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Stephen Shapiro on Mastery, Performance and Innovation (#4-5)

Our guest today: Stephen Shapiro

Stephen Shapiro is a keynote speaker and author who sparks innovation by showing leaders and their teams how to approach, tackle and solve business challenges. In this 2-part conversation with Stephen, he reveals how he helps companies and people innovate. He tells us how he conditions himself to step on stage in front of hundreds or thousands of people. In this episode, Stephen shares these secrets of Mastery and Performance.

Stephen Shapiro will explain why you must engage your audience not just intellectually, but also physically and emotionally. Even if you do not consider yourself a public speaker, you may still benefit from this conversation. When you present in front of clients, facilitate discussions with coworkers, or talk with your friends and family, you can use these skills.

Lucky for us, Stephen was not afraid to address this sensitive topic: the misconceptions associated with innovation. He also explains how innovation has changed over the past two decades.

Stephen explains how we get stuck in our ways and approaches, and how to get unstuck. Our confirmation bias kicks in when we only see evidence that supports our previously-held beliefs.

Select Links from the Episode (in the order of appearance):

Show Notes (Times Are Approximate):

Part 1.

  • The trigger or tipping point that helped Stephen take on a new vision from Accenture to professional speaker in innovation?” [5:30]
  • Launch of Stephen’s first book. Writing is easy, marketing is hard. What Stephen learned [8:30]
  • Personality Poker (book) – firsthand experience at Stephen’s workshop [12:30]
  • The importance of Mastery & Performance [15:00]
  • How has innovation changed overtime? (15-20 year span) [22:00]
  • Tools and resources Stephen leverages on and off stage [25:10]
  • Don’t think outside the box, find a better box! [30:00]
  • How to construct a brief of any kind [31:50]
  • Stephen’s daily routine & outlook on life [37:30]
  • To-do list vs. Could-do list [38:40]
  • Books Stephen reads, and the human tendency of confirmation bias [40:00]

Part 2.

  • Tips and tactics on engaging audience: visceral reaction do not happen in intellectual conversation [3:00]
  • How can you identify or hypothesize people’s backgrounds and interest? Should you care? [10:00]
  • How many of questions today overlap with those from editors, reporters? What do you wish people would ask you? [12:30]
  • An interesting dichotomy: how people see themselves vs their coworkers, bosses? [16:30]
  • Ordinary to extraordinary, and how it relates to performance paradox? How do you get out of your own way? [21:30]
  • What’s your daily ritual, how do you set your daily intent? [26:30]
  • Are people with more money happier? Causation vs. correlation [29:00]
  • How can people learn more about you, follow you – where should they start? [33:30]

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Part 1

Intro 0:00
Welcome to the phase world podcast, engaging conversations that crossed the boundaries between business, art, and the digital world.

Unknown Speaker 0:15
Hi, everyone. This is part two of my conversation with Stephen Shapiro and episode number five of the face world podcast. If you haven’t listened to part one in episode four, I encourage you to do so. But if you happen to feel like a rebel today, by all means, keep listening. I’m thrilled to have Stephen on my podcast. Today, he talks about tips and tactics on engaging audience from different backgrounds and interests. Why visceral reaction is the key engaging audience of any kind, contrary to popular belief, visceral reaction do not happen in intellectual conversations. Stephen breaks the statement down further to logos, ethos, and

Fei Wu 0:59
pathos. I also asked Stephen, how many of the questions today overlap with those from editors and reporters? And by the way, what do you wish people would ask you? Stephen will fill you in on his next an upcoming book on the topic of performance paradox. Then on a related subject, how do you get out of your own way. So tune in, join me in this amazing journey with my heroes.

This, this is about to become my favorite topic. Now. The fact that we create solution, we create the whole story around we curate stories around ourselves to prove what we know, and say as far as we can, from what we don’t know. And, you know, I just had this like a little, I feel like a storm in my mind, just now that even following my own career path is because I believe certain things, certain attributes of myself, either make myself look good. Because this is something I’ve been doing for so long, I feel like 70 years is a long time. And then to talk to people were more changed, like, come on, you’re just a baby, and and podcast, in particular, this has been an area I feel like, maybe I’m not, you know, I’m so new, I shouldn’t be doing this. So what if I turn around and just kind of say, I’m gonna start a project, I have no idea where it’s gonna go. And they’re like, We have no listeners, and I will fail. But what if I give it a shot and kind of disapprove, but potentially to prove myself in certain areas I didn’t know even exists. And, and one thing that in terms of speaking, just interviewing, you know how easy it is to set up the conversation and what I’ve witnessed so far, and how you kind of can so easily navigate around the conversation and to really address certain issues head on, and totally not seeing the surface level. I was wondering if you could give some tips on speaking in general, and you know, I pick up this book from Barnes and Noble, and it’s called, it’s not about what you say is what people hear. And, you know, it’s like, oh, that’s, that’s really insightful. But that’s an area I struggle with it, I tend to think of myself as a very British pretty straightforward, you know, blonde person. And sometimes in the in a meeting, as you know, we’re having a conversation, I just want to try to get to the point, I don’t want to dance around it. But people can really turn on you and I, you know, all of us have seven, eight meetings, more meetings and the time we have to do work. What are some of you know, your advice on speaking to a large crowd or possibly 278 People with senior executives? You know, we talk about emotional engagement. But are there any specific words that you tend to, you tend to use? Or how what are the cues of visual cues or physical, you know, body changes that you witness to?

Stephen Shapiro 4:02
So if I were to write a book, it’d be it’s not what you say, it’s what they feel, because, you know, what they hear is one thing but I, you know, hearing doesn’t mean that it actually gets into the brain and it gets processed properly in a way that they’re going to experience it viscerally. And so I’m looking for visceral reactions to people and visceral reactions do not happen through intellectual conversation. Aristotle said ethos, pathos, logos, which is credibility, empathy, logic. And if we think about how we tend to speak, we tend to talk about that last part, that logos, the logic, and we will tell you the answer, and we’ll just, but until I feel an emotional connection to the topic at hand, it’s not going to be processed by the brain. So the ethos again, has that credibility, which is as a speaker, we always have somebody introduces I don’t introduce myself, because there’s more credibility when a person who has respect from the audience, the CEO of a company introduces me while the CEO likes me and introduces me that by transference means that the audience’s gives me some level of credibility. So they read the, you know, the the introduction, that’s the ethos, but then I move into pathos, which is, I want to build an emotional connection with people. I don’t give them the answers, I give them either stories that they can relate to. And these are stories of companies that have maybe done the same thing that they’ve done, and had a sense of frustration. So it’s not happy stories, they’re actually we, you know, a lot of times, we will connect over the frustrations that we have. So I make sure that we talk about the pain, you know, I want to be the aspirin for someone’s pain. And I first need to be able to say to people, Hey, I understand your pain, I understand how you feel. And once I do that, which is the pathos, that empathy, then I can move into the watch cake. Here’s the picture that I painted. So if I give a speech, for example, when I want to talk about don’t think outside the box, find a better box, I don’t start off and say, the next piece we’re going to talk about is how we ask better questions. Don’t think outside the box, find a better box, here’s five examples. What I do instead is when we get to the section, say, think back to April 20 2010. On that day, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explored, and I just sort of tell the story, they can relate to it. And I say, you know, we’ve got 123,000 suggestions. How many of those do you think and again, this is a, I can even ask questions, which are rhetorical that I don’t expect them to answer verbally. But I want them to answer it mentally. So like, of the 123,000 questions, how many do you think were deemed as having any value at all whatsoever? And I pause, even if nobody says anything, but usually somebody does. But even if nobody says anything, they in their mind formulated an answer, which means they’re now not just listening to me, but they’re actually participating with me. And so, you know, sometimes we can do even very simple things to engage the audience that way, pause, ask them a question, or when I tell a certain story, and it’s amazing, because I used to tell it one way, and then add one sentence, which totally changed the reaction that people had in the middle of the story, which was about me, and someone else will bore people the details of the story. If I continue the story with just me and that other person, it’s like watching a movie. And then we get to this point, and there’s a very awkward point in the conversation that I have with this other person, where I ask them to do something that should be uncomfortable. And instead of just telling the story, I stop and I look at you, I say. So what would you do? If you were in that situation? What would you do if you were done? What would be going through your head. Now again, they’re not just listening. They’re on the stage there now actually, in that other person’s shoes, experiencing what that other person was experienced. Totally different. So I guess my my point on all of this is coming back to what I said in the beginning is, it’s not what the here, it’s what they feel. And you want them to feel things at a deep, visceral level, this is not intellectual. And we need to break through the the cold, cognitive, logical aspect of the brain. Recognize that some people, you have to give them that at some point, especially if they’re very analytical, you have to give them the facts and the data, otherwise, they’re gonna be like, This is too fluffy, I’m out of here. So you need to recognize that an audience is made up of people with different backgrounds, different styles, different interests, and you have to cater to all of them, just like marketing, has to cater to everyone, every presentation, unless you know that every person in the company is like 100% fact driven. In that situation, okay, you can craft a presentation that’s still has some emotion but gets to fax pretty quickly. If it’s a broad group, you don’t want to lose anybody. So you have to time it just right. So but I think it’s it’s that emotional connection, no matter what style you are, is very important.

