May 13, 2013
Today’s Monday Morning Movie is actually an audio file…
In the October 2012 issue of SUCCESS Magazine, there was a four page article by yours truly. You’ve been able to read the article online since it was published. (It is the cover article; “Innovate of Die!”)
However, unless you subscribe to the magazine, you will not have heard my 22 minute interview with SUCCESS Magazine’s publisher, Darren Hardy. It was on the CD included with the magazine, but not available anywhere else.
Darren was kind enough to give me permission to post the audio file here.
You have two ways to enjoy this interview:
- Listen to the audio (streaming):
- Download the audio (mp3) (right click to save to your computer)
I will be posting the transcription of this interview sometime soon.
May 11, 2013
Today’s Friday Fun Fact…
At the end of this month, I will be speaking in Copenhagen at a Happiness at Work Conference. This got me thinking about what it is that makes people truly joyous.
Business Insider gathered some research on this topic and amassed 36 Scientific Facts about happiness, some that may come as a surprise.
Here are a few of my favorites:
- You have to earn 2.5x as much money to be as happy working for someone else as you would be working for yourself: Perhaps that is why Forbes reported that approximately 543,000 new U.S. businesses are started every month. This is one of the reasons I work for myself. If I don’t like my boss, I only have me to blame!
- Greater rewards mean less motivation and poorer performance: “Researchers have found that people are sometimes happier and more effective when they do a task for no money at all than when they receive a small payment. If someone offers a good Samaritan $5 for helping with a flat tire, then he starts thinking about the actual market rate for tire-changing, so a fiver is now insufficient—when a minute ago, he’d have been perfectly content with $0.” I have written about this extensively in the past. See my article, I Won’t Work for Money.
- Happy people are lucky: Lucky people tend to focus on the positive side of their ill fortune. They imagine how things could have been worse. For example, an individual arrived to an interview with his leg in a cast and mentioned that he had fallen down a flight of stairs. When asked whether he still felt lucky, he cheerfully explained that he felt luckier than before as he could have broken his neck. This is absolutely how I live, maybe sometime to a fault. I do operate from the belief that everything happens for a reason – I learned this from my father.
- Happiness is not a destination: I will be happy when I’m married, have more money, or move to a new location. This is what we tell ourselves. But the reality is that while these things can contribute to happiness, it is not as much as you may think. According to Web MD, achieving these milestones account for only about 10% of your whole happiness picture. “Lasting happiness has more to do with how you behave and think — things you control — than with many of life’s circumstances.” This is the essence of my Goal-Free Living book.
Other studies show that people with more money are happy. But what is intriguing is that the researchers found that money did not cause happiness. Happiness was the creator of wealth.
What other things make you happy?
April 16, 2013
Back in 2006, my Goal-Free Living book was published by Wiley, and I was feeling quite proud. Later that same year, after giving a speech in Los Angeles, I drove up to Santa Barbara to attend a conference, arriving just in time for lunch.
While standing in the line for the buffet, I turned around and said hi to the guy next to me.
He told me his name was George. He then asked me what I did.
Given my new book and the success of my speech earlier that day, I said with a bit of swagger, “I’m an author and professional speaker.” I was feeling very good about myself.
I asked George, “What do you do?”
He replied nonchalantly, “Oh, I’ve done a bit of television.”
He said it so matter-of-factly, that I assumed he had a small role in television. Maybe he had done a couple of commercials. Or possibly he did some voiceover work; he certainly had the voice for it. Or maybe he once had a “bit” part in a minor show.
He then proceeded to ask me about my book and the work I do, and I gladly shared my life story.
When I sat down at my table to eat, not with George, I looked at the agenda of speakers for the conference.
I was humbled when I realized that the person I was standing next to in the buffet line was speaking later that day. He was none other than George Takei.
At that moment, I realized that truly confident, successful, and impressive individuals do not need to boast. They don’t need to be the center of attention. Instead, they make others feel good about themselves. They ask good questions and are interested in others.
