Revealing Hidden Solutions to Your Biggest Opportunities with Invisible Solutions

Solving business problems isn’t about pulling ideas out of thin air. It’s about asking the right questions the right way.

Stephen Shapiro
Innovation Keynote Speaker, Management Consultant, and 6-Time Author
Consider an airport where passengers complained about wait time at baggage claim. They initially worked on the problem, “How can we speed up the bags?” but they realized that the real problem was, “How can we reduce the wait time?” Wait time involves both the speed of the bags and the speed of the passengers. So instead of speeding up the bags, they decided to slow down the passengers by moving the baggage carrousel further away, requiring people to walk for a few extra minutes. Asking the right questions created potentially better problems for them to solve. For example, they could change one word and go from, “How can we reduce the wait time?” to “How can we improve the wait time?” Now the problem isn’t about speed, but rather experience.

This simple example demonstrates that changing the question will change the range of solutions considered. And sometimes changing just one word in the problem statement can lead to completely new solutions.

Revolutionizing the way we approach business issues

Stephen Shapiro, innovation expert and Hall of Fame speaker, argues that creating optimal solutions is a process frequently stalled by a lack of good questions. In his book Invisible Solutions: 25 Lenses that Reframe and Help Solve Difficult Business Problems, he offers expert advice—and a tool—to help organizations and individuals solve any problem that crosses their path. The key is reframing the problem to reveal hidden solutions.

What does this mean?

The problem is that our past experiences drive the decisions we make in the future. This can be limiting. Shifting your perspective allows you to discover new solutions that are not in your peripheral vision.

Our natural tendency is to try and solve problems that are too big: How can we increase revenues? How can we improve the business? How can we leverage new technologies? These overly abstract questions invite too many low value options.

By applying the right questions, anyone can visualize the problem in easier, more manageable pieces. Shapiro’s Invisible Solutions offers twenty-five lenses grouped into five categories. These are designed to help identify different and potentially better questions by examining the problem from different angles. He offers a how-to guide for reframing any problem multiple ways, propelling people and organizations past perceived roadblocks and challenges.

Why hybrid publishing made sense

Shapiro is an experienced speaker on business innovation with five other books under his belt, including Best Practices Are Stupid: 40 Ways to Out-Innovate the Competition and Personality Poker: The Playing Card Tool for Driving High-Performance Teamwork and Innovation (both initially published by Portfolio).

For his most recent book, he wanted to retain all of the intellectual property so that he could reuse and repurpose the content freely through the creation of derivative products. Therefore, he decided to move forward with a hybrid publisher.

Those products include:

  • A videobook (similar to an audiobook but in video form) using all of the content from the book
  • A series of web-based tools that use the content from the twenty-five lenses
  • A series of online training courses that use the exact content from the book

Our goals?

  • Create a stand-out book with amazing content and a creative design
  • Market creatively to reach readers
  • Aid in growing Shapiro’s speaking network

Stephen Shapiro found Amplify Publishing through the recommendation of Amplify author Melissa Agnes. Shapiro wrote the first draft, and Amplify provided editorial services. The end result is a practical and actionable guide that delivers value to readers.

The design process complemented Shapiro’s content with a modern vector-style cover and corresponding interior. The design team emphasized Shapiro’s ideas by recreating his easy-to-follow charts and graphics that further illustrated many of the twenty-five lenses discussed in the book. The two-color interior layout with a pull-out insert are just some of the facets that make this book pop. Of course, the purple cover and purple accents throughout help. Readers have commented that this is not a book, but a piece of art.

To market Invisible Solutions, Shapiro didn’t stick to the script. He took content from the book and adapted it into YouTube videos to reach potential readers on a different platform. For example, he created videos summarizing the baggage claim story. Also, during launch week, he leveraged social media by taking famous innovators and put them on the cover of the book wearing the hat and glasses that are the book’s “mascot.” He even created a 3D Snapchat filter with the hat and glasses so anyone can give them a try. His goal was to have some fun and create something that stands out.

Invisible Solutions helped grow Shapiro’s speaking business as well. He has the opportunity to promote his book through speaking engagements by interweaving its content into his presentations. Shapiro was already shifting to virtual events and platforms before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Now, his virtual meetings continue to grow, and he’s well positioned for a return to in-person speaking after the pandemic ends.

Shapiro’s latest project is the Invisible Solutions Podcast. Moving into podcast form, the podcast tackles a real-life complex business problem submitted by an audience member and solves it using the twenty-five lenses from the book each week. In all media, Shapiro continues to shape the conversation around innovative solutions, and the book has played its part doing so.

The book has been featured extensively in the media, including Investor’s Business Daily, CEO World, and The Globe and Mail.

Our goal was to create a stand-out book to complement Stephen Shapiro’s new, modern ideas on organization problem solving. From design to marketing, Invisible Solutions was designed to be eye-catching and highly readable. Shapiro continues to shape the innovation discussion and propel business into the future.

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