch.

The marketing activities have been mind boggling…

We created a very cool video game that simulates the Personality Poker experience.  If you did not try it out yet, you MUST!  It is fun.  It looks like a Las Vegas slot machine with spinning wheels.  And it is typically quite accurate.  You can even share your hands on Facebook.

We launched a new website today for the book where you can download the introduction and first chapter of the book.  Just sign-up on the bottom of the page.  (as we are transitioning to the new website now, there might be a few hiccups)

We have been tweeting non-stop on @perspokerbook.  Be sure to follow us to get a dozen tweets a day with excerpts from the book.  We also have a Facebook fanpage that was recently launched.

In addition, I have been giving speeches non-stop for the past 6 weeks.  We have been running a massive outreach campaign.  And I am doing radio/podcast interviews during my spare time (weekends typically).

Yesterday, after giving a speech and spending the day with a client, I decided to take a nap at 7:30PM.  Bad idea!  I didn’t set my alarm and woke up at 6AM.  Fortunately, my speech today isn’t until noon.  But that gives you an idea of how crazy things have been.

Tomorrow, Amazon.com will start accepting reviews for the book.  This is when it gets interesting.  Although some of the people who received the book will write glowing reviews just because they know me, hundreds of books have been sent to people I don’t know.  People who are not biased by a friendship.  Waiting for these reviews can be, if I am honest, a bit stressful.

The challenge with a book like this is that it is based on an experience: a speech I have given to tens of thousands of people.  When someone attends a Personality Poker session and then reads the book, they truly get the power of it.  But it is something that has to be tried to fully appreciate.  Many people will read the book and not play the game.  That is a shame, because it is simple to play, takes very little time, and is a lot of fun.  We have some great reviews already from people who have played the game and seen its power.

I remember the day the first copy of the book arrived at my house.  It was thrilling to see and hold the finished product.  It is much more impressive in person than it is in a picture, so please be sure to check it out in a local retailer (it will be in Barnes & Noble and Borders stores everywhere and in many airport book stores).  By the way, the cards are supposed to stay attached to the book and not removed.  This way they are always with you for easy access.

As the book launches, I will be interviewing readers, taking pictures at bookstores, and doing other things to share my experience with you.

It is my hope that this becomes massively popular through word of mouth – friends telling friends.  This book is unique and can be life changing.  I hope you agree and decide to help spread the word.

Thank you in advance for all of your support.

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Organizations are Cults

October 25, 2010

The Personality Poker book will be available THIS THURSDAY. Be sure to buy your copy today. Each book comes with a deck of the specially designed poker cards.

This is the fourth in a series of videos about Personality Poker. Today I discuss why organizations are cults.

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The Golden Rule is Tarnished

October 18, 2010

This is the third in a series of videos about Personality Poker. Today I discuss why the Golden Rule is bad advice.

You can pre-order the book now. Each book comes with a deck of the specially designed poker cards.

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Opposites Don’t Attract

October 14, 2010

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 common with each other. They might have similar backgrounds, expertise, interests, or personalities. This is natural.

The reason? Contrary to conventional wisdom, opposites do not attract.

When it comes to interpersonal relationships, we are attracted to people who are like us. Psychologists have extensively documented the power of similarity when it comes to liking other people. In general, we tend to like those individuals the most who seem the most similar to us.

Therefore we surround ourselves with people who share similar thought processes, similar energy levels, and similar personalities.

But as I learned on that project many years ago, partnering with people who are too much like you can lead to disastrous results.

Contrast that experience with the project that immediately followed. Learning from that failure, I brought in a great planner, Ray, as my wingman on the team. I made sure I treated him as my equal. He was in my face on nearly a daily basis, forcing me to stay on plan and budget. I wanted to avoid the rigors of his planning as I felt that they were limiting and restrictive. But he was unrelenting.

In the end, although we may have annoyed each other, it was one of the most successful projects I’ve ever worked on. In fact, it was one of the most successful initiatives of the firm, one people still talk about nearly fifteen years later.

