Changing Focus to Improve Innovation

Stephen Shapiro has extensive experience in leading innovation initiatives and has now authored various books on the subject. Read more about how he thinks innovation should be focused and what we can expect from him later this year.

What is innovation management to you?

Innovation management is about instilling processes, measures, technology, organization models and competencies that make innovation repeatable, predictable and efficient.  This is the way other capabilities operate.  For example, finance has a leader (e.g. CFO), systems (e.g. Oracle or SAP), measures (e.g. days sales outstanding), a finance organization, processes, etc. We need the same of innovation.  The main difference is that innovation needs to be pervasive and therefore is not the domain of a dedicated group.

What are the most important lessons for an innovation manager to learn?

A focus on “ideas” can kill innovation if it creates a lot of noise in the system.  Instead, focus on identifying challenges to be solved.  When you ask the right question, the right way, of the right people, you accelerate your innovation efforts.

Do you think innovation management as a profession is headed in the right direction?

I’m not sure if innovation management is viewed as a profession, in it’s truest sense.  And I am not sure if it should be.  Innovation needs to be part of an organization’s DNA.  When it is viewed as something stand-alone and not the responsibility of everyone, innovation is killed.

What’s your next big challenge?

I’m launching a new book this September called “Best Practices Are Stupid: 40 Ways to Out-Innovate the Competition,” published by Penguin.  The tips are counterintuitive and go against the way most organizations innovate.  My challenge is to get people to think differently about innovation…or in other words, innovate the way they innovate.

About Stephen Shapiro


With nearly 25 years of innovation experience, Stephen Shapiro previously established and led a 20,000-person innovation practice at Accenture.  He left Accenture in 2001 when McGraw-Hill published his first book, “24/7 Innovation.” His most recent book, “Personality Poker”(Penguin) is based on a card game that has played by over 50,000 individuals in corporations around the world to help them create high performing innovation teams.  The book was voted one of the best books on innovation and creativity in 2010 by 800-CEO-READ. His fifth book, “Best Practices Are Stupid: 40 Ways to Out-Innovate the Competition,” will be published by Penguin this Fall.

Stephen has been featured in the Wall Street Journal (full page article), the New York Times, Investor’s Business Day (4 times), Inc Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine, and Newsweek.  He was also the cover story in O-The Oprah Magazine. He has spoken to over a half million people in 40 countries.  Among the dozens of leading organizations he has advised are Staples, GE, BP, Johnson & Johnson, Fidelity Investments, Pearson Education, Nestlé, NASA, the US Air Force, Telefónica, WilliamsF1, and the Financial Times.

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