Personality Poker- An Interview with Stephen Shapiro


Steve and I sat down, via Skype, to talk about his new book Personality Poker.  As a fan of personal and professional development, I found Steve’s insights especially helpful when looking at the successful growth of an organization together.

What are the biggest mistakes people make when working with others?

People believe that opposites attract. We like to be around people who are like us when we’re working, so we end up with a one sided view of the world. This is efficient for simple, repetitive tasks because people understand each other. If you want to innovate, though, you need divergent points of view and you need other skills to implement this.
What does it mean if someone sees you differently than you see yourself – and does it matter?
If someone sees you differently than you see yourself, there a few things that happen. The Pygmalion Effect happens. You’ll shift toward the way people see you. There was a study where students were given IQ tests. The teachers were given the top 20% scores. They tested a year later. That 20%’s IQ had increased. The interesting part is that the original 20%’s scores were randomly selected. The kids grew more because the teachers took a special interest in those supposedly top students.
People often see things in you that you don’t see. One guy saw himself as 100% Heart – a person who cares about people and relationships. Everyone else saw him as a Club – someone who takes charge and is results oriented. When we reassigned work to what he actually enjoyed, it freed him up to accelerate his connectedness with others
How is Personality Poker Played – and how is it different than other Personality tests?
Personality Poker is played with a deck of specially designed poker cards that describe different attributes. Before people arrive at an event, we’ll deal out 5 random cards to a person. People trade a card until the cards best describe their personalities. This helps them determine the partners in the innovation process. The big value, in most personality tests, is spits out colors, letters. This is more about the words people choose. It’s less about the label and more about the discussion around the word you choose. People can gift you cards in the way others see you. It’s a team dynamic where everyone is doing it at the same time. Because it’s a fun game, they have conversations that they wouldn’t have. People love to gift cards like ‘anal retentive.’ They have amazing conversations in a non-confrontational way.
In the book you mention four principles for creating high performing innovation teams. What are they?
Play to your strong suit. Each person should do what they do best. Make sure the organization plays with a full deck, meaning that there are people of different suits involved. Divide and conquer the work. Shuffle the deck to build creative tension making people work outside their usual comfort zone. Even when we divide and conquer, sometimes people need to come together to battle it out.
In Personality Poker, you say that the suits, the colors, and the numbers have meaning. What do they mean?
Spades – Analytical bunch
5-9 of Spades – people who are really smart and work more in solitary.
10-Ace of Spades – smart and like to show you, like professors.
Diamonds – They desire novelty
5-9 of Diamonds – like new ideas.
10-Ace of Diamonds – like new experiences.
Clubs – Doers
5-9 of Clubs – planners that get the job done methodically.
10-Ace of Clubs – doers that get it done, no matter what.
Hearts – Are all about the people.
5-9 of Hearts – deep relationships. Empathetic, great listeners and are typically more introverted.  They also like more predictability.
10-Ace of Hearts – social butterflies and are more extroverted and more comfortable with ambiguity.
2-3-4 cards – these are the unproductive behaviors or the side effects of your strengths. A 3 of hearts can be oversensitive, for example. This is useful for determining someone’s overall personality.
Is there a Joker card?
I found out later that the court jester in court could make fun of the king. He was designed to be a contrarian. The Joker card will be in a future version.
What were some of experiences at Accenture that helped shape & prepare you to write this book?
Two things. When I worked w/ clients on innovation, I found there were “yeah, but people.”  I started looking at different companies and how they innovated. Another is a personal experience.  Oe year I got a big budget for an internal budget. I chose a guy much like me to co-lead the project. I’m a high Diamond, he’s a high Heart. We had a great time on the project but we got nothing done. It was a total failure. The next year, recognizing my mistake, I found an anal-retentive Club. Although he drove me crazy, we developed something successful. I appreciate the value my opposite brings and I am now intentional about choosing people like that. This can be the mistake a startup makes where they get too many similar people together and fail.
How do people get to be open enough to have conversations about personality types without feeling attacked?
When you make things fun, you can say or do anything.
Why does this stuff matter?
You don’t have to pay attention to it if you don’t want your business to grow. If you have infinite resources, then go ahead. This is about maximizing throughput and having the capacity to create new products and new services for new customers. When the pace of change outside of your organization is faster than the pace of change inside your business, you’ll be out of business.
A big thank you to Steve for reaching out while on the other side of the world to make this interview happen.  You can also find out more by checking out the Personality Poker site and try the online game to see what suit best describes you.