From this project, I learned something incredibly important:

“The person you like the least may be the person you need the most.”

Although Ray annoyed me on nearly a daily basis, it was because of his persistence that we were so successful. Left to my own devices, I would be chasing “bright shiny objects.” He forced me and the team to stay focused on the plans, deliverables, and timeframes. The combination of my creativity blended with his rigor was the key to success.

Although it is human nature to want to be around people who are like you, in order to be successful you need to partner with people are different. You need to surround yourself with people that complement your abilities and illuminate your blind-spots.

When you have a difficult problem to solve, instead of going to some someone who thinks like you, find someone who is your opposite. Yes, it is quite possible that that individual will annoy you and not give you the answer you secretly want. But that might be the very reason they have something powerful to contribute to you.

If you want to learn who can best contribute to YOUR success, check out our Personality Poker book and game.

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The Person You Like the Least is the Person You Need the Most

October 13, 2010

This is the second in a series of videos about Personality Poker. Today I discuss the myth that opposites attract.

You can pre-order the book now. Each book comes with a deck of the specially designed poker cards.

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The Four Principles of Personality Poker

October 11, 2010

We will be releasing a series of videos about Personality Poker over the coming weeks.  Each will talk about a specific concept or insight from the book.  You can pre-order the book now.  Each book comes with a deck of the specially designed poker cards which will be demonstrated in the next video.  Enjoy!

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Open Innovation @NASA

October 8, 2010

I am speaking at TRIZCON tomorrow. The opening speaker today was Jeffrey Davis, MD, Director of Space Life Sciences at NASA Johnson Space Center. His excellent presentation focused primarily on the open innovation efforts of NASA.

Here are some of the key soundbites I heard…

  • They wanted to avoid the “serendipity” associated with many innovation efforts, and to create something more predictable.
  • Alliances are THE key to open innovation. Another one is to use the platforms as a way of “managing a network of networks.”
  • He quoted Karim Lakhani from Harvard who once said, “No matter who you are, the smartest people work for someone else.”
  • He said that “putting a call for solutions to the open innovation channels was easy.” But there was a psychological barrier to admitting they couldn’t find the answers themselves.
  • Part of the reason why their efforts were so successful is that they did their homework. They determined which open innovation venue was most appropriate for each challenge. He referred to an article written by Gary Pisano in HBR (you can read an excerpt here).
  • NASA is using three organizations for their open innovation efforts: InnoCentive, Yet2, and Topcoder.

InnoCentive Challenges

Davis spent a large part of his hour talking about InnoCentive. He described them as a “turnkey solution” because challenge writing, vetting and other activities are done by them, reducing the amount of work to be done by NASA. Their InnoCentive challenges yielded responses from people in 65 countries and had a solve rate of about 50%.  He described a few InnoCentive challenges that they ran. Here are three where he had some interesting commentary:

Solar activity cause problems for space travel. If an astronaut is doing a walk during a flare, it can be incredibly dangerous. Therefore they ran a challenge to predict such activity. But instead of posting it as a solar activity challenge, they posed it as a mathematical modeling issue. This broadened the possible sphere of solutions and solution providers. The success criteria for the solution was that the model would need to provide prediction within 24 hours of the solar activity, it needed to be 50% accurate, and within 2 sigma (a quality measure where the higher the number the better). The solution was provided by a retired engineer whose model predicted within 8 hours, was 70% accurate and within 3 sigma. This was a huge improvement over their initial expectations.

Because space travel can last for years, they have a problem with food spoilage. Therefore they ran a challenge to find a food packaging materials that could keep food fresh for 3 years. They found a solution from someone without food experience in Russia who developed a graphite-based material that appears to keep food fresher than regular materials.

Davis indicated that their “micro gravity laundry system” challenge was the least successful. There were two lessons from this. 1) Asking a “system” question was too complex and it should have been deconstructed into smaller challenges (e.g., a valve challenge). 2) Maybe a “higher level” question should be asked. For example, how do we eliminate the need for clothes laundering altogether?

