Invisible Solutions podcast

E33: Don't Think Outside the Box

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What if instead of thinking outside the box, you want to find a better box?

This is Chapter 4 from Best Practices are Stupid.

We explore the power of Challenge-Centered Innovation (CCI) and why it leads to higher ROI than idea-driven innovation.

In this episode, we explore

  • Einstein's perspective on innovation (hint: the problem is more important than the solution)
  • Hollywood's point of view on thinking outside the box (hint: don't)
  • The advantages of Challenge-Centered Innovation
  • The key things you do up-front with CCI: assign owners, sponsor, resources, funding, evaluators and evaluation criteria
  • How ideas are like fishing with a net in the middle of the ocean while CCI is like targeted fishing with the right lure.

The content in this episode is crucial to my overall work and sets the stage for future chapters. 

More episodes from "Invisible Solutions"

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    E35: Want What You Have


    To celebrate Thanksgiving here in the United States, I decided to share this segment from my book, Goal-Free Living. Chapter 4 is entitled, "Want What You Have." Instead of looking for more and creating a different future, appreciate what you have now.Before we get to the podcast, I want to share two items:My "Purple Monday" sale  - $50 off the Personality Poker® Starter Kit and a free copy of Best Practices are Stupid if you buy a copy of Invisible Solutions. Sale ends December 3rd. Learn more here: launch of my new yearlong peer-to-peer mastermind as just announced. Learn more at If you qualify and this is of interest to you, please schedule a discovery call to explore this further.In the podcast I share a number of stories that will hopefully inspire you to have a deeper appreciate for where you are in life, even if things are challenging at the moment.Happy Holidays!
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    E34: From Boxes to Lines


    This podcast celebrates 20 years since the launch of my first book, 24/7 Innovation. It also marked the time when I left Accenture and started my own innovation business.  In honor of this special period in my life, I read the Prologue to that book and share some thoughts on where we have come in the last two decades.In this episode, we explore:how innovation and management theory have followed the times of the day (from Taylor to today)why past innovation strategies have focused on "boxes" (activities) while newer models  focus on "lines" (interconnections) why jazz is a good metaphor for innovation in that it is a collaborate and improvisational approach that adapts to new realitiesthe recent progress innovation has made to move towards "lines" rather than boxeswhy relevance and adaptability is more important than ideas or noveltyThank you to everyone who has made the past 20 years possible!Stephen
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  • Invisible Solutions podcast

    E33: Don't Think Outside the Box


    What if instead of thinking outside the box, you want to find a better box?This is Chapter 4 from Best Practices are Stupid.We explore the power of Challenge-Centered Innovation (CCI) and why it leads to higher ROI than idea-driven innovation.In this episode, we exploreEinstein's perspective on innovation (hint: the problem is more important than the solution)Hollywood's point of view on thinking outside the box (hint: don't)The advantages of Challenge-Centered InnovationThe key things you do up-front with CCI: assign owners, sponsor, resources, funding, evaluators and evaluation criteriaHow ideas are like fishing with a net in the middle of the ocean while CCI is like targeted fishing with the right lure.The content in this episode is crucial to my overall work and sets the stage for future chapters. 
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    E32: Asking for Ideas is a Bad Idea


    What if asking for ideas is a bad idea? In this episode, I share Chapter 3 from Best Practices are Stupid. In it, we explore why looking for a quantity of ideas can be the downfall of your innovation efforts.You will hear:How several companies started with idea-driven innovation programs that led to the demise of their innovation effortsWhy the signal-to-noise ratio might be one of the most important measures to consider for innovationThe three categories of ideas, and why suggestion boxes lead to a lot of dudsWhy idea programs can be useful for PR or for getting people on-board with innovation, but not for ROIThe behind-the-scenes story of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill innovation efforts This episode provides one of the cornerstones of my work. In the next Best Practices are Stupid episode, we will go even deeper when we explore why you don't want to think outside the box.
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    E31: Solve Internal Problems by Looking Externally


    What if the best solutions to your internal business problems can be found by looking externally? In this episode, I have a conversation (using the Invisible Solutions® lenses) with my friend and colleague Jon Fredrickson. He is the Chief Innovation Officer for InnoCentive (a Wazoku company) and has 15 years of deep open innovation experience.The conversation covered a wide range of topics including:According to a study conducted by Harvard, over 80% of solvers of InnoCentive challenges would not fit the hiring profile of the clientOne company replicated 15 years of R&D history with one problem with a 60 day challenge - and they got a better answerIf you start looking externally, you can find a kernel of a solution which can be brought back to the organization and adaptedOpen innovation enables parallel processing of problem-solving which can speed time to solutionThere were so many stories, such as how a radiologist solved a problem on how to identify fractures and fissures in the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico to find natural gas or oil deposits.I think you'll really find this conversation fascinating.Learn more about InnoCentiveLearn more about WazokuRead about my strategic partnership with Wazoku/InnoCentiveGet the Invisible Solutions® Lenses
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    E30: How Can You Avoid Becoming a One-Hit Wonder?