Fei Wu 9:25
And I think that not only that’s relevant to an audience of 3000, but you know, even for me, every meeting were many of the people I know speak to six, seven people that designers or user experience people, that developer, everybody is driven on something else come from a very different background upbringing. You know, maybe perhaps a designer wants to focus on something that’s pixel perfect, but the developers thinking that’s less important, the functionalities and UX completely different domain. So in order to relate to people how do you quickly to identify where could you identify what should you care where they come from and, and to sort of steer your conversation. And I know that we’re kind of drilling and really deep right now, it’s it’s a, you know, personally, it’s something I always struggle with. And I try to relate to people have, you know, conversations with them, not just at meetings understand, why are they here? What are they trying to achieve career wise at this company, not just my project? Do you think that’s something that do you think that helps? Or do you think I’m missing something that’s more fundamental?

Stephen Shapiro 10:32
Well, I think that helps. I mean, if I have an audience of 3000, I’m not going to know all 3000 people, it’s just not possible possible. I will say that I can understand the mindset of the industry, because especially if it’s for a company, companies have cultures, and you can sort of pick the culture, you know, couldn’t even within companies, their subcultures, you know, the manufacturing and engineering, and those people can have one culture, which might be different than the marketing and the sales and the creatives. And so if I’m giving a speech to an engineering company, to their sales and marketing department, it will be a different speech than if I’m giving a speech to the same company to their product development people. Because scientists want to hear different types of problems solved. And they want to hear information in different ways. So I may not be able to know all people in the audience, but I can hypothesize, you know, who’s going to be in the audience. And that’s what we do before every speech is, we’ll talk to some people get a sense of, you know, talk from half to talk to a half dozen different executives to say, well, what are the types of issues that you’re facing? What is it like and so I know, before I get in there, what kinds of responses I will get to what kinds of information. And I think that’s important, because if I go in there, and I just start doing something, which is totally off the wall and wacky, and it’s a bunch of quote, unquote, left brainers who just want logic, they’re going to be very uncomfortable. So I need to connect with them. If it’s a diverse group, like I do these events where you just have no idea because there’s 2000 People from 500 Different companies. And that case, I just put on what I think is the best show I could possibly put on. And cover information, I think will be a value to engineers and to chemists, and to marketing and to technology and to whatever. That’s, that’s all you can do.

Fei Wu 12:44
Yeah, I’m very satisfied with my question. Very much so and, you know, jumping onto the next topic, feel a little add here, but everything connected, is you’ve been interview you’ve, you’ve spoken at all these different venues. You’ve been on the Success Magazine recently. And also two years ago, people have approached you for a set of questions. I can imagine reporters, editors, whatnot, will show up. So. And I was wondering how much just personally, how many of those questions kind of overlap with what we just talked about? That’s part one. And part two is really what are some of the questions that you wish people asked you that do not overlap? You know, I’ve been answering these 13 questions for 10 years now.

Stephen Shapiro 13:36
Yeah, interesting. So I would say the overlap with what we’ve talked about today is actually relatively low. But the reason is, most of the time, I’m being asked as an innovation expert. So I’m not I’m not being asked questions as an entrepreneur or sometimes as a speaker. So if I’m, if I’m talking to somebody about the speaking profession, there might be more overlap there. But most of the time, when I’m interviewed, and I have conversations, it’s almost always in one form or another about my innovation background. So we didn’t really talk that much about it. So yeah, so these are different questions. Now the questions I wish people would ask, hardest say, maybe I’ll ask, maybe I’ll reframe it and say not the questions I wish people asked, but what do I think might be some of the most valuable questions for people which is different than what I want necessarily people ask us sometimes the most valuable questions are the ones that are really uncomfortable. So I would say, I’m not sure it’s a question. But, you know, one of the things which I find really fascinating this is sort of just being very transparent here is that you know, people look at me, and I’ve got books and I’ve, you know, got my mind map cuz he’s just on USA Network on a TV show last week and blah, blah, blah. And so people look at that and say, Wow, you’re, you know, you’re successful. And you’re like, oh, and so the outside world sees me in many cases differently than I see myself. And one of the things which I’m always fascinated by, and I’ve suffered from this from the beginning of time, I’ve gotten a lot better and as time goes on, but I think it’s something which people, you know, would be valuable for people to know is that there’s something called the imposter syndrome. And the imposter syndrome is basically where it from my perspective, where the outside world, there’s a disconnect between how the outside world sees you and how you see yourself. And I think that’s actually very common, but we don’t want to admit it, because when I actually told the group of fellow speakers, some who are like the, at the upper echelon of their career, and I said, you know, this is, you know, we’re what I’ve been struggling with, this was several years ago. And, and, I mean, people were in tears, because they’re like, Oh, my God, I have to, and you know, what? And so I think what people need to understand is that our inside dialogues are can be, I mean, to say that people are delusional, and you have people who are realistic, and then you have people who are, I think that the majority of people just, you know, don’t have as good of a valuation of themselves, as others see them and actually saw this quick tangent when I was at Accenture, we put a bunch of our executives through Stephen Covey’s principle centered leadership. And part of that is to do a 360 degree ish sort of feedback, you evaluate yourself in a bunch of different parameters, you have your peers rate you, and then you have your bosses ratio. And across, like, literally hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of 1000s of people, the data is irrefutable, you will always evaluate yourself the lowest, your peers will evaluate you the next and your boss will always evaluate you the best. And that’s just sort of an interesting dichotomy. That I don’t know, I don’t know if it’s valuable, but I for me, it’s been very valuable. Because when you have it, and you hold on to it, and it becomes a big deal, you’re always waiting for somebody to think figure out that you’re fraud, or that you’re making this up, or that it’s not real, or somebody else’s better, or whatever it is. And when you just sort of say, you know, that we can just sort of like, let go of that. And just recognize it’s just a natural human belief that we have. It takes so much pressure off, and then you actually perform better. So which comes to the next question, which is where my next book is on it, which is called the performance paradox. And the performance paradox is basically what I found is that, paradoxically, the harder we work, the less likely we are to get the results we want. It’s not so we can’t, we don’t want to work hard. But there is a point where there is not only diminishing returns, there’s actually negative returns, and we work harder we work we get less result. And so simple example, if you think about a salesperson who’s really trying hard to make the sale, because they’re focused on the number, we’ve shown, they will sell less than a person who is there to serve the customer, to be there to take care of someone, they will sell more by not trying to sell more. And I think this is you know, I see entrepreneurs and I see consultants and I see people in work, and they’re busting their butts, and they never step back. And they say, What am I really doing? Why am I doing it? I mean, we hear in companies, the mantra, do more with less, basically, that basically, that means we’re gonna cut the budget, and we’re gonna give you twice as much work. That to me is a way of killing morale. And killing organizations I like to look at is how do I do less and get more? How do I figure out what is the sweet spot of the right amount of work that unleashes the greatest amount of value? How do I move from a linear return on my investment to an exponential return on my investment? And so I think all of that is, you know, related to performance paradox relates to the imposter syndrome, because if we feel like an impostor, we’re gonna try really, really hard. I have a buddy of mine, he, I was I was the smartest guy I’d ever met in my life. And he just got degree after degree after degree. And I asked him and I said, and I said to him one day said, you are probably the smartest person I know. And he had this really strange look on his face. He says, wow. That’s not how I feel. The reason why I keep getting degrees is because I feel stupid. And we all have that version of it. And I think the more we try to convince the world we are something we don’t believe ourselves to be, the harder it is the lower returns and it just leads to dissatisfaction.