His comments confirmed a few things for me:

  • The laundry challenge highlights two keep points: asking a question that is too abstract leads to fluffy solutions, and asking the wrong question leads to irrelevant solutions.
  • The food packaging and solar flare challenges show that solutions often come from disciplines than are different than where you would traditionally look.
  • There is no one size fits all solution for open innovation. Different challenges require different approaches.

If you want to see my presentation to NASA last year, you can watch it here.

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Read our Change This Manifesto

October 6, 2010

Today, the good folks at ChangeThis.com published my Personality Poker manifesto.  It is a quick read that will provide you some of my thoughts on why organizations struggle to become innovative…and what can be done about it.

Read it/download it here

Here’s the excerpt that Change This included on their website…

Issue 75 – 01 | Personality Poker: How to Create High-Performing Innovation Teams
By Stephen M. Shapiro Published Oct. 6, 2010 12:00 a.m.

“The desire for equality permeates everything we do and always has, as can be seen in many of our age-old philosophies. For example, we see it in the Golden Rule, which is often interpreted as ‘Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.’ However, who really cares what you want? After all, treating people as you want to be treated doesn’t address the needs and desires of others.

Buying into these doctrines, myths, and lies leads to pasteurizing, homogenizing, and sanitizing everyone in order to fit people into one mold and think the same way so they can then gather together in like-minded harmony. There’s a good reason why they call it a company culture, since organizations are, in actuality, mini-cults. Instead, we should consider living by the doctrine:

The person you like the least may be the person you need the most.”

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Don’t Do The Wrong Things When Things Go Wrong

October 5, 2010

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 7 minutes.  After 10 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 of giving up, she walked me several streets away to a taxi stand where she made sure I was off safely.

That is customer service!  That goes beyond what I suspect any manual told her to do.  And it left me with only positive thoughts of my experience with that hotel.

To me, this is the true essence of innovation.  It is about improvising in the moment to do what makes sense right then and there.

Or, after checking into my hotel in the suburbs of Chicago, I went up to my room to discover that the key did not work.  I went all the way back down to the front desk.  The gentleman there apologized, fixed the keys, and without hesitation handed me some chocolate chip cookies.  No, I wasn’t staying in a Doubletree where all guests get cookies.  I was in a Hampton Inn.  I doubt this was standard protocol.

That one small gesture removed any annoyance and made me happy…sort of.  Since I am trying to lose a few pounds, I did silently curse the front desk clerk as a devoured the delicious cookies.

But sometimes companies do the wrong things when things go wrong…

I have had service with a mobile phone company for a long time, spending $2,000 a year on service.  A year ago I decided to get their VoIP home phone service which was one third the cost of a traditional copper wire line.

From the beginning, I had problems with the VoIP phone with poor call quality and dropped calls.  I called the phone company’s technical support repeatedly to see if they could fix the problem, but they could not.  Finally, I called customer service to tell them about my problems and that I wanted to cancel my account.  The man I spoke with informed me that I was under contract and that I would be charged $200 for canceling.  I explained that I have had issues from the beginning and have spent nearly $10,000 dollars with them over the years.  Did he really want to risk losing my $2,000 a year mobile service by forcing to adhere to a contract for a substandard home product? After 20 minutes of pleading my case, he did not waver.

I hung up and decided to call customer service again.  I explained the situation to the new person on the line.  Within 2 minutes, he canceled my home contract without penalty.  Clearly it was not that difficult to do.  Why didn’t they do that in the first place?

You can  make or break a relationship with a customer through a single interaction.  And what is most telling is how you respond to a customer when something goes wrong.

I know someone who worked for Bose.  She once told me: “When a customer buys Bose speakers, they become a fan of the product.  But when they buy Bose speakers and something goes wrong, they become a fan of the company for life.“  Their customer service is second to none.

What do you do when things go wrong?  Do you follow the “instruction” manual?  Or do you color outside of the lines and do what is right?  One interaction can change your relationship with your customers.

Whatever you do, don’t do the wrong things when things go wrong.

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