Discovering Your Blindspots

March 12, 2014

Here’s a video I recorded for “The Art of Sales” event in Canada. In it I talk briefly about two common innovation blindspots, and how to shine a light on them.

Diversity Doesn’t Work

October 11, 2013

poker bannerImagine two groups of problems solvers.

Group #1 is homogeneous. That is, everyone has similar personalities and areas of expertise.

Group #2 is diverse and comprises a blend of different styles and experiences.

Which group will perform better?

In times of crisis and on simpler tasks, Group #1 will always perform better. They “speak the same language” and therefore get things done quickly. Their solutions may not be as creative, but they will be more likely to coalesce.

But what about in less time-sensitive situations or more complex tasks?

According to research and my own experience, Group #2 will still – left to their own devices – underperform.


Although diverse groups may attempt a wider and more creative range of solutions, the differing perspectives can lead to harmful disagreement. For example, someone throws out what they think is a great idea, but it quickly gets shot down by someone who has had different experiences. In this instance, it might be creativity going in a head-to-head battle with practicality.

Diversity doesn’t work naturally. It requires one key ingredient: appreciation.

Our studies find that when diverse teams are given the tools to appreciate one another, they generate solutions with higher value and have a better chance of implementing them.

I’ve found that for diverse teams to work well, each person on the team needs to:

  • recognize that opposites do not attract (they repel) and therefore it is natural to avoid or disagree with those who are different
  • be aware of his or her limitations (each style has positive and negative implications)
  • discover where he or she contributes and detracts in the innovation process (everyone can’t do everything well; certain part of the process are handled by some better than others)
  • appreciate how others complement his or her limitations (each person provides different forms of value and “completes” you)

So yes, diversity can work. But it is not a natural act.

Anyone who says that opposites attract has not been paying attention to the bickering on Capitol Hill.

But opposites can collaborate effectively when everyone appreciates the contributions of those with different perspectives, styles, and experiences.

P.S. If you believe that my article titles are too controversial, read this article. Clearly, I do believe that diversity can work.

P.P.S. Personality Poker is designed to enable diverse teams to work effectively together. Learn more about this card-based system, book, and keynote speech.

Everyone Reacts Differently

July 22, 2013

Back in 1996, I was conducting an important three-day “train the trainer” session for a program we were launching at Accenture. I was personally training 200 top client partners and managers. It was critical that we got everyone’s buy-in.

At the end of day one, the partner in charge of program, Bob, asked me how I thought it was going.

I responded, “Overall, I think it is going well. But I’m concerned about Dave. His body language tells me he is not on board. Or maybe he is just bored.”

Dave was one of the most senior people in the the room, so his support was critical.

Bob replied,”Funny, Dave was the first person to come up to me. He said it was one of the best courses he has ever attended.”

I learned something important that day (a lesson I continue to relearn nearly every day): everyone reacts differently.

Some people are reserved. They like to process things. But that does not mean they don’t love what you are doing. They just may not show it.

On the other hand, there are people who are highly animated. They are always at a 10 out of 10 energy level. With these individuals, don’t assume that this high energy means they like what you are doing.

There are those who say nice things to your face, but may say something completely different (and less positive) to others. They don’t like confrontation, so they may not always speak what is on their mind. Or they may not want to hurt your feelings.

There are the people who appear to be downright argumentative. But this doesn’t mean that they aren’t on board. Their style is to poke holes in things to make sure that they are considering all angles.

And of course there are many other variations.

When giving a presentation, making a business proposal, leading a team, or attending a meeting, remember that everyone will respond differently. Just because someone’s reaction is different than your natural style does not mean that there is a problem. Conversely, just because someone appears agreeable to your face does not mean that they are supportive.

Their long-term actions will be the ultimate test of their support.

Personality Poker Limited Time Offer

April 9, 2013

Personality Poker Innovation BookPersonality Poker®: The Playing Card Tool for Driving High-Performance Teamwork and Innovation is unlike any other book.

Yes, it is jam packed with examples and scientific studies on teamwork, collaboration and innovation.

But it also comes with a specially designed deck of cards that can be used to assess individuals, teams, and organizations. This deck can help you figure out:

  • What is your preferred innovation style? What are your innovation blind spots? It is important to note that who you are not is more important than who you are.
  • What is the composition of your team? Do you have a good complement of innovation styles? Is everyone in the right roles? If you don’t have a good balance, or if you have people involved with the wrong step of the innovation process, your innovation efforts will suffer.
  • What is the culture of your organization? How will it hinder innovation? How can it help innovation?

The cards (without the book) sell 10 for $125 plus shipping. If that is what you want, you can get them through our distribution parter, 800CEOREAD.

But if you want the book with decks of cards, we have an amazing deal for you.

