CMO 2.0 Influencer Conversation with Steve Shapiro, author of Best Practices Are Stupid

Written by on September 28, 2011 – 7:56 pm -

steveshapiro(Re-posted from the Collaborative Innovation Community) It was a pleasure to interview Steve Shapiro about his latest book – Best Practices Are Stupid. I love the title, although for reasons that are slightly different from the reasons that Steve gives in his book. For him, implementing best practices is copying what others have already done and therefore not the best way to innovate. For me, best practices are so context sensitive, that it is really hard to recreate them within a different organization. Companies are better off understanding worst practices and avoid those rather than recreate best practices – no matter how you look at it.

Many companies try to innovate by asking customers and employees for ideas – not a good practice when it comes to innovation. As Steve explains, when you ask people for ideas you end up with a whole bunch of really bad ideas. The signal to noise ratio in open ended idea generation campaigns is typically very low. The sheer volume of ideas that needs to be sifted through to find the good ones would stretch the organizational capabilities of most innovation departments – creating frustration among those who have to manage the process. Not only that, but the low number of ideas that typically gets implemented also frustrates the idea submitting community, who feel like they are not being listened to. So frustration all around and poor results – maybe it’s time for companies to STOP asking for ideas.

Instead what companies should do is focus on giving employees and customers business challenges – problems for which you are actively seeking solutions. A good example of that is when Netflix launched its $1M Netflix prize to get outside teams to help them refine their recommendation engine by 10%. Not only did they only pay for results, they also outsourced the failures that are typical with the serial trial and error nature of  innovation processes. In the podcast we discussed the differences between innovation tournaments and innovation bounty campaigns and when to use one over the other or when to set them up as competitive challenges versus collaborative challenges.

We also talked about the power of the crowds in innovation, and how crowds are notoriously bad at helping you find the good ideas among a mountain of ideas. If you use the simple voting up and down system, like the ones that are very popular in crowd-sourced innovation programs, you often end up with the most popular idea – not the best one. A better use of the crowd is to have them help you identify the duds – something they do really well.

It is amazing to realize that the main reason for new product and service failure is still “not meeting customer expectations.” While companies are getting better at doing market research, most need to change as their “market research really sucks.”  Instead of asking people questions that make their conscious part of the brain find an answer, which is not the part of the brain that makes buying decisions, companies should use anthropological techniques and metaphor based methods to uncover people’s unconscious needs. They also need to get out there and talk to non-customers instead on blindly focusing on their in-house customer data.

Motivators are another important factor to understand when managing innovation – and companies should understand the limitations of monetary incentives to stimulate proper behavior.

Steve closed the conversation by talking about USAA and how they found a way, through an innovation center for excellence and innovation ambassadors within the business units, to make innovation part of their DNA. This should be the ultimate goal of companies looking to change their practices. As an organization, you need to create an adaptability to change that will match the rate of change that is happening outside your corporate walls.

Other things we talked about include:

  • How companies who are 2nd or 3rd in their markets need to change the game in which they are playing rather than to play by the rules of the leader
  • VC like boards in innovation management initiatives
  • How Innovation Centers and giving people 15 or 20% of their time to innovate outside of their area of responsibility is better for recruiting purposes than for actual innovation
  • How measurements can kill your innovation initiative
  • How you need constraints to foster innovation
  • How expertise and innate cognitive biases can kill innovation
  • The importance of culture in innovation

You can listen to this podcast on the Collaborative Innovation Community.

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One Comment to “CMO 2.0 Influencer Conversation with Steve Shapiro, author of Best Practices Are Stupid”

  1. C-Suite 2.0 - CMO 2.0 Influencer Conversation with Steve Shapiro, author of Best Practices Are Stupid - C-Suite 2.0 Says:

    [...] Tags: best practices, best practices are stupid, culture, innovation, stephen shapiro, worst practicesPosted in CMO 2.0 Influencer Conversation | No Comments » [...]

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