Fei Wu 19:56
I’m very interested in reading this book. When is it going to be released? Ah,

Stephen Shapiro 20:00
Ah, bigger question is, when is it going to be written? So yes, I’m working on the book right now. It could be a long time before it’s available, or it’ll be quick, I don’t really know yet. It depends on whether I go commercially published, or self published, if I commercially published, it’s certainly another year and a half away, if I self publish it, I can have it out, you know, early next year. So I haven’t decided which path I’m going.

Fei Wu 20:24
I hope artists also happen to fall into part of the audience will be reading that book. Because as an artist, you know, I come from a artistic background, I’m an artist, my parents are as well is my mom in particular painting very sophisticated, actually, they’re called meticulous paintings. And by definition takes a long time, but most critical part is she in the case is you have to know when to stop. And as an artist, in particular, oil painters, you know, all these meticulous strokes, it is really what differentiates like basically, a very good a pretty good artists to an extraordinary one is you have to know when you need to stop painting. And it’s a really amazing concept, you know, and I watched my mom in action. And somehow that theme just kind of echoes what you’re describing here. And even on my podcast, there is that excitement to go through, this is going to be great. You’re going to have a website, go through show notes, and four or five hours later, it’s basically ready. But part of me saying, No, it’s not ready. This is not nearly good enough, I need to tweak the CSS and the visual design on the site. And really, very quickly, when you’re in the midst of all things you lose track, and I think it’s, it’s, it’s true with a lot of issues in life. And what are what are some of the what is a good question. So how do you stop yourself? For instance, maybe, uh, you know, before you write the book, what are like one or two things that, that you find helpful in stopping yourself from doing that. And for instance, one of the things I did was Monday morning came, and I was not happy with the podcasts were said, and I said to myself, I’m just gonna go ahead and publish it anyway, what is the worst that could happen? And imagine a lot of really bad things in my head when I was started writing them down, they become very silly. You know, and then, of course, our first blog post I posted two weeks ago got 76 unique shares on Facebook while it’s, it’s great. But I find myself doing that all the time. With little things in life, I would definitely have to read that book. What are the?

Stephen Shapiro 22:39
Well, I think part of it is maybe how I’m wired. I am not a detail oriented person,

Fei Wu 22:45
good for you,

Stephen Shapiro 22:46
I don’t get into the weeds, I have people who will prove pretty much everything I do. Because I don’t trust myself. To have that I to know the details. Now I know some people who are in the details to the point where they can’t focus on what’s important. So I really just, I always ask myself, what is it I do better than anyone else? And what do I have to do, and I focus my energies there. And it’s really amazing if you do that. I mean, I’m a big believer in partnerships and getting other people to work with me, and I’ve got some great people that I work with. So the reality is, if I’m not creating something new, I don’t have to work pretty much at all, I’m gonna have to prepare for my speech. And I’ve actually found ways of making that even faster, where the client, I give them some homework they do. So I get back something very rich and very useful. But it doesn’t take up a lot of my time. And so I can have a foot and, and because of Duett been doing my speeches for so long and the technologies, I can very quickly customize things. So if I look at what I do, is very, very little in the scheme of things. So I think part of it is I like time to reflect I love sitting in hot tubs. I love going to the beach, I like walking beaches. And those to me are really important because they helped me get clarity about what matters. If I’m working 100 hours a week, it’s so difficult to have any sense of what matters. Is that that space that I think is really important. So for me, I’m always just asking myself each day, what’s the one thing I have to do today that I have to do that no one else can do that is really, really important. And I focus on that. And then everything else sort of gets done or doesn’t get done. I guess that’s the way I do it. And again, I look at everything from the perspective of experiments. We put a we created this mobile gaming app that I was telling you about and we you know We had my design for it, we designed it, it was built, somebody else built it, they you know, so they’re sweat energy building that thing. And we’re just doing some tests, we’re just testing it out doesn’t work doesn’t work. The risk of my part was minimal and spend my time. But it wasn’t even a massive amount of time. I basically just articulated what I want it to be someone else took all the risk. And if it doesn’t work, they’re the ones who lose out more than I will. Because for me, it’s just my time. And so that’s what I’m always looking at as well. How do I partner with people? And how do I design my life in a way that I really figure out what I have to do? And for me, at the end of the day, it’s my innovation content. And it is the way I deliver my innovation content. And those are the only two things that I do.

Fei Wu 25:50
What was that one thing you had to do today?

Stephen Shapiro 25:53
The one thing I had to do today was, I have some ideas for the new book that well, obviously, this was something I had to do, it’d be hard to get somebody else to do this for me. But But beyond this, the one thing that I had to do today, there’s actually two things. One is I had a piece of the book that I wanted to write today. And so but I knew this will take some research. So I actually have done some research got what I needed. And I’m now starting to work on that one piece. And then the other one is we’re working on a TV show and have a call with the producer and the production company and beyond that there’s nothing that I have to do and probably nothing that I will do today.

Fei Wu 26:33
That’s great. Knowing when to start when to start when to stop? And do you wake up in the morning and have your spiritual intent set? You know, some things for some people, it’s a form of meditation. I know many people don’t. But how do you sort of reset yourself? Or do you every morning.

Stephen Shapiro 26:53
If I look at something I’ve been trying to do as a habit or discipline, it’s been whether it’s truly meditation or not, it’s just quiet time, like quiet time where I you know, either put on some headphones and listen to some funky meditation music or listen to some, you know, some types of visualizations, Now picture this. And, you know, that’s what I’m trying to do. But I’ve still even that something which I think could only take five or 10 minutes, I’m not really good at even doing that as a habit. So I reset myself, I mean, part of part of my reset process is just having a deep, deep, deep appreciation for everything in my life. I think that might be one of the most important aspects is, you know, to one’s happiness, because I’m a big believer, that expectation is the source of all disappointment and dissatisfaction. And it’s not to say you don’t want to have expectations. But if you swap expectations for appreciation, then you have a completely different outlook on your day in your life. And so that is one thing, which I think I’m pretty good at is I get down moments, I just think to myself, holy moly, how, you know, how did I get all this? And I just feel blessed to have the life that I have. I think that’s my main reset. And then there’s little things that I do from time to time if I’m if I’m good about it. I love that

Fei Wu 28:17
answer. I haven’t disliked anything you said. And I don’t mean a sense, it’s I feel like in closing is a closure. That’s something people, people remind themselves, most of the people I know, remind themselves, but to also hear from other people. And to reassure that that’s I think that’s the right approach to life. OKRs aside, and I think that’s when to set I think successful people apart from people who are always complaining and always seeking for something else that they don’t have. And there’s no end to that. So I really, so the

Stephen Shapiro 28:55
research I was doing today is some research and you know, one of the things which some people believe some people don’t believe is that there is people with more money are happier. So I’ll ask you, do you think people with more money are happier? Oh, definitely not. Definitely not. Okay. Definitely. Well, interestingly, there’s the science proves that people with more money are happier.