Innovate or Die – Part 2

Welcome back!  In developing your product or service to be meaningfully unique, you’ll need to leverage three additional points.

Explore Stimulus

Exploring stimulus is a crucial component to the development of new ideas. In typical brainstorming, people make a list of ideas to develop something out of nothing. Imagine if you decided that you wanted to buy a new digital camera. Rather than coming up with a list of features you’d dreamed up, wouldn’t it be easier and more effective if you reviewed different models for the features, benefits, designs and quality to make a decision versus trying to come up with a list of things you think you’d like? Exploring stimulus when developing a new product is the same, where you begin with some building blocks to develop brand new ideas.

Leverage Diversity

Leveraging diversity requires taking different members of your team, even suppliers and vendors, and looking to them to provide new pieces of inspiration. If you only ask one team for their view on a rose, they might all come back saying beauty. Leveraging the diversity can yield different perspectives on the same rose including vitamin c tea, romance and rose water. Bring in different teams and look at what different world views can do for your process.

Drive Out Fear

Drive out fear by applying a system to your innovation process. Deming, who helped Japan rebuild after WWII implemented what we knew in school as the Scientific Method. Plan > Do > Study > Act. Plan what you’re going to do and what you want to test. Do what you’ve planned inexpensively. Study the results. Act on your findings to adjust your idea. A fail fast, fail cheap attitude is best in finding out whether your idea is worth determining that you should continue, you should quit or you should continue but adjust course.

Innovate or Die – Part 1


Recently, Erik and I traveled to the Eureka! Ranch in Cincinnati, Ohio.  You may have never heard of Eureka! but you’ve likely been affected by their innovations; most Americans have interacted with about 18 products or services that were conceived or developed at the Eureka! Ranch, including the Swiffer Sweeper, Nissan Xterra and American Express Centurion Card aka “The Black Card.”

The takeaway from the Ranch was amazing.  Today, you either have to be meaningfully unique or you’d better be cheap.  Meaningfully unique means that your profit margins are 10%+ greater than your industry.  Interestingly, we also found that only 1 in 7 small businesses closes leaving debt, while the other 80% determine it’s just not worth the effort and shut down.

Fortunately, all hope is not lost.  There is a system to affecting change in your organization to become meaningfully unique.  Doing so involves 6 components.

Dramatic Difference

Having a dramatic difference increases your odds of success 3.7x when selling to new customers.  People love buying things that are the “first” or the “only” one of it’s kind.  The iPhone is a perfect example.  The market was flooded with smartphones, but iPhone brought the experience to an entirely new level and has proved to be a tremendous success.

Overt Benefit
How many times do you see a new product with a new polymer, a special stainless steel finish or different battery technology?  We see these too often.  These are features.  People want to see features, but most importantly they want benefits. Having an overt benefit (“the battery lasts a lifetime, you never need a charger!”) makes your sales 3x more effective.  Keep the features as backup.

Real Reason to Believe
If companies followed through on what they said they’d do, this wouldn’t be necessary. Unfortunately, it’s not the case.  When you make fantastic claims, you’d better be ready to back them up.  Was this technology developed by NASA for the astronauts?  Do you have a patent?  These are all real reasons to believe that you can deliver what you promised and they yield a 2x probability of success.

If this is the end of the road with you, be sure to consider the
critical components listed above.  Always ask yourself and your team
“Why should I care?” similar to the way a child would ask.  Ask this
question repeatedly and often, to help get to help you crystallize the most basic value of
your offering.  If you’re interested in learning the remaining 3 components, come back tomorrow for the end!