My interview on Virgin.com

October 1, 2013  

virginI was recently interviewed by Pedro De Abreu for an article on Virgin.com. Here’s a little taste…

Every web site we visit, every book we read, every conference we attend, we are admonished to innovate, to be innovative and to disrupt the market with innovation. Stephen Shapiro, author of the international best-selling business book ‘Best Practices Are Stupid: 40 Ways to Out Innovate the Competition’, makes the case that instead of listening to all the noise, we should ignore all advice (including the ones he gives us in this interview).

What is innovation?

Innovation is an organization’s ability to adapt, evolve, and change repeatedly and rapidly. Although new products, services, and business models all play into this, they are a means to an end: to stay at least one-step ahead of the competition.

How can companies and individuals become innovative in their approaches to life and business?

Too often in life (and business) we have this false belief that we can predict the future. At a personal level, we set goals for many years out, hoping to achieve them using a well thought out plan of attack. But the flaw in this thinking is three-fold. 1) Our past is so limited that we really can never know what is the “best” future for us. 2) We can never predict the best path, as there are too many factors in the real world. 3) The world is changing fast, so a 5-year strategic plan is (in many cases) useless.

Instead, I suggest that you “use a compass, not a map.” Instead of a specific destination, you have a general direction. Then you “meander with purpose.” Learn by doing. Learn by experiencing. Adjust directions frequently, but still move in the same direction. To me, this is the ultimate in innovation living.

What the five rules of innovation that companies and individuals should stick by?

1. Innovate where you differentiate. Most organizations dissipate their energies by not focusing on the opportunities to set yourself apart from the competition. This should trickle down to every department and person. For any activity that is not a differentiator, you should optimize, automate, outsource, replicate or partner with others.

Read the other four rules and the rest of this article on Virgin.com

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2 Responses to “My interview on Virgin.com”

  1. Jim Carpenter on October 13th, 2013 2:30 am

    My experience is that, even when the potential rewards far outweigh the risks, most homogenous groups are exceedingly reluctant to bring in others who do not share similar frames of reference, personality styles, educational experiences, and similar world views.

    They cite concerns that unless a consultant or prospective staff member DOES fit with the group norm, then they (the new person) “… just won’t get it,” “… will prove too disruptive,” will “become a distraction,” etc.

    I have heard so many of these excuses for justifying the predetermined decision to not hire someone “different,” that I am considering creating a catalog: “The 25 Reasons I Cannot Hire Someone Different,” or perhaps entitled, “The 20 Reasons I Must Continue Hiring My Clone.”

    And on the rare occasion that I HAVE seen organizations hire the “DIFFERENT” person, there was an overwhelming need for a “short-term solution,” that forced their hands.

    Invariably, within two years, those people had moved on to other organizations where they could blend into the homogeneously-obscure (if they were looking for the ever-elusive “secure position”).

    Typically, they were kicked out of the nest by the birds who recognized that they were different, or they chose to leave because of the constant strain caused by the inability of the other members of the organization to shift enough to make it comfortable for the new person. Or, ironically, the new person’s own inability or reluctance to make a shift to make others in the organization to become comfortable around THEM led to their departure.

    I teach personality styles, as a knowledge-set that people can use to learn to be more comfortable, innovative, and ultimately more productive, working in heterogeneous groups.

    Sometimes it works.

    Unfortunately (in my experience) this is atypical.

    So innovation simply does not happen as often as it is needed, and most organizations just don’t evolve.

    So Stephen, as the “High Priest of the Church of Innovation,” (tongue definitely in cheek – I’m sure that I’ve just offended everyone) you should be busy for the next 40 years, as you travel a similar path to Diogenes’, in search of “… A few innovative people.”

    Love your work. Please keep it up!

    Jim Carpenter,
    Colleyville, Texas

  2. sshapiro on October 14th, 2013 6:01 pm

    Jim, thanks for your comment. I agree with you. In fact, I wrote about a similar concept in a recent blog post: http://www.steveshapiro.com/2013/10/11/diversity-doesnt-work/. All the best, Steve