Through a special arrangement with Penguin (the publisher) we were able to get a limited number of books at a great discount…and we are passing the savings on to you.

For a limited time, you can 24 books (each with a deck of Personality Poker cards) INCLUDING shipping for only $300.*

That is the same cost as the cards and includes free shipping.

This is a $650 value!

But order today!

To take advantage of this offer, please write us at offer (at) personalitypoker (dot) com.

* PLEASE NOTE: Books are only sold in boxes of 24. They are shipped media mail; no expedited shipping is available. Shipping to the 48 United States only. Allow 4 weeks for delivery. No returns on bulk orders. This offer may be withdrawn at any time without any notice. Personality Poker is a registered trademark of Stephen Shapiro Enterprises LLC.


Are You Playing With a Full Deck?

March 6, 2013

Today’s Wednesday Work Wisdom

Personality Poker is a tool I developed for helping organizations play with a full deck; enabling them to have a good balance of complementary styles.

Why? Because opposites don’t attract. As a result, organizations naturally homogenize around one particular style.  (See my article, “Your Organizations is a Cult” for more on this)

You, as an individual, can also play with a full deck.

Although in Personality Poker, I suggest that people play to their strong suit, it is useful to recognize that everyone has a mix of four styles within them. And we can call on them at various times when needed. This allows us as individuals to be whole and integrated.

The styles at a high level are:

  • Spades – analytical
  • Diamonds – creative
  • Clubs – results-oriented
  • Hearts – emotional

Consider that inside of us, we have our own Board of Directors. And each style represented in Personality Poker is on this Board.*

The Chairman of the Board is your strong suit. However, even though one style is sitting at the head of the table, it doesn’t mean that you can’t tap into the power of each.

For me, although I am naturally creative (a diamond), when I am under stress, my intellect (spade) runs the show and is usually the Chairman of my Board.

But I make a concerted effort to utilize all aspects of my personality.

For example, I literally set aside time to nurture and check in on my emotional side. I reflect upon how I am feeling. I look to see what I may need. If I have something bothering me emotionally, and I don’t address it, my work will definitely be impacted.

The same is true with my intellect (spades). I check to make sure that there aren’t any worrying thoughts lingering in my mind. Am I feeling skeptical? Are others challenging my intelligence? What am I thinking? I carry a notebook not just to capture creative thoughts, but also to document thoughts or concerns that need to be handled.

The club is the part of me that gets things done.  I look at what I want to accomplish. What are my goals? My aspirations? Am I doing what I want to do? Am I accomplishing what I want to accomplish? Even though I am naturally not inclined to set goals, (hey, I’m the author of Goal-Free Living), I still look at where I am and where I am going – without attachment.

And of course I check in with my creative (diamond) side. This is my natural expression when I am not under stress. What am I doing to tap into my inner wisdom? Am I leveraging my creative energies? Am I serving my higher purpose?

Everyone has each aspect of Personality Poker residing within them. And ignoring any one of them at some point will have consequences. If I don’t process concerns that a given part of my personality has, it will start to fester and will eventually impact all areas of my life. Even if you are primarily intellectual, if there is something bothering you emotionally (e.g., in your personal life), it will impact everything else.

Therefore consider checking in daily to determine how you are doing in each of these different areas so you can take appropriate corrective action.

Also, look to see how each area of your personality can contribute.  If you are inclined to be intellectual, see how your emotions and creative side can contribute to your work.

Taking just 5 or 10 minutes each day to “check-in” as a daily ritual can ensure that you are nurturing all facets of your personality. This can have a huge impact on your day, your work, and your life as a whole.

* I got this concept while attending a course called The Hoffman Process.

Wednesday Work Wisdom: Your Organization is a Cult

January 30, 2013

Contrary to conventional wisdom, opposites do not attract. In fact, it has been scientifically proven that opposites repel. The reality is, like attracts like.

As a result, your organization has a bunch of people who think the same way.

People have personalities, and so do organizations. Many would call this their culture. This is an appropriate word since it is related to the word “cult.” Everyone in your organization most likely fits the mold.

There are four primary organizational personalities:

  • Analytical: Organizations that value expertise and intelligence, like pharmaceutical companies, research labs (like NASA), and many financial institutions.
  • Results-Oriented: Organizations that value the bottom line, quarterly earnings results, and stock price like large, publicly traded organizations.
  • People-Centered: Organizations that value relationships and their impact on society, like non-profits and NGOs.
  • Creative: Organizations that value imagination and ingenuity, like advertising/branding agencies and some entrepreneurial start-ups.

The key word in each description above is “value.”

The personality of your organization is not determined by the work you do, the industry you are in, or the people you hire. It is determined by what is valued.

Ask yourself which of the attributes above – analysis, results, people, or creativity – is valued the most. Don’t just look at your performance management system.

