Best Practices are Stupid?

Well, the title sounds controversial. Yes, this is the title of the book written by Stephen Shapiro. He is the type that would challenge the status quo and promote the culture of innovation. Well true enough, if we follow what everybody is doing, we will become a mediocre. And he got his argument to back-up his statement. Steve Jobs said Leadership is about innovation. And leaders should not be a follower to follow what others did well. Furthermore, the best practice might not suit to our environment.

Innovation distinguished between a leader and a follower – Steve Jobs

Face it, the world is changing. As my previous post the world no longer looking for productivity or quality. If we are looking into that, following the best practice might help. However, we are now looking at Innovation. Innovation is creating something new, something different. But if we follow the traditional wisdom that worked in the past, how do you expect us to be different? How can we be innovative?

Latest Book by Stephen Shapiro

5 topics that has been discussed by Stephen Shapiro. (Watch the video at the end of this post) These 5 topics are:

1) Stop Asking for Ideas
2) Don’t Think Outside the Box – Build a Better Box
3) Hire People You Don’t Like
4) Stop Praising People
5) Expertise is the Enemy of Innovation

As we asked for ideas, people will contribute the ideas as many as they can. In the BP oil spill case, 123,000 submission of ideas. But guess how many ideas that really count? About a dozen. This means that 99.99% of the ideas goes to the drain. Think of how much cumulative time were wasted for people to think, input and the staff to screen and debate those ideas?

In engineering we studied signal-to-noise ration (SNR). In real life, the signal is things that really matters and noise is things that does not matter. Output is no good if the noise is too high. And most organizations are spending time for things that does not matter.

How to do?
Frame something that is solvable and let people contribute their ideas within that parameters. This will help people to focus. We don’t need everybody to contribute in order to make the best ideas. But if that small group can focus, they can find great solutions without wasting to much of time.

The traditional matra to creativity is to ‘think outside the box’. What happen with outside the box? The world is too big outside there and people will start to think things that does not really matter. What we need to do is to create a better box, and let all of our people to focusing on that new box.

What happen was the idea will be scatter all over the place and most of the time people ends-up with nothing and back to the things that they normally do. Building a better box simply mean that give people a structure to work with. And people will start to focus on solving problems related to that structure. Structure can enhance Innovation. As Albert Einstein said, “If I were given 60 mins to save the world, I would spend 59 mins to find the problem and 1 minute to come out with solutions”

Most organization would like to hire people that fit into the mould. This of course will make things easier as they don’t have to spend so much time on the learning curve. However, they will only see things at the same perspective. They will give result as expected and things wont change a lot. Again in terms of productivity or quality this might help. But when we consider innovation point of view, this might not be the best idea.

By hiring people that we don’t like, we might have some problem. But we need to have some different input and most importantly to listen and consider their ideas especially things that are from different perspective. Divergence is needed to create innovation.

Stop praising people for giving the results that they are suppose to do. Most people praise for things that done well. And this encourage other people to deliver result as expected. The way I look at it, if we have to praise things that suppose to be done, then there are thousands of things we need to praise each day.

Stephen suggested that we should praise for people who are willing to take the risk to try out something new. This will encourage others to follow the steps. But what if people wanted to have encouragement by having pat in the back for every job well done? He suggested there are 2 ways of praising. Public praising and private praising. For normal job well done, we praise them privately for the encouragement. But for those who took extra initiative and taking the risk, praise them privately and this will enhance the culture of innovation and do things with different results.

Expertise will advise based on the area within. They won’t go things that outside of the area. Innovation based on Fredrik Haren, is combining two different things and make a new thing. If we seek advice from the expertise, the things won’t be so much different and it will produce the same things.

If we look at the major breakthrough in innovation, most of the time it was created from people who are not the expert in the same field. For example, in toothpaste industry, they cracking their head to look for solutions in providing a whitening toothpaste formula. However, they got the answer once they hire someone from different industry. From the laundry industry. Laundry is the industry where they need to produce whitening results. Combining these both, it create a breakthrough innovation. Look at other innovative products, mostly they are not created by the expert. The expert learn whatever have been done and master it.

To view more on the interview, watch the video:

Stephen Shapiro on ABC News from Stephen Shapiro on Vimeo.

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