After that embarrassing moment, I have done my best to do what George did with me. Instead of attempting to convince the world of how great I am, I try to bring out the greatness in others. When I am at a conference, I do my best to make others the centers of conversation.
The next time you are with a group, spend more asking questions and listening than talking. Spend more time promoting others than promoting yourself.
As I learned from George, the most powerful people make others feel like a super star.
P.S. I ended up spending about 90 minutes with George. He truly is one of the nicest people I have ever met. He even asked for a copy of my Goal-Free Living book, which I gladly signed and sent. The picture below is what he sent me, to thank me for my book. He is a class act!
April 12, 2013
Today’s Friday Fun Fact…
Last week I had discussed the concept of confirmation bias and the impact that it has on innovation.
In a nutshell, confirmation bias is our tendency to seek evidence that supports our existing beliefs and ignores or refutes evidence to the contrary. While these biases can impact any area of our life, one area where it has been scientifically proven to exist is in politics.
A 2004 Emory College study showed…
where in the brain confirmation bias arises and how it is unconscious and driven by emotions… While undergoing a brain scan, 30 men–half self-described as ‘strong’ Republicans and half as ‘strong’ Democrats–were tasked with assessing statements by both George W. Bush and John Kerry in which the candidates clearly contradicted themselves. Not surprisingly, in their assessments Republican subjects were as critical of Kerry as Democratic subjects were of Bush, yet both let their own candidate off the hook.
This in itself is not surprising.
During the assessment, the neuroimaging results revealed that the part of the brain most associated with reasoning was dormant.
The most active parts of the brain were those involved in the processing of emotions, conflict resolution, making judgments about moral accountability; and—“once subjects had arrived at a conclusion that made them emotionally comfortable–the ventral striatum was activated, which is related to reward and pleasure… Essentially, it appears as if partisans twirl the cognitive kaleidoscope until they get the conclusions they want, and then they get massively reinforced for it, with the elimination of negative emotional states and activation of positive ones.”
Our brains are wired to reward us when we align the current view with our existing beliefs. It is no wonder why we have such difficulty seeing other’s perspectives.
Is it possible to change your view? Of course.
There are two ways that I have found useful.
The first involves others: recruit your best devil’s advocates and muster the willingness to really listen - really listen. This is sometimes the easiest method as it provides formal checks and balances.
But if you want to address your biases on your own, studies show that simply being aware of your biases, and having constant reminders of them, may be enough to reduce their impact (see my Best Practices Are Stupid book for more on this). But for this to work, you must be open to assuming that your current beliefs are not accurate.
However, given that the brain rewards us for “seeing what we believe” – confirming our biases – it is not easy or pleasant to change.
April 5, 2013
Here is the transcription for my Monday Morning Movie…
The other day I was at Mohegan Sun, which is a casino about an hour and a half outside of Boston. And while I’m there I love to speak with the gamblers because each of them believe they have a system. They believe they have a method to ensure that they win. And they’re all convinced they’ve won more money than they’ve lost.
Well, of course, this is not true. Casinos are not in the habit of giving money out to people. The house always wins. We know this to be true.
Why do people believe that they win more than they lose? It’s something called confirmation bias, and confirmation bias is the brain’s processing mechanism by which it finds evidence to support its belief structure. Whatever you believe, you will find evidence to support that, and you will subconsciously ignore anything that refutes your belief structure. That’s why we can have such powerful beliefs in spite of evidence to the contrary.
It’s very important for innovators to understand this concept, because every person is convinced they have a billion dollar idea. They’ve got the next big idea that’s going to change the world and make them rich. But what happens is their confirmation bias only allows them to see the evidence that supports their belief that they have a great idea. Their brain doesn’t allow them to see all the evidence that proves it’s actually a bad idea.
There’s a reason why 70 to 90 percent of new innovations fail. It’s not because these aren’t well intentioned, motivated, or excited people. But they’re people who, like all people, have confirmation bias. As a result they will subconsciously ignore the evidence that proves that what they think is a great idea, is in fact not such a good idea.
