March 26, 2012
Currently, Best Practices are Stupid is the best selling business book in Canada.
December 15, 2011
Last month (November), Best Practices Are Stupid, was featured in Southwest Airline’s Spirit Magazine. Now that it is no longer on planes and can’t be found on the internet, I figured it was time to share the article with the readers of this blog. They did such a nice job, I feel as though their work should live on. Click the image below to launch the article in a new window. Enjoy!
December 14, 2011
One of my favorite topics is to discuss how breakthroughs are generated by looking for someone who has solved a similar problem in a different space.
Some examples I talk about in my “Best Practices Are Stupid” books are:
- A company developed a new type of whitening toothpaste by studying the way non-bleach laundry detergent works
- A gas pipeline “sealing” system was developed by studying the way the capillaries in the finger coagulate blood and heal themselves
- An office supply company found a way to get customers to return used toner cartridges by studying Netflix’s DVD service
And there are so many more interesting case studies.
While giving a speech on this recently, a client shared another wonderful example.
The company is in the computer simulation space. They are able to build incredibly realistic models of what might happen in the real world by creating simulations in the virtual world.
When working for a medical device company that made angioplasty equipment, they wanted to create a computer simulation that would predict how the “balloon” would expand.
Where did they turn for an accurate computer model?
In the past, they worked with car manufacturers and built statistical models that simulated the expansion and contraction of airbags. This proved to be a wildly accurate way of predicting how a balloon catheter would operate.
When you are working on your next business challenge, ask yourself: “Who else has solved a similar problem.”
In doing so, you might significantly accelerate your innovation effort.
December 13, 2011
I’m pleased that the American Express OPEN Forum (via Matthew E. May) selected Best Practices Are Stupid as one of the top 15 books of 2011. Check out the complete list
Also, Best Practices Are Stupid was selected as one of the “Top-Drawer Business Books of 2011″ by the advertising agency, DDB. See the complete list here
And, in case you missed it, there is an excellent review of the book on the Actionable Books website. Read it here
October 10, 2011
My new book, Best Practices Are Stupid, has been all over the news lately. Here’s just a small sample…
Interview on ABC News (click video above)
Interview on CBS Interactive’s BNET (click video above)
September 29, 2011
I am excited because today my 5th book, Best Practices Are Stupid: 40 Ways to Out-Innovate the Competition, is published by Penguin. You can watch a short video about the book. And after you are done, you can watch even more videos on our new website, StupidPractices.com. Please help spread the word to anyone who might benefit from this book.
September 26, 2011
Chris Martin created this cool graphic that is the mantra for my new book. As you can see, it includes the url for our soon to be launched website.
September 23, 2011
Dennis McCafferty from Baseline Magazine, created a cool slideshow that features ten of the tips from my upcoming book. Although the names of the tips were changed (maybe to protect the innocent), you will get a good sense of the content. Click the image on the right to go to their website.
September 22, 2011
In one week (September 29th), my new book will be available in book stores, online, and on the Kindle. It is published by Penguin’s Portfolio imprint. For those of you who are new to this blog, here’s a description…
Best Practices Are Stupid:
40 Ways to Out-Innovate the Competition
Well-intentioned leaders, in their attempts to boost innovation, are inadvertently destroying it.
What if everything you know about creating a culture of innovation is wrong? What if the way you are measuring innovation is choking it? What if your market research is asking all of the wrong questions?
It’s time to innovate the way you innovate.
In Best Practices Are Stupid, I offer forty counterintuitive yet proven strategies for boosting innovation and making it a repeatable, sustainable, and profitable process at the heart of your company’s culture. They include:
- Hire people you don’t like. Bring the right mix of people to unleash your team’s full potential.
- Asking for ideas is a bad idea. Define challenges more clearly. If you ask better questions, you will get better answers.
- Don’t think outside the box; find a better box. Instead of giving your employees a blank slate, provide them with well-define parameters that will increase their creative output.
- Failure is always an option. Looking at innovation as a series of experiments allows you to redefine failure and learn from your results.
I will show you that nonstop innovation is attainable and vital to building a high-performing team, improving the bottom line, and staying ahead of the pack.
Other powerful strategies include:
- The performance paradox. When organizations hyper focus on their goals, they are less likely to achieve those goals.
