Exclusive Trusted Magazine Q&A with Stephen Shapiro, Innovation Instigator.
How could you describe your career path in a few words?
“Client-driven" is the best way to describe the evolution of my career. I base my services on the needs of my clients, creating solutions that address their unique challenges. For instance, when a client expressed a desire for her leaders to think the way I do, we collaborated to co-develop my FAST Innovation™️ Mastery Program. In it, I mentor individuals and teams, helping them to innovate more effectively using my proprietary process.
Another client wanted a fast-paced, fun way to create high-performing innovation teams. In response, I developed Personality Poker®. This “game,” developed over fifteen years ago, has now been used by hundreds of thousands of people in over thirty countries. But it started with the needs of one person.
When clients struggled with the constant pivoting necessitated by the pandemic, I decided to write a soon-to-be-released book that I describe as the antidote to pivoting. I let my clients determine the topics for each of my books.
All too frequently, entrepreneurs focus solely on their strengths or passions. However, creating offerings that people genuinely want and need is crucial. Therefore, my strategy is to develop a program only when I can collaborate with a client to ensure it meets their specific needs.
What was your most challenging experience and has it changed your mindset?
My most challenging experience dates back to 1994, a pivotal moment that entirely transformed my approach to business.
At the time, I was employed by a major consulting firm, serving as one of the leaders in our Business Process Reengineering practice. My duties involved optimizing clients' processes across various companies. Regrettably, I soon discovered that my work led to significant job losses.
This realization triggered an existential crisis for me. I couldn't bear the thought of my work causing people to lose jobs. As a result, I took a leave of absence and used this time to reflect deeply on my career direction. I decided that my goal was to aid companies in their growth, allowing them to hire more people rather than cutting positions.
This decision led to the creation of a 20,000-person practice focused on innovation and growth. For over 25 years, innovation has been the cornerstone of my professional life.
Based on your experiences, what skills should an entrepreneur develop in 2023?
Problem-solving is one of the most crucial skills that an entrepreneur can develop. More specifically, the ability to formulate problems correctly is critical. How we phrase a question profoundly impacts the range of solutions we see.
Changing the problem statement can reveal hidden solutions that might otherwise remain invisible. This “reframing” of the question proves exceptionally useful not only for general problem-solving but also in a world where Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the hot topic. Our ability to ask more insightful questions is increasingly crucial, as the prompts we use to engage with AI substantially influence the results we receive.
The World Economic Forum lists problem-solving as one of the top 5 skills businesses needed to be successful over the next five years. From my perspective, this ability is so significant that I devoted an entire book (Invisible Solutions®) to discussing this one topic.
Based on your recent experiences, if you had one piece of advice for an entrepreneur's success in the context of 2023, what would it be?
If I had to encapsulate my advice in one word, it would be "focus." There are too many bright shiny objects that entrepreneurs can chase. However, many of these are merely distractions rather than genuine opportunities. The key to long-term success lies in identifying what you do better than anyone else, that others value and that can withstand the test of time. This becomes your unique differentiator.
My best advice to entrepreneurs is “innovate where you differentiate.”
Once you gain clarity on your unique differentiator and concentrate your investments in related activities, you'll yield a higher ROI than if you pursue every opportunity that comes your way.
Given the significance of this concept, I've dedicated my next book entirely to this subject.