As innovators, as entrepreneurs, as individuals it’s important to recognize this. Now how do we counterbalance this?
It’s difficult for us to find evidence that refutes a strongly held belief. So what we need to do is, when we’re working on something, partner with a devil’s advocate. Find someone who’ll be the contrary point, somebody whose sole purpose is to find evidence that proves your idea is a bad idea.
Now it may be hard to hear what that person has to say. You will want to reject what they have to say. But if you can open up your mind and be willing to hear the contrary points of view, you may be able to refine your product, service, or idea, and come up with something that’s better. Or you may learn it’s just such a bad idea and you shouldn’t invest the time and money in this one. Find a different one.
This is really important for all organizations (big or small) and individuals.
We know that every gambler doesn’t win more than they lose. And we know that every idea is not a great idea.
The question is, “What are you going to do to make sure that you invest your time, money, and energy in the things that have the highest likelihood of paying off?”
April 1, 2013
Today’s Monday Morning Movie…
It seems like every gambler has a system that ensures they win more than they lose. Of course this can not be the case.
The same is true with innovation. Everyone is convinced they have the next big idea and have all the evidence to support their belief. But most innovations fail.
What is going on here? And what can you do about it?
Today I discuss how the brain is fooling us into believing false beliefs.
March 27, 2013
I subscribe to the 20/80/80 principle. The idea behind this concept is to focus your energies on the 20 percent of those activities that create 80 percent of the value. This can mean concentrating on the customers that create the highest revenue potential or on the products that provide the greatest leverage return. Once mastered, you can spend your 80 percent on other activities that produce even more long-term value. But how do you know what those activities are?
In my book Best Practices Are Stupid, I describe a model called “The Innovation Targeting Matrix,” which helps business owners evaluate their business activities and put each into one of three categories: support, core and differentiating. Doing this helps them determine which areas are worth focusing their 80 percent on.
Activities that fall into this category are those that help you run your business, but are not the business itself. Although many assume that human resources and finance fall into this area, the reality is that there are parts of every function that are “support” in nature. What distinguishes these activities is that customers don’t pay for or value them, and they don’t create direct value for your business either. Therefore, your strategy should be to outsource these activities to a low-cost provider. Or, if they are truly low value, eliminate them altogether where possible. For example, I hire someone overseas to handle my audio transcriptions. Although I could eliminate this activity, I have deemed enough value to continue with it.
The next level represents your “core” activities, which are any activities that create direct customer value. They typically range from shipping and customer service, to sales and new product development. For core activities, consider simplifying, automating, improving (e.g., Six Sigma) or, in some cases, outsourcing to a strategic partner. If outsourcing, look to hire organizations or individuals for whom this work is a differentiator. For example, I’m not a marketing expert and my clients don’t pay me for my marketing expertise, so I retained an Internet marketing company because its results set it apart in the marketplace. In this case, strategic outsourcing makes the most sense. It’s important to note that just because something is a core function—like sales—does not mean that everything a salesperson does is core. Related administrative work may be a support function, while other aspects of sales may be differentiators.
At the highest level are your “differentiating” activities. These are what separate you from the competition, and they represent the unique reasons why customers buy from you and not someone else. What makes you different? Is it some particular aspect of your service? Do you have a unique pricing model? Are you able to give customers access to something they can’t get elsewhere? Do you provide a feature no one else can offer? Any activity can be differentiating. There are aspects of HR, for example, that enable your organization to stand out. Identify these activities in every department. Spend your time on those activities that set you apart from your competition, and innovate where you differentiate.
In addition to using the Innovation Targeting Matrix, entrepreneurs should ask themselves the following questions to help focus their energies on the most important tasks:
- Am I the best person to execute this activity? If not, get someone else to do it. When possible, only engage in activities that you deem to be your strengths. I hired a branding company because branding is their strength, not mine.
- Is this activity something I enjoy doing? If not, consider having someone else to do the work. Creating strategic partnerships is essential to my business, but I find the work exhausting, so someone else handles this responsibility on my behalf.