Fei Wu 29:19
But then there’s the, you know, diminishing return no

Stephen Shapiro 29:23
is actually what it is. But here’s the here’s the this comes back to something I said before, which is causation versus correlation. People and I stated in a very specific way, people with more money are happier. That doesn’t mean money was the cause of happiness. The research that I was studying shows that and I’ve read this research before I was a sort of reacquainting myself with just that. Actually happiness causes wealth. You’re out outlook and attitude towards life, how you see the world will create opportunities for you. And so if you are and it doesn’t mean there There aren’t exceptions to every rule. There’s an exception. But what I really believe is that part of the reason why I’ve been so successful is because I’ve been fortunate to have the family that I have, which has been supportive and loving and caring that I’ve had the opportunities that have had, I could go to great University started off right out of college with an incredible career at Accenture. And I, I think I’ve always maintained a really positive yet realistic outlook on life. I mean, very grateful to have. And so I think people, what happens if you’re somebody who people like to be around because you have a great vision, or you’re exciting, or you’re optimistic, people want to be around that. And when people want to be around that people want to work with you. And people want to partner with you, and people want to learn from you, people want to help you. And that to me is what I find really fascinating is they the keys to success are often not just hardware part of it, it’s mastery and performance. Mastery is being good at what you do, the performance is how you appear to the outside world. And I think the way you appear to the outside world is also how you appear to yourself and your inside world. And so, you know, sort of a long winded way of saying that, I’m a big believer that our outlook on life, the people we hang out with. And our just our belief structures are what gives us and this is not the law of attraction and the secret and all that. But this is really very much about we do cause what happens. And, you know, happiness can cause we have control over certain things, we have more control than we think. And if we believe we’re victims, and we believe the world is out to get us and we’re closed vest, and we don’t want to share anything with people. And we don’t want to let people in in our secrets. And you know, we push people away well, people aren’t that interested in seeing us be successful. Whereas if you’re doing something cool, and this is where I also think creativity comes into play is people also like to do something that no one else is doing. They want to be part of something new, there’s something it’s risky, so they don’t want to do it on their own. Because that’s that’s that’s not the way we’re wired as human beings. But if someone else is doing, they can be part of something with a risk to them is small. But it appears that the creative reward is huge. People get very excited about that. And so that’s why I think creativity, not for the solution, but for the ability to engage people

Fei Wu 32:36
is so valuable. I feel like I need to steal some lines from my podcast. And one of the things I realized for me to take on a project completely on my own, or even just with one other person, like my mom’s creating really interesting artworks somehow took me a long time, I was very hesitating. And to your point I fell risk taking. Whereas so much easier to talk to other people, people from different backgrounds, different industries. We’ve all walked through, you know, different path of life. And it’s so fascinating, and it makes his project so much more natural and easier. If nothing else, it’s so much easier to talk about other people than to actually talk about myself. Yes, yeah. It’s a fascinating and, you know, I realized that I’ve taken up all the time you have this afternoon. Oh, good. But I want to make sure that the audience at this point, you know, it’s a thing that decision very clear. You’re very searchable on Google. But I wonder if you could curate a path. If people want to start learning more about you. Whether your books, your blogs, what should they do next?

Stephen Shapiro 33:45
I would say obviously, websites a good place to go. So Steven with a pH Stephen shapiro.com. So Ste pH en sh JP io.com. Go to the website. That will at least if you go to the blog, I have seven or 800 articles there that I’ve written over the years, I’ve been blogging for 10 years now. Even some of my videos, you know, if you go to the website, there’s some videos that are out there where you can very quickly learn. You know, some of my beliefs, you know, like you mentioned the TEDx NASA video. It’s six minutes long. It’s an entire speech in six minutes, so you can get a sense of at least one slice of my innovation philosophy. As far as books go, Yeah, I would say depending on who you are and what you want. Best Practices Are Stupid, which is my latest book is really for the corporate innovator. So if you’re in a company, you want to innovate, that’s great. But my two favorite books are actually personality poker and goal free living because they talk to the individual as well as larger organizations and go for living is actually my favorite because I just believe that we have an opportunity to live a life dif from leaving society says we’re supposed to, I love that. And that’s what I like.

Fei Wu 35:04
Yeah, I, that’s one book, to be honest, I will need to get to that. I feel very motivated after this conversation growing up in China and their traditional culture. You know, we’re really very conditioned and trained and educated in every way to, you know, school in particular go to school at a certain time, even, you know, I remember meeting someone in my grade who’s a year older a year younger, that’s, you know, that is introduced so much like detriments to them, and then you start picking on that, and all that. And all of a sudden, after graduate from college, certain jobs need a half how much you’re supposed to make. You know, getting married kids and all that I feel like really wears on people. Yeah, I think it really to a certain degree blocks people. Like for instance, I know I want to have kids but I really want to just harness the next couple of years to do something like this. And I made a decision that I want to choose myself, you know, and I think that’s part of the goal free living theme as well. And I choose myself and I choose to work on this project. And yeah, we’ll say thank you. So thank you so much. I had so much fun. Great time. To listen to more episodes of the face world podcast, please subscribe on iTunes where visit face world.com that is f e i s wo rld where you can find show notes links, other tools and resources. You can also follow me on Twitter at face world. Until next time, thanks for listening

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Part 2

Intro 0:00
Welcome to the phase world podcast, engaging conversations that crossed the boundaries between business, art, and the digital world.

Fei Wu 0:17
Hello, everyone, Stephen Shapiro is joining us today for a special two part episode of the face world podcast. Stephen is a keynote speaker author who cultivates innovation by showing leaders and their teams how to approach tackle and solve their business challenges. In this episode, Stephen talks about how he helps people and companies innovate and tap into their collective wisdom, as well as how he conditions himself to step up on that stage in front of hundreds, if not 1000s of people. The secret sauce resides in both mastery and performance. Stephen teaches you how to engage your audience, not only intellectually, but also physically, emotionally. So even if you’re not a public speaker, I’m sure you can benefit from this conversation, such as presenting in front of the clients facilitating a discussion with coworkers, etc. So Stephen was not afraid to address a very sensitive topic. That is, what are some of the misconceptions associated with innovation, and how innovation as a movement has changed over time, in the past 20 years. Perhaps one of my favorite concepts Steven brought up is instead of looking outside of the box, we should find a better box. Steven is an innovative leader who helps all of us get unstuck. So what does that mean? Have you noticed that our confirmation bias kicks in when we see clues for solutions. In other words, we only see evidence of support and prove our beliefs. Steven, help us realize the why behind the tendency of human behaviors and what we can do to change and sees things differently. I had a ton of fun interviewing Stephen. And I really hope you enjoy this podcast. All the show notes, including links, tools and resources can be found on my website at face world.com For slash podcast. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.

So I have your bio, there’s a lot of information about you and your public figure. But one thing I like to do is still let the audience kind of hear in your voice of who you are and what you’ve done. Would you find the most excitement in? Okay.