What is truly valued, when push comes to shove, by your leadership? Who really gets promoted? What always gets recognized and rewarded?

Here’s the important point…

*** Your organization’s personality will give you a hint at what is not valued. ***

This is your organization’s innovation blind spot. Non-profits are notorious for not valuing traditional business lessons. Large corporations are known for not truly appreciating creative individuals who think differently.

In order to innovate more effectively, you need to first identify your innovation blind spot – what is not valued – and make a concerted effort to encourage these people, behaviors, and activities.

Although your organization will have a single personality, you need to be adept at all four sets of innovation skills.

P.S. Personality Poker is a great tool for identifying your innovation personality and specific innovation blind spots.

Books in Chinese

June 22, 2012

I’m please to announce that both Personality Poker and Best Practices Are Stupid  are now available in Chinese.  I love the cover designs, especially the cat on the Best Practices Are Stupid book.

Work with People You Don’t Like

April 9, 2012

When asked by a Fortune 20 company to boil down Personality Poker into a 350 word article for their intranet, this is what I created…

We all have heard the expression, “opposites attract.” But in fact there is irrefutable scientific evidence that in relationships, opposites repel. We prefer to be around people who are similar to us. In business, this means that we tend to surround ourselves with people who think like we do. They have similar personality styles.

Although working with people who are like us improves efficiency, and makes relationships easier, this “commonality” destroys innovation. Innovation is based on different and divergent points of view coming together to create something new of value.

If you want innovation to flourish in your organization, you need to find those individuals who complement your style and address your innovation blindspots.

Look at the list of words below. Which set of words resonates with you the most and best describes you?

A: Intellectual, Knowledgeable, Philosophical, Logical, Realistic, Rational, Skeptical

B: Adventurous, Spontaneous, Flexible, Creative, Open Minded, Insightful, Curious

C: Goal-Oriented, Driven, Decisive, Competitive, Disciplined, Organized, Systematic

D: Diplomatic, Sociable, Gregarious, Popular, Nurturing, Empathetic, Compassionate

The list that best describes you is your primary personality style (and yes, people have more than one style). A’s tend to be a bit more data-driven and analytical, B’s like new ideas and experiences, C’s like to plan the work and work the plan, and D’s are into people and relationships.

However, who you are NOT is more important than who you are. Look at the lists of words again. Which words do NOT describe you? Which ones would be opposite of your style? What you may find is that those who are not like you, you may not like. Their differences can be annoying. Yet these differences are the very thing that can help innovation thrive.

The next time you are working on a complex problem or developing a new solution, seek out someone who is different. Appreciate their contribution. Recognize that the person you like the least, may be the person you need the most.  Their differences can be the key to unlocking your success.

Innovation & Poker Interview with Chris Taylor

March 14, 2011

I recently had the great pleasure of welcoming Chris Taylor into my condo.  He came with his video camera, an in depth understanding of my work, and an amazing interview style.  The result? One of my favorite video interviews…ever.  Be sure to check it out and learn more about Chris at Actionable Books.

My Interview on IdeaConnection

March 6, 2011

Vern Burkhardt is one of the best interviewers in the innovation space. I am pleased to have spent time with him for a two-part interview. Here are the first two questions/answers for the first interview. At the end you can follow the link to the IdeaConnection website for the other 38 questions.

Vern Burkhardt (VB): In Personality Poker you focus on “challenge-driven” Innovation. Why?

Stephen Shapiro: I love to quote Albert Einstein when talking about this topic. He said if I had an hour to save the world, I’d spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute finding solutions. From my experience, most organizations are spending 60 minutes finding solutions to problems that don’t matter.

When you focus on challenges you’re able to create solutions that are relevant to the needs of the organization. By contrast, when you focus on broad ideas you don’t know which ones are going to be useful. This creates a lot of noise in the system and makes innovation much less efficient.

VB: In your article “how to Create a Culture of Innovation” you say, ‘The “meta-challenge” for all organizations is to find which challenges, if solved and implemented, will create the greatest value.’ Would you talk about this?

Stephen Shapiro: An organization’s ability to figure out which problems if solved would have the greatest impact is probably the single greatest measure of whether an organization will be successful. A lot of times companies spend so much time on things that aren’t relevant.

You’re not looking for solutions. You’re looking for problems and opportunities. It is about relevancy.

If you use the mind-set of focusing on challenges it raises the question of where do you find the key challenges? Obviously you’ll find them in the marketplace, from customers, and also from employees. You don’t ask, “What’s your idea for the next big product?” You ask, “What problems, if solved, would help our customers?” It puts you in the mind-set of challenge-driven innovation, which ultimately becomes customer-driven innovation. It links back to challenges that will help your customers and help you grow your market.

Click here to read the rest of this interview on the IdeaConnection website

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