- Is this activity something I need to do? This is often a tough question. From my experience, much of the work we do provides negligible value; however, we convince ourselves it is necessary. Surfing the Internet, being sidetracked by emails all day long and other distractions disguised as opportunities should be eliminated.
- Does this activity give me leverage? This is a critical question. Think about it this way. For some activities, an hour of work rears an hour of value. When my income is based solely on speaking to groups, there isn’t a lot of leverage. I’m limited by the number of hours in the day. Personal/executive coaching often has even less leverage because you’re having an impact on only one person at a time. When I license my work to others, there is greater impact as they do the work and I make the money with minimal effort. In this case, one hour of work on my part can lead to hundreds of hours of value. Selling can be leveraged too. Instead of selling once and making one sale, find a channel whereby they can create dozens or even hundreds of sales for you.
Why invest in activities that don’t yield the greatest return? There are only so many hours in a day, so focus your energies on activities that you enjoy, that are differentiating and that create leverage. Using these strategies will help you stay one step ahead of the competition.
March 27, 2013
Here is the transcription of my interview with Theo Androus on the “Voices of Experience” CD, which is sent to professional speakers around the world. Alternatively you can listen to the audio recording.
THEO ANDROUS: We kickoff this month’s edition of VoE with speaker, author, and innovation expert Steve Shapiro. Steve’s latest book is titled “Best Practices Are Stupid,” which has me questioning the title of this segment, and VoE, in general. Steve is an innovation evangelist, and has done some pretty innovative things with how he delivers his message and how he leverages his content. Join me now as Steve Shapiro shares with us how he does it.
STEPHEN SHAPIRO: I do my speaking a little different, even though I’m a keynoter, I’ve gamified my speeches, if I can call it that, so we actually play.
THEO: Steve, you can call it whatever you want. Be innovative. You’ve gamified your speaking. What does that mean?
STEPHEN: When I do a speech, instead of it being me up there talking and people sort of falling asleep in a dark room, we’ve created a game, in fact multiple games, multiple experiences, multiple things people do. One of them is called Personality Poker®, as an example. So imagine a room with a thousand people, everybody shows up and they get five poker cards. They look like regular poker cards.
THEO: Sounds like my kind of party.
STEPHEN: No betting, you can’t lose.
THEO: Oh, no.
STEPHEN: Well, you can lose if you don’t have a personality. What happens is on these poker cards, they’re specially designed, there are words that will describe particular behavioral traits, attributes, innovation styles, and we get people standing up, trading cards with the objective to get five cards where the words best describe how you see yourself. You can also gift cards to other people so they get to see how others perceive you. When you’re done with the trading, based on the five cards you have in your hand, the combination of the suits, the colors, and the numbers will tell you all about your personality. We spend the rest of the time having an interactive conversation about the difference styles, the different colors, the different numbers.
THEO: Audiences must love this.
STEPHEN: They do. Because we’re talking about them and it’s unlike most personality tests, if you want to call it that. You have to go take a test beforehand, or you go take the tests afterwards. Here, it is done real time, literally in five minutes every person has taken the test. And then the cool thing is it’s not just about the result but it’s about the process. So what we’ve found, especially with people afterwards, what they’ll do is they’ll take the cards and they’ll have conversations. “Hey, do you think I’m overly sensitive?” “Do you think I’m bossy?” “You know, I got five bossy cards when I played personality poker, is there something people should be telling me?” There’s just this great insight and epiphany that people have in a fun game.
THEO: What are the personality traits on the cards? How many of them are there?
STEPHEN: There’s 52 poker cards.
THEO: Are their 52 personality traits?
STEPHEN: It depends on how you slice it. So there’s four primary innovation styles which tie back to the four steps of the innovation process, which tie back to the four suits.