Stephen Shapiro 2:49
Well, yeah, it’s, as we talk, I started thinking back to when I was like a little kid. And one of the things which I always loved since I was a very, very, very little kid. We’re mysteries, but murder mysteries of brain teasers and magic. And what I’ve realized is those are actually the three things which still, in many respects, run through my entire life. Because to me, innovation is very closely related to all of those. That’s really what I’ve dedicated my professional life to is the world of innovation, which is, how do we see the world differently? How do we challenge our assumptions? Which if you do lateral brain teasers, it’s all about challenging assumptions, and murder mysteries is avoiding the red herrings we go down a path and somebody gives us clues that lead us to believe someone was the murderer, when in fact, it was something completely different. And that’s essentially what we have to do with innovation is we have to question everything. Don’t assume that the facts we’re given are correct. Don’t assume that the products we’re working on are the correct products. And so sort of circling back. I mean, I basically have dedicated my life to innovation, which is about helping people in companies figure out how do you think differently? And how do you tap into the collective wisdom of the people inside and outside of your organization. And I’ve had the great opportunity to do that, while I was at Accenture, so I was there for 15 years, and I led a 20,000 person practice around innovation and growth and process improvement. And that was a lot of fun. And then about 13 years ago, I left that and I’ve been speaking and writing books on the topic. So that’s pretty much brings you up to speed

Fei Wu 4:29
as a great intro. And in terms of mystery. It just like lit up a part of my my mind is I forgot to tell you that when I was a little kid I realized that’s one thing investigation mystery or something that I was so keen on and actually wrote a bunch of novels now it’s I just laugh when I read them. So I feel like that’s almost like an instant connection. As one thing I can’t believe I’ve known you for years, but we haven’t even talked about. So one question I had given that as you know, my background, I worked in consulting for three years and then Then CPM became super natural and now to Arnold. So I’ve been the sort of consulting agency world for a long time and have had had my struggles and still do on a daily daily basis. And I feel like something that you would understand from your Accenture days. And I was wondering, what was that trigger, you know, perhaps wasn’t just a one day one event, but something you know, that you realize over a period of time to transition from Accenture to what you do now?

Stephen Shapiro 5:31
Well, I think part of it actually goes way back to when I was even younger than being interested in mysteries. When I was a little kid, I loved playing the saxophone. And so I was in bands. And that was probably my primary hobby since I was about, I’d say about seven, eight years old. So I was playing the saxophone in particular jazz and improvisational jazz. And so I love the stage because I was as a jazz player, as a sax player. And as a improv, improvisational, sax player, I was often front and center on the stage. And being a shy, awkward kid. There was something really nice about being front and center on stage. So I sort of I think, I’ve always had that loving, have the, the platform, so to speak. And then I went to college, and I was a pretty crappy student. My match. I’ll show you my transcripts later, I was not a good student. Part of it was I just, I didn’t like taking tests. I didn’t like regurgitating things that everybody else was doing. I really, I like the creativity side of things. And there’s not a lot of opportunity for creativity. So if we were asked to do a project on something where we could define what the project was, I would always click on those. And it’s the only reason why I graduated. But when it came time to memorization and testing, me doing what everybody else was doing, I just had a lack of motivation around it. And my point with that is that my only a plus and went to school, we had actually had a pluses, on addition to A’s. My only a plus was in public speaking. So I was sort of a little bit of foreshadowing, I think, went to Accenture, right out of college in 1886. And I was a typical consultant like most people, but after a period of time, I started getting more and more into training. And then that led into speaking and then I realized I’m really good at speaking. And basically when my first book came out, which I wrote at Accenture, so I wrote my first book while I was at Accenture. Basically, I had my book launch party, October 10 2001. And my last day with Accenture was October 11 2001. So I there was just a lot of foreshadowing earlier on that I liked. I liked the stage a lot. I’m not an actor. So I don’t think I would have ever gone down that path, considered music. But this seems to be almost like the best of my engineering background and my love for innovation and my love of the stage bringing them all together.

Fei Wu 7:59
Great. I think that’s a that’s very relatable relatable to me as well, coming into podcasting. After 15 years prior to this. I had I was like a not a professional DJ, but definitely worked at a radio station for about a year and absolutely loved it and love the thrill. Speaking of being fun and centered, I would like to just introduce some of the books to the audience. And we can dive into some of them. Clearly there are at least four books involved. The first book you mentioned just now that you wrote, was that one is that one of the ones I’m looking in front of me right

Stephen Shapiro 8:39
now, the first one I wrote was 24/7 innovation. So that’s the one that’s the one I always say that if you suffer from insomnia, that’s the book you want. I mean, it’s, I am proud of it, because it was my first book, but I would not say it was my best book. It was. It was, it was okay. But it was my first commercially published book. And so I was very excited about it. And it launched my career. So I’m certainly very happy for it.

Fei Wu 9:06
I think people are, this is a theme that people are very critical of their own work. And you know, even even for some of the younger professionals who write an email to present or in front of a status meeting for five minutes, and people really freak out. And when I talk to my friends at work, some of them really do. So what do you think was, as you’re going through the scripts, and I talked to some other authors about launching a book, I mean, just the amount of work and the amount of revisions iterations that go into it. It’s just daunting to me. So. So I think you should be happy with it.

Stephen Shapiro 9:45
Well, I’m happy that I did the book. I also learned quite a few things. One is that writing a book is actually the easy part. Interesting. It’s the launching and promoting the book. That’s the difficult part because, you know, putting words on paper Are isn’t that difficult in the scheme of things, I mean, if you have a thought, you write it down. And if you can’t write it down, you can record it. So you can easily I mean, if you are, let’s just say a trainer or consultant, you can easily just as we’re doing here, record, a conversation, record a training session, transcribe it, and you have at least the makings of a book. So the book part is the easy part in some respects, because it’s all in my control. I mean, I can, but it just takes the discipline and the knowledge to be able to do it. The promoting the book is 1000 times more difficult, because you need to figure out who you want to get to how to get to them, who you’re competing with, what are the best strategies of being able to get in front of them? Is it in a bulk sales individual? So it’s a long, and that’s what I learned through each book. And I’m still learning I’m still learning because this is just a selling books is a tough, tough rules. Yeah,

Fei Wu 10:58
it’s a that’s a long tail. To your point, it’s people when you focus on the creation of it. But in terms of marketing, like, is this something you’ve taken on? By yourself? Do you work with strategist partners, marketing companies, specifically,

Stephen Shapiro 11:13
I’ve always brought on people to help me because I realized that I no innovation, I don’t know, marketing books. So I’ve always brought people on, it doesn’t mean that they were successful in doing what I wanted them to do. I mean, there’s a lot of people out there who make a lot of promises about what they can do, and then they don’t deliver. So I’ve become very skeptical. And you know about a lot of the internet marketing world, I mean, there’s just a lot of people that I’ve worked with before that promise everything and deliver absolutely nothing. So I also realized now that even though I will never be the expert on bookmarking, I have to know enough to be able to make some decisions and not always trust the people that I hire, unless I really like have a massive amount of faith in them, which hasn’t happened to too often these days, because I’ve just been burned way too many times.