    Chapter 2 from Best Practices are Stupid: How Can You Avoid Becoming a One-Hit Wonder?Last week in Chapter 1, I explained the three levels of innovation (event, capability, system). In this week's episode I share more details on what it takes to create level 2 - an innovation capability.When you think about innovation as a repeatable and predictable process/capability like any other part of the business (e.g., finance), it opens up some new perspectives.An innovation capability contains 5 components:StrategyMeasuresProcessPeopleTechnologyWe explore all 5 components briefly - which sets the stage for the rest of the book. The remainder of Best Practices are Stupid is organized around these pieces.NOTE: Although it is not made clear in this chapter, one key difference between an innovation capability and (for example) a finance capability is involvement. Finance is a department with a limited number of people. Innovation is not. Innovation needs to involve the entire organization whenever possible. The role of the innovation team is to set standards and processes that the rest of the organization can use. More on that in later chapters.
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    E29: It's Not Survival of the Fittest


    In this episode, we explore why speed and power do not lead to long-term innovation. It's not survival of the fittest; it's survival of the adaptable. The content in this episode is from Chapter 1 of my Best Practices are Stupid book.We explore why the ability to repeatedly and predictable evolve your organization is the key to long-term success. I share the three levels of innovation:Innovation as an eventInnovation as a capabilityInnovation as a systemThis is the first episode where I share content from my Best Practices are Stupid  book. Moving forward, every other week, I will share a chapter from the book. And then alternating with that content will be my problem-solving episodes.As this is a different format, I would love your feedback. Please go to to provide me your thoughts.As always, you can download the lenses at 
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    E28: Randomness Is Not Random


    We assume randomness lacks a pattern. But there are inherent patterns in randomness. Unfortunately, our brain is wired to find patterns even when they don't exist in order to create shortcuts that speed decision-making. But what if this very process can lead us down the wrong path?In this episode, I start with a fun experiment where I show my (pseudo) psychic abilities. I think you'll like this, so be sure to give it a try.We then explore how pattern seeking can lead us to focus on the wrong problem.I share a client example where they made assumptions about a problem when in fact the real problem was something completely different - caused by a different department. This is an illustration on Lens #21: REAL PROBLEM.Finally, we tackle the topic of confirmation bias where I share a fascinating study that was conducted by the US Army to see how analysts make good (and not so good) decisions.To download the lenses go to GetTheLenses.comTo submit a problem you want solved on this show go to InvisibleSolutionsPodcast.comTo download the US Army study on confirmation bias, go here 
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    E27: How Can We Clone Stephen Shapiro?


    On today's episode, we look into ways of "cloning" someone digitally. In particular, we discuss how to take the knowledge from someone's brain and convert it into workable tools. The  problem statement we start with is, "How can we create software that is so great that customers will be mad if we take it away?"My guest problem solver is Adam Leffert, a freelance, C#,  .Net Software Architect and Developer based in the Boston area. And he is the creator of the Invisible Solutions® Tools.We use the Invisible Solutions® Lenses Chatbot as an example. This conversational tool asks you questions that walk you through the process of finding the best lenses to apply to your problem. We discuss the design principles behind the tool and then we use the lenses to identify ways to enhance the software.The lenses we primarily used are:#14: EMOTION - What emotion do we want people to feel? In this case, anger if the software is taken away.#6: ANALOGY - Who else has solved a similar problem? How do medical chat bots help diagnose illnesses?#3: REDUCE - What if we reduced the size of the problem set? What if instead of focusing on all 25 lenses, how can we go deeper into the 10 lenses that are used most often and have the widest applicability? This is related to lens #1: LEVERAGE.#11: RESEQUENCE - How can we change the timing of the work? How can we get input earlier in the process of developing the software? How can we communicate asynchronously?#24: VARIATIONS - Instead of designing for the exception, how can we design to handle the exception?#4: ELIMINATE - What can we remove from the software to make it easier to use and/or easier to develop?Learn more about the Invisible Solutions® Tools and take advantage of trial access to the Lens Browser. The Chat Bot that we discussed during this episode is still under development.To download the lenses, go to 
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    E26: To Sell With Data, Stop Leading With Data


    In order to sell your ideas, you need to be better at using data. But what if leading with data might be the very thing that prevents you from selling your ideas?On this episode, I am joined by my friend and colleague, Brad Kolar. He and I worked closely together at Accenture. He was also the Chief Learning Officer for the University of Chicago Medical Center. Now he helps overwhelmed leaders make better decisions by reducing complexity and increasing clarity.The problem we tackle: "How can we drive data-driven decision-making forward without having to rehash the analysis and background each time we start a conversation?"During the conversation, we used three of the lens from Invisible Solutions:#11: RESEQUENCE - What can we do earlier in the process to increase the speed of buy-in later in the process?#14: EMOTION - Instead of focusing on facts and data, how we can leverage stories and emotion to increase acceptance?#4: ELIMINATE - What if we eliminated the use of charts and statistics in our sales pitch? How could that help improve buy-in?It was a fast-paced and engaging conversation! This is one you won't want to miss!To connect with Brad, go to or LinkedInTo get the lenses, go to

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