- Expertise is the enemy of innovation. The more you know about a particular topic, the more difficult it is for you to think about it in a different way.
- The Goldilocks principle. Challenges can’t be too big or too small. They must be “just right” to maximize the likelihood of a workable solution.
- Learn from Indiana Jones. Real treasure can be found when you leave your office, don your fedora and bullwhip, and study customers with your own two eyes.
- Use the reality TV show model. Competitions are as much about generating buzz and stimulating interest in innovation as they are about finding specific solutions.
You can pre-order NOW on any of these sites.
September 22, 2011
Over the past couple of weeks, I have had the identical conversation with several different clients. Apparently, there is an existing belief that if you want to instill a mindset of creativity, you need to have less “structure.” To some degree that is true. But unfortunately, most companies, when undergoing this kind of change, swing too radically to the other side.
One company that has been autocratic for decades now wants to be more innovative. Their belief is that they can accomplish this by letting people do what they want to do, in turn, enhancing their competitive position.
Another organization wants it’s employees to be more creative. They are now encouraging people to “think outside the box” while giving them minimal constraints.
In both of these cases, the company is going from a highly structured and bureaucratic approach to one that is a bit of a free-for-all. Sadly, and often surprisingly, swinging the pendulum that far in the other direction might also kill creativity and innovation.
To illustrate this point, there is an exercise I conduct with my clients that is simple yet powerful. I won’t go into all of the details here as I describe it in my new book, Best Practices Are Stupid: 40 Ways to Out-Innovate the Competition (available one week from today!). But here’s a short version…
Exercise #1: People are asked to list a number of ways in which they can use a brick. They are given no restrictions (unbounded). I give them about a minute. Typical answers involve using it as a paperweight, a door stop, or a weapon.
Exercise #2: Then they are asked to identify something random (e.g., on the body, in the kitchen, in a marriage) and are to find all of the uses of a brick for that. For example, if “a kitchen” were the random context, people might find uses like heating it up to make paninis, flattening a lump of dough, or using it as a trivet.
When I ask groups which approach – #1 (unbounded) or #2 (connecting to something random) – yields more creative solutions, nearly 90% of audiences choose the second way. In fact, when we take the time to evaluate the uses, there is indeed much greater divergence when using the second method. The first approach tends to yield a lot of common solutions.
In some respects, this seems counterintuitive. By bounding people we actually increase creativity.
How can this be applied in a business setting?
A client, in an attempt to expand, is always looking at ways to branch into new markets. To accomplish this, they used to ask employees the unbounded question, “How can we adapt our (commodity) product to new markets?” Unfortunately they found that most suggestions were mundane. Therefore, as a way of increasing their level of creativity, they created a list of 200 different industries/roles (one for each business day of the year) and posted it on their wall. Each day management chose a different industry/role from the list (e.g., toll booth collectors, nurses/healthcare, or librarians) and used that to brainstorm new opportunities for their product for that industry/role. They found that they generated greater insights when bounding the conversation around a specific market segment.
In this case, more structure increased creativity.
The same is true when it comes to organization structures. For this, I use jazz and classical music as the metaphors.
Most organizations, in the past, have been designed like classical symphonies. Large compositions (processes, policies and procedures) where employees were expected to perform rote, note by note, exactly as written. There was very little room for creativity or improvisation.
But some organizations, in their attempt to increase their level of innovation, have decided to throw out all structures. Power to the people. However this leads to chaos, not innovation. There is no coordination between individuals or groups. The level of work redundancy is high. And the level of collaboration is low. If you brought together a bunch of musicians and didn’t give them any structure, they would not be able to play anything that resembles music.
Therefore, organizations would better benefit by structuring themselves like jazz music. Jazz is not random. There is a simple structure – like a 12 bar B flat blues – that enables the musicians to collaborate and play together while improvising their own parts. Adding structure, in this case, allows innovation to emerge in the moment when it is needed most.
Although it might be tempting to throw structure out the window in the name of innovation, this may kill the very thing you want. Paradoxically, more structure often leads to greater innovation.
P.S. The brick exercise, as it is described in Best Practices Are Stupid, makes several other important points on innovation and breakthrough thinking.