Fei Wu 12:10
Thank you for being there honest on this topic. Because somehow, two days ago, when I interviewed in a the owner in his kitchen, she is a very serious cook. And one of the things she said is the lessons learned she gave me two points. And the first one is you have to be a cook. But you have to understand the process and cannot be someone who’s very interested in cuisine or a foodie or something. So I think that that is a very, very valid point, which, as a young author were less experienced author, I bet it’s something they don’t even think about, you know, all the hard work the long tail artwork behind the release of the book, I have to jump right into one of my favorite ones. You know, I gotten copies of these and they’re on my bookshelf. And I feel like it’s it’s very, it’s very, these books are very special to me, the edition that we’re friends in, it’s somehow more impactful on my life, knowing you haven’t been to your seminars and workshops, in particular, personality poker is such a fun one to read. And it’s not just reading it is playing. Yeah. And if you remember about a couple of years ago, could be longer that I was at one of your workshops several years ago, and believe it was at MIT. And I that session blew me away. And ever since then, I’ve been wanting to talk to you and interview you. And the reason is, you know, sometimes in a moment it reflects upon your biggest fear is for me not to not only to speak in front of a crowd, but people that you’ve never met before. You don’t know where they’re coming from I remember you’re there your books, are there, beautiful books, and just roomful of people and I just by looking around. And honestly, I the sense is like, they’re coming from such different backgrounds, and even just the age span from somebody looks high school or college ish. And for me, you know, I’ve been working for maybe five, six years at a time and people who are significantly older than I am, and how do you then capture that an hour or two of their attention. And what’s really amazing coming out of that, as everybody was so engaged, myself included, after such a long day of working, I was so engaged was so fun and was extremely memorable. And, you know, in addition to just praising your work, and I know that you have even way more reputable, like presence at TEDx, I believe NASA NASA there. And how do you create and and well, how do you approach such a crowd and how do you sort of condition yourself to step on that stage?

Stephen Shapiro 14:56
Oh, it’s a lot of questions in one I think one one thing is that it, I’ve really started to think about this. In fact, the blog entry started to work on this morning was on the difference between mastery and performance. And we seem to operate from the perspective that being a master is what we need when actually mastery is a small part of the equation. So coming back to the person who’s, who has the restaurants and being cooked, you know, being a great cook is important. But that’s the mastery part, the performance part is the experience that gets created for everyone. So I can be a master of my content, I can know my content deeply, I can have it, you know, just so I can be the best content in the world. But if it doesn’t translate into a performance that is going to engage people, then I’ve missed the mark in terms of being able to have any kind of impact in their life. And I think you need both mastery and performance, you can’t perform without mastery. I think then, and I love, like I said, magic. I’ve seen magicians who are masterful, like they’re they are so unbelievable at the movements and effects and the sleight of hand. Yet, they’re performance to sort of leaves you like, Okay, that was an interesting trick, but I don’t feel emotionally engaged. So that’s why I look at all of those. And so when I speak, I actually don’t speak, there’s very, very few speeches I’ve given, which is me getting up there and just talking. For me, it’s about how do I engage people, not just emotionally, which is what a good speech does, but I want to engage them physically. And that’s why I love personality poker is because I can take a room of 20 people or 2000 people, and we can play this card game, where everybody in a matter of minutes will see insights about themselves, but their team, their company, their partners, whatever it is. And it’s just fun. And so I believe that what we do has to take into consideration not just the knowledge that we have the experience, the performance that everyone has. And that’s what I’m always looking at both those parts of the equation, quite honestly, I think I spent as much time on the performance, as I do in the mastery, I focus as much on the delivery of the content as I do on the content.

Fei Wu 17:23
This is very insightful. And I can relate to that in terms of martial art. As you know, you add on my both practice. And our instructor Michael O’Malley, not only he has competed in a complete mastered the skill, but he also talks about teaching in front of 2030 people in a class multiple times a day is performance. And engaging people it’s a it’s, I feel like in itself is a mastery and one of the takeaways and I realize being very absorbed into your workshop that day, that for the for the first time, I thought I looked around the audience, like people I’ve met for the first time, and someone might never see again. But somehow I felt like a team. And I know that you dedicated an exercise, you know, so we break into different groups, different silos, but the exercise, you know, even though it’s, you know, I can see what works for corporate or in this case, we don’t know anything about each other. But somehow we are all related. And I get a sense, like, everybody actually cares, I made me imagine what if we are actually a team, like a real team together right here to build something or anything, and it becomes a possibility. So at that level, like that, create that emotional bond that I did not expect, at the workshop, you know, so that’s something I still remember, you know, you know, we still talk about me and my friends who happen to be at the workshop, we still talk about that moment. And we, I wish to be able to go to more of the events that you you are speaking at. So

Stephen Shapiro 18:54
Mark likes, that’s, that’s quite a compliment. That I guess that is what I strive for is it’s if you think about a speech, and workshops are a little different, that was, you know, 30 people, whatever was most of my events, or 300, or 1000, or a couple 1000 people. And it usually feels like it is somebody up on the stage and talking to a dark audience where, you know, it can be one person 1000 people and nobody would really know that somebody’s sitting next to you except the fact that you feel their elbows and maybe hear them laugh or something at some point. And that’s not my what I want is I want there to be some kind of connectivity throughout the experience so that everybody is not just aware of me, but they’re aware of themselves. So even some of the activities that I do, which are maybe something to do very, I mean, they can take 30 seconds during an activity where they gain some insight about themselves, but then in the process of that, I’ll do it in a way where then they can also see that they’re very much like everyone else in the room. So I Can we even just a three minute activity 2000 People have everybody have a sense of I’m connected to everyone else in this room. And that’s what I really want. And that’s one of the things which I’m working on right now is, we’ve just launched a new mobile mobile gaming app, which when I leave the stage after speech, if the client wants to, or if it’s an open event, and we want people to just sign up for it, we create a 30 day competition, so that everybody who’s in the audience, even if they don’t know each other, are now entered into a challenge, where every single day they’ll get a different question about innovation or their industry of their company, they get points. Again, to me, the whole thing is creating that experience, which doesn’t end when I leave the stage, it’s how do I create an experience that lasts well beyond? You know, the speech, and is this not just an intellectual connection, but as an emotional and physical connection?

Fei Wu 20:57
I think that is in a very special way that I hope the world begins to turn around. In a sense, I think that’s why people feel connected, is social media, unfortunately, multiple forms, the companies involved Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn even have taken people away from that emotional connection. And I think when you go to events, and I personally have the pleasure to go to future in my texts, and to your point, it’s the keynote presentation, that also the people in the same room. But I think once you’ve made it there to have a speaker, like you on stage, really create the atmosphere, I think everybody is eager to participate or to be involved in and I think, deep down, there’s the emotional connection you’ve created as something has been lacking in our day to day, unlike, you know, before the internet, basically, and I’m trying to track down track back that could be 20 years ago. So one of the questions I thought about there’s a list of questions, I was thinking, as soon as we’re able to do this, I gotta be able to pick your brain a little bit. Innovation as a subject has been changed that, you know, sort of, there’s a lot of misconceptions even associated with it. And because you’re, you’ve been in the business very early on, even before our friendship began. So I was wondering, just observing the waves of innovation. And you know, these keynotes events in the past and Keynote is relatively new, but the past 15 to 20 years, how has innovation evolve? In your Eurovision, where has it taken?

Stephen Shapiro 22:35
Well, when I first started doing innovation work, which is sort of like 1995 1996 timeframe, nobody was really doing an innovation was synonymous with product development. So if you looked at an r&d department, where the people were manufacturing product that was innovation. And what we’ve seen over the past, I guess, pretty much 20 years now is that innovation has come out of the r&d laboratories. It has become a little more democratized, internally and externally. So we see that companies when it comes to innovation aren’t just looking for a few smart people in white lab coats who are high on a mountain trying to come up with answers, but they’re trying to get everybody engaged in the process. Whether it is they have competitions, we’ve seen companies that have Shark Tank competitions internally, or their versions of The Apprentice, or whatever it is, but they’re trying to get people engaged and they use technology, technology has also evolved so much to the point where we can collaborate virtually, whereas it was much more difficult 20 years ago, I think, is that virtual collaboration, which has really changed things a lot we can put in a platform that allows us to have everybody in a company, submit ideas, or better yet, have people find solutions to well framed challenges that the company thinks are important. And then you take it a step further. And now we can go externally, which is something which is a even though it’s been done in the past to the scale that it has been done now is very different. So we’re using crowdsourcing and open innovation and other methods for being able to gather insights from people outside the company gather solutions for people outside the company gather ideas from people outside the company. So I think the biggest change is the move from innovation being the same as r&d to innovation being this pervasive mesh that sits within a company.