STEPHEN: Within those, there are actually two different versions. So, for example, the clubs are all about getting things done. Two types of clubs though. There’s one set of clubs based on the numbers which are much more about planning and being organized and being methodical, where another set of clubs, the 10 through ace of clubs are all about the action, result, the bottom line. So they don’t care so much about how it gets done, as long as it gets done. So the suits have meaning, the numbers have meaning, and then also the colors have meaning. The black cards are a little more what people would refer to as left brained, whereas the red cards are more right brained. And we do some things. We actually give the whole room reconfigured where on one side of the room are all the people with black cards, all the red cards on the other side and it’s a fantastic snapshot of what the organization’s makeup is. Instantly, we can see it visually. It’s very cool.
THEO: You wrote a book called “Best Practices Are Stupid“.
THEO: Let’s talk about that because our audience is speakers, and we are always looking at what’s working for other speakers, but I gather from your title of your book that you don’t support that idea, that strategy.
STEPHEN: I’m not so much against best practices, but there are two issues that I do have with them.
STEPHEN: The first one has to do with the fact that if you are replicating someone who, especially is a competitor, or is in a close enough space, and they’ve already done something, if you’re trying to do what they’re doing, by the time that you’ve implemented it, they’ve moved on to the next thing, so you’ll never catch up. It’s a game of catch up. But the bigger issue is that what works for one person may not work for another person, what works for one organization may not work for another organization.
You know, I want to run my business a very particular way. I listen to other speakers, and if I started to implement what they did, maybe I’d be successful, maybe I wouldn’t be but it might be a conflict with my personal values and beliefs in terms of how I want to run things. So it’s important to recognize that there’s not a one size fits all strategy. And I guess I’ll throw in the last point which is the breakthroughs. Breakthroughs are a fundamental game changer. The speaking industry needs some game changing right now. It’s been an incremental growth path and I think we can really do some massive change if we recognize the fact that these big innovations come from fundamentally different domains of expertise. Not from speakers, but could be entrepreneurs. I hang out with people in multi-level marketing. I hang out with people who are in real estate. I hang out with people who are in so many different disciplines because I learn more from them about how to improve my speaking business, than by hanging out with speakers.
THEO: What are the innovations that the speaking industry needs to adapt?
March 26, 2013
Here is the transcription for my Monday Morning Movie…
Back in 2003, I took a cross country trip that would forever change my life. On June 5th of that year I hopped into my car, and I drove 11,000 miles over the next 90 days without any plans at all.
It was totally unscripted. I had no idea where I was going, I had no idea where I was going to stay, and I had no idea who I was going to meet. I was doing this to meet some interesting people while working on my next book. I had no idea even what the book was going to be about. I knew it would be a little bit about creativity. But I wasn’t sure what the main theme would be.
After driving across the country and interviewing 150 really interesting, creative people, I determined that the common thread between the people who fascinated me the most, where that they were what I would call, ‘goal-free.’ That is, they didn’t have goals. They didn’t relate to their goals the way most people relate to them.
I want to just talk about a couple of key concepts that I learned that summer, when I met all these people, and how I’ve tried to incorporate them into my life.
One of the key principles I learned, was what I call, “use a compass, not a map.” Essentially what that means is, with most people, what we do is we have a specific destination of where we’re going, and then we set our plans, and we go forth and try to hit that destination. With Goal-Free Living, instead you meander with purpose. Instead of having a specific destination, you have a sense of direction that you want to take things, but then you meander with purpose, allowing things to unfold naturally. The way they’re supposed to unfold. Learn as you explore. Learn as you do.
I found this to be an incredible powerful way to live. And it’s an incredible powerful way to innovate. Because the reality is, we don’t know what we don’t know. We don’t know what the world has in store for us when it comes to our personal lives. We don’t know what we’re inspired by, what we’re excited about, what we’re most interested in. Because the reality is we only know a very small percentage of what we could possibly do.
So by meandering with purpose, we allow things to unfold, and allow us to discover in the moment what actually works for us.
In business, this is important, because we know that most innovations fail. The reason why they fail, the number one reason, according to CEO’s, is that they failed to meet customer needs.
If you think that sitting in a back room and thinking about problems and studying things from the laboratory is going to give you any sense of what the real world wants, well, you’re fooling yourself. Meander with purpose. Sense of direction. And then explore. Meander. Learn as you do. This to me is an incredibly powerful concept for being able to live a powerful life and to innovate.
