The Enemy of Innovation? Expertise, Says Author of “Best Practices Are Stupid”, Stephen Shapiro

The idea of expertise brings to mind a tub filled with everything one needs to know about a subject. The expert on dish washing soap seemingly knows everything there is to know about dish washing soap. But what Stephen Shapiro shows in his latest book, Best Practices Are Stupid, is that expertise is the enemy of innovation. Why? Because expertise assumes it knows everything there is to know about a subject, when in fact it’s one good “idea-merge” away from true brilliance.

“The more you know about a particular topic, the more difficult it is for you to think about it in a different way,” says Shapiro. “If you want breakthroughs, you need to bring together people from a wide range of disciplines, backgrounds, and experiences.”

This isn’t just a theory. In his new book, Best Practices Are Stupid ( ), Shapiro points to research by Lee Fleming, a Harvard Business School professor who discovered that multidisciplinary work is “frequently superior to the best innovations achieved by conventional approaches”.├é┬áInterestingly, Fleming’s research showed that:

* Similar background teams equaled great successes, yet few breakthroughs.

* Cross-disciplinary teams equaled higher failure rate, yet radical innovations with potential to create incredible value.

The question Shapiro poses is whether there’s a way to get the benefits associated with diversity without any of the undesirable effects. He answers, “Yes” – and says the key is “open innovation”.

“Open innovation is all about engaging people outside of your organization to help solve challenges,” says Shapiro (sign up for his monthly Free Innovation Tips at ). “It’s like when Netflix went outside itself to find a way to improve video recommendation by 10 percent. Or when a solution was found to help in the cleanup of the [oil spilled by the] Exxon Valdez tanker. We must choose open innovation over expertise. It’s simply the way to go.”

Stephen Shapiro’s most recent book, Best Practices Are Stupid discusses the phenomenon of Open Innovation and other paradigm-breaking ideas, and can be found on at

About Stephen Shapiro:
Stephen Shapiro is one of the foremost authorities on innovation and collaboration, and has personally touched hundreds of thousands of lives in over 40 countries. While Stephen’s insights apply to virtually any organization, big or small, he has contributed to shifting the innovation culture for such Fortune 500 organization as Staples, GE, BP, Johnson & Johnson, Fidelity Investments, Pearson Education, Nestle, and Bristol-Myers Squibb. As the founder and creator of a 20,000 person internal innovation practice within Accenture, and advisor to hundreds of organizations worldwide, Stephen possesses a rare and extensive arsenal of tools, allowing him to arm any organization with the knowledge they need to shift their most threatening challenges.

Stephen can be reached at 617-379-1177 or online at

Press Contact:
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