Fei Wu 24:33
That’s exactly the sort of an answer that I feel like most people are going to struggle to answer. And I don’t think it I think it’s, it’s a topic a lot of my friends My coworkers are struggling with, but nobody has been able to dissect, you know, sort of the division the growth of it. So, you have mentioned the tools that take Knology for font that has an abled collaboration on innovation, and I was wondering is there you know, based on personality poker, you’ve created an online game where people can go to your website and play around? What are some of the tools and resources that come to mind that have sort of support your initiatives on and off the stage?

Stephen Shapiro 25:22
Well, there’s sort of two different things. One is, you know, what enables innovation. And then what enables me, I mean, as a speaker, I just love the fact that my iPad is a remote control to my Mac. So my MacBook Pro is connected up to the projector, and then I use my iPad to connect through Bluetooth or Wi Fi to it. And I’m able to control my slides, I can change the order of my slides on the fly, without the audience ever knowing. So if I’m, for some reason running out of time, I can skip five slides without having to show them the five slides. But more importantly for me is I love to engage an audience, not just through slides, because slides are pretty static. And most of mine are just pictures. But through drawing, I like to draw as I give a speech. And so what I’m able to do is actually draw on my iPad, and it will show up on the screen. So my iPad connected to my Mac becomes a basically a whiteboard. Yeah. And that. And it’s even been scientifically proven that that type of presentation style increases your level of retention. Because there’s something about watching somebody create something in the moment that activates a different part of the brain that has this more engage has this feel as though it’s being created for the first time this isn’t can he’s doing it for me right now. And it’s almost like a form of magic. I mean, it really has that same experience in the brain. So for me, that’s been, I think, probably the most powerful technology for speaking. When it comes to innovation. It’s just all the collaboration technologies. I think the key thing is we’ve moved technology, from about computing and automation, to about collaboration and networking. And if I look at what really has helped companies the most, yes, ERP systems, you know, systems like SAP and Oracle are great because they can automate tasks, which makes you efficient, but they’re not as good as collaboration, which is really saying, How do I work on a project where somebody’s in another part of the world or in a different timezone or not even inside my company? And there’s just so many, I mean, the list is endless. I mean, so one company that I like, is InnoCentive is a company that is basically primarily an external crowdsourcing company. And what they do is if you have a challenge, you’re trying to solve a problem, they will post it on their website. And they have, depending on how you count, you know, hundreds of 1000s, or even millions of experts who will try to solve those problems, and they’ve solved some absolutely fantastic problems that, in some cases, were able to be solved by the experts for two decades. Yeah. So that’s to me that that collaboration, is being able to say, Hey, I’ve got this problem, do you have a solution? Or what ideas do you have? Or what do you think of this? And we’ve seen crowdsourcing being used in so so many different ways. And I think that’s really in those tools are getting more and more sophisticated as time goes on.

Fei Wu 28:33
Yeah, I wonder in terms of some other companies that came to my mind in universe similar to sensitives are StackOverflow. Stack Exchange, and Cora, are you as active on some of those platforms are

Stephen Shapiro 28:47
a little bit they’re not my sweet spot. But I’ve used other ones, for example, you have 99 designs, yeah. And logo tournament. So if you’re into design work, those are really good. You have TopCoder, which is sort of a high end one, I don’t use it, but my clients use it. TopCoder is a crowdsource platform, crowdsourcing platform for programming software, for creating algorithms or for doing design work around computer systems, user experiences and the interfaces. So there are just so many out there that are I think, so fantastic. And the ones which I think are the best are the ones that don’t just say, Hey, give us your ideas. Like my Starbucks idea is a crowdsourcing platform that Starbucks uses. And they’ve received now I think the number is about 300,000 ideas. If you think about 300,000 ideas, that that’s a lot of ideas that you have to sort of sift through. And it also means that they’re not going to implement 300,000 of those ideas. They’ve implemented, you know, less than, you know, I think a 100th of a percent of whatever it is, it’s like so small. So that means that now 99.999% of the people who submitted things there didn’t get their ideas implemented. So that’s ideas. I’m not a big fan of ideas as much as I am about solutions, hey, we’ve got this problem. Here are the parameters for it. And this is actually something which Dell learned with their ideas, storms, they that first we say, Hey, what are all your ideas are on technology, and they got so much and they got inundated rule got, like, overwhelming. And then they said, Okay, we don’t want your ideas. Now, here’s a two page brief on a problem we’re trying to solve, help us solve this. And those briefs really help get people focused. Because one of my beliefs is you don’t want to think outside the box, you want to find a better box. And that better box is a well defined challenge that people can find solutions to.

Fei Wu 30:49
You’ve raised briefing, and it’s something that I realized is a question of never ask anybody, even at all my smartest friends, but it’s been an internal struggle for ages. It here we mean, you know, regular business briefing, create a briefing, something’s under the creative team. And we my background in technology, and we have clients come to us, and this is our problem. And oftentimes, the problem itself is kind of ill defined. And we are limited to resources. So I’m really I’m really interested in picking your brain in terms of what you think are some of the critical elements that need to make their way into briefing and oftentimes are not seen on standard traditional briefs, I’m sure being used everywhere. So

Stephen Shapiro 31:34
Well, I think getting the brief right is so important. I mean, Einstein didn’t say this exactly the short version. What he said was, if I had an hour to save the world, that’s been 59 minutes defining the problem in one minute finding solutions. And we tend to run around spending 60 minutes on solutions, and we don’t really know why we’re doing it and what it’s trying to solve. And is it solving the right thing? So I think, you know, the key to me with briefs and obviously, a brief for and logo is going to be different than a brief for a trying to find a new chemical compound, which is going to be different than a brief for trying to solve a problem around education. So the briefs, there’s the key is to have enough boundaries. And I use something I call the Goldilocks principle, the Goldilocks principle is basically where if you think about Goldilocks and the Three Bears, she goes into house, one beds, too soft, one beds too hard, and the other ones just right. And this is I think the same thing that we need to think about when we talk about briefs, or when we talk about, you know, challenge statements, or questions, whatever we want to call them is that we don’t want them to be too broad and extract, too broad abstract invites too much noise. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill had 123,000 submissions, and how to stop the flow of the oil after the explosion. Practically none of them had any value at all. So that’s the abstract, we tend to do that we tend to say, Well, how do we increase performance? How do we increase sales? How do we increase productivity? How do we reduce costs, and we create these really abstract big fluffy briefs that are too unbounded. On the flip side, you don’t want to be too specific. You don’t want to have a brief that implies a particular solution. Because in a lot of cases, briefs are solutions masquerading as a brief, the brief should actually be a question, it should be a question that needs to be answered that we don’t know the answer to, but we can create experiments that allow us to test it out. So we don’t want it to imply a particular solution, or even a domain of expertise. Very simple example of that, is the Exxon Valdez oil spill spill in 1989 20 years, two decades, oil experts were trying to stop the water from freezing because the cold water in Alaska, every time they would extract it would freeze. And it took 20 years before they realized they were working on the wrong problem. They assumed, again, coming back to the Goldilocks principle, they assumed that the problem was an oil problem very specific, they assumed it was temperature related, very specific. The reality is the issue is something called viscous shearing, which is a common fluid dynamics issue which happens in any dense liquid. If you put a deck dense liquid under force or acceleration that will appear to freeze. So they change the question they change the brief, how do we stop viscous shearing in a dense liquid. And they found a solution not in two decades, but in six weeks. And that came not from oil expert but rather from somebody working in construction, who is working with cement, because the same exact problem happens with cement as it was happening with the oil. And so the brief has to not be too abstract and not too specific. And I would also argue the brief should have clear evaluation criteria. So we should know Oh, because we want at least some level of objectivity. How do we know this is good or not good. Part of that is because we want to discourage people from providing solutions that are outside the boundaries of what we’re looking for. Maybe it needs to cost a certain amount, can we need to make sure that we have those boundaries? The other reason is that it allows us to have to know what we want so that when we get it, we can say, this is it, I want it, let’s do it.