As part of that, one of the things I find very useful is the last tip in my Goal-Free Living book, which is called “remain detached.” And remaining detached doesn’t mean being ambivalent or not caring, but it actually means not being so attached to the outcome. I personally found this to be a really difficult concept. I know some people who might be more enlightened that I am could somehow not want what they want. I couldn’t do this.
I got this great advice from someone. He said, “If you want to detach yourself from the outcome, you have to attach yourself to something of a higher purpose.” Something that is in the moment, the present moment.
Because what we tend to attach ourselves to are things in the future. If I’m trying to sell someone something, I’m attached to a future outcome. The sale. As opposed to listening and serving that customer.
If I’m trying to get a job, instead of trying to convince them I’m the right person for the job, maybe I need to just sit there and listen. Maybe I need to be a better listener. Maybe I need to find out, are they the right company for me? We don’t do a great job of listening. We don’t do a great job of being in the present moment, because we’re so focused on what we want.
These two concepts together: “use a compass not a map,” which is about meandering with purpose; and “remaining detached,” which means you attach yourself to something of a higher purpose in the present moment.
I’ve found for myself and for my business, these are two very simple, yet powerful concepts that can change the way I work. Change my relationship to happiness. And it also changes my level of success. Because I’m better at listening. And better at being in the present moment and understanding what’s needed.
This is Steve Shapiro, I look forward to seeing you soon.
March 13, 2013
Today’s Wednesday Work Wisdom…
I recently attended a training class where the instructor was telling professional speakers how they could leverage their content as a way of making money in their sleep. The reality is, the focus was really on how to make products, not how to make money. Let’s face it, at the end of the day, the goal of a business is to make money, not to make products.
What I found interesting is the use of the word “leverage.” This individual was actually using the word leverage to mean reuse. For example, if I have a blog entry, I can convert it into a book, which can be adapted into articles, which in turn could be made into audio recordings and more.
From my perspective this is not leverage; this is just repurposing.
All too often, I will hear consultants use the word leverage in this manner. They might ask, “How might we leverage our assets?” Again, this is typically about reuse.
Leverage comes from the word lever. A lever is something that allows you to get the greatest results with the least amount of force.
In the word of business and innovation, leverage is about figuring out what are the things you can do that will unleash the greatest value.
The teacher of the class suggested that people should take their content and create a lot of different products (e.g., ebooks, mp3s, webinars) as a way of creating leverage in order to make passive income. She suggested that these various items would allow someone to make money in their sleep, and therefore they should not give them away for free.
This is a mistake!
Many speakers in the group were relatively new to the business. Their mailing lists are very small. Even if they made a bunch of these low cost items, the odds are they would never make more than a few hundred or maybe a few thousand dollars. This would hardly justify the effort involved in creating the products in the first place.
When thinking in terms of leverage, they should ask, “How do I use my content to most efficiently create the greatest ultimate return?”
I think a better use of their time would be to figure out the best way of creating a huge following so that when they decide to create a product, they have a market.
I could charge for a webinar that I market to my list. Maybe I would get a handful of buyers to pay me a couple hundred dollars each to attend. Maybe I would make a few thousand dollars doing this. But there is no leverage in this.
Instead, I choose to give away my webinars. I do free webinars for various organizations that have access to the people I want to attract. For example, I am doing a webinar for Soundview Business Book Summaries. Anyone interested in business book summaries is probably in my target market. I am doing a webinar for a major website where many people in the innovation space gather.
These webinars always generate leads for speaking. In addition, these free webinars add more people to my list; people that may not otherwise know about me. Each becomes a prospective buyer in the long run. The lifetime value of one free webinar to the right audience can be many times that of a webinar done only to my list for a fee. This is leverage.
When assessing your business strategy, be sure to look at what will increase your access to your buyers.
There is a big difference between making products and making money. Leverage is not about repurposing in order to create something new that might provide incremental value. Leverage is about creating exponential returns.