Fei Wu 35:30
Long answer, no, no, this is fantastic. And I, to your point, you know, measurable business results and critical success factors, those really should be included. In within the briefs, if something is measurable, I feel like that’s oftentimes the missing piece in the end. And so interesting, I think I’ve got improve upon my own brief after this conversation. Yeah. And you are in a career that I find a very fascinating, and I think there are so many people beyond what, you know, it’s known in public trying to go down a path of becoming a general like entrepreneur. And it’s a, it can be a career of challenge to pursue, for people at different stage of their current career fresh out of school or not. And I’m a fan of talking to people about their daily routine. And there’s a lot of interesting findings, and I was wondering, how perhaps, every day is different for you, and but what is, what is your day, like, when you travel versus when you’re not traveling? And let me just point that out, like being friends with you on Facebook, that you feel, I feel like you travel, you know, 364 days of the year 200 to 200, to under to be accurate. So I feel like maybe potentially, you have two different types of lifestyles at home versus on the road almost split in the middle.

Stephen Shapiro 36:57
Yeah, travel. And I would say there’s at home, who’s on the road for work, and there’s on the work on the road for pleasure. Yeah, because they’re actually very different. And I don’t have routines, I wished I did have routines. I’m not like my second book is called goal free living. I mean, I’m a guy who believes in meandering with purpose. So I figure that I don’t really know where I’m going. So the best I can do is keep my keep a broad peripheral vision and allow me to sort of look for and sense clues that tell me that I need to change direction or that this is going to work with this is not going to work or Oh, hey, I haven’t even considered this. How do I go over here. So instead of narrowly focused, like we do with goals, I try to keep just this this open mindset. Which means that and also, I think, coming back to personality poker, my personality poker style, is what we call diamonds, diamonds are the creative experiential ones. But the downside of being that is, in many cases, were scattered and disorganized. So that is that as you know how I tend to fall. And so I don’t have a real routine. I’m almost driven by inspiration. And there are some days where I’ll wake up and I just not inspired. So if it’s a nice day, I’ll walk the beach fortunately, live near the beach. So I’ll walk the beach for two hours. And, you know, either listen to music or listen to nothing. If I’m inspired, I will write I try to write, you know, three blogs a week if I can. Not always successful with that. You know, so it’s, I guess it’s not a routine as much as it is a hodgepodge of things that I like to pick from that when I’m inspired to do them. And I guess that’s, you know, somebody wants told me that you don’t want a to do list you want to could do list, you want to keep your to do list short, and your could do list large and your could do list are all the things that are possible. And I spend a disproportionate amount of my time on things that I would call innovation. And what I mean by that is, is creating a new product, creating a new service, creating something creating something new that is not just an extension of what I’ve done in the past. And I love that. If I look at the things that I do that a routine, they are typically reading mysteries, or reading lateral brain teasers, or studying magic, those really are, those are probably my only routines that I have. And it’s partly because I’m always inspired to do that. I’m not always inspired to write I’m not always inspired to create something new. I’m always inspired to either do mysteries or magic.

Fei Wu 39:47
What are some of the books in terms of mystery and magic you’re reading or you have read in the past

Stephen Shapiro 39:51
mysteries while I am bout 90% of the way through the complete collection of Hercule poor rose short stories, which are every single Agatha Christie short story with Hercule pros nice 900 page book I imagine that is, it’s excellent, really, really great. And I also love this guy by the name of Hi, Conrad H EY. Hi, Conrad, who is one of the writers for the TV show monk. And he has a whole series of these books, which are sort of murder mysteries, and lateral brain tease teasers woven together. And really what it is, is you have to challenge your assumptions and make just so many assumptions. So I love those because they’re again, they’re they’re just great ways of, of quest, you know, expanding the mind and looking for clues, but at the same time, not keeping a closed mind while looking for the clues because good mystery writers do everything possible to have us believe one thing, while something else is completely, the truth is something completely different. And that’s what I find to be the case with innovation is we believe that we’re working on the right product, or the right project or an introduce whatever it is. But the reason why 70% of innovations fail is because we were fooled. We were fooled into believing, you know, we all say yeah, but as the enemy of innovation, it’s not the wow, this is a great idea as the enemy of innovation, because when we get attached to an idea, confirmation bias kicks in. And when confirmation bias kicks in, we will never see any of the evidence which disproves our really strongly held beliefs, you’ll only see the evidence that supports it.

Fei Wu 41:38
And I think that’s very true in medicine, and everything, you know, that really is true and everything because that reminded me of having this conversation with a woman. She’s a I guess she’s a portfolio manager. Now she manages $50 million in assets. And one of the areas she was really keen on is health care. And she we had this extended two hour conversation about hepatitis C has been cured nearly for the most part in the past five to 10 years. However, hepatitis B, which is very, unfortunately, very invasive in certain parts of the world, that has been a huge challenge. And I understand, you know, I was asking her why she’s, well, every time they identify, they feel like the medical professional feel like they’ve identified the virus and the cause. And it’s always become something else. And they realize it’s always tracking down the wrong virus. I’m sure she was explaining the story to me in a way that I you know, I don’t know, I don’t have much knowledge in this domain. But this, you know, this the wrong chase around has been going around for years. And it’s exactly to your point.

Stephen Shapiro 42:43
Yeah. Well, and the interesting thing about that is, what we do as scientists or innovators, or entrepreneurs or business people, is we will design experiments to prove what we believe to be true. We very rarely will design an experiment explicitly designed to disprove what we believe. And this to me is why that happens is we can find a lot of confirming evidence. But confirming evidence, there’s a difference here. And this is one of my favorite topics is sort of causation versus correlation versus coincidence. And we tend to, if we have a belief, I’m election days today, and it is so fascinating that people on opposite sides of the aisle can listen to exactly the same information and hear something completely different. That to me, you know, the political system is the best example of how the brain operates. We aren’t wired to support the other side’s belief. We’re only wired to support our own belief. Therefore, coming back to your whole point about medicine is we have a strongly held belief about what we think the virus might be or what the solution might be, or an innovation with the product or service a business model should be. And we just don’t ever, we just don’t have the capacity without consciously making it a concerted effort to look at it from a different perspective and actually sit on the other side of the aisle.

Fei Wu 44:28
So that is the end of Part One with Stephen Shapiro. In part two of our conversation, Stephen talks about how he engages his audience in this really the imposter syndrome. And he answers questions that have not been asked before

who listened to more episodes of the things world podcast? Please subscribe on iTunes or visit face world.com That is FEISW Oh rld where you can find show notes and links and other tools and resources you can also follow me on Twitter at FaZe world until next time thanks for listening

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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