What Howard Stern Can Teach Us About Innovation

by Geoff Nesnow

What Howard Stern Can Teach Us About InnovationAs I’m listening to the Howard Stern “60th birthday show,” I can’t help but think that he might be one of the most disruptive innovators of the past 30 years.  He’s probably the best interviewer of all time and has pushed the boundaries of nearly everything he’s touched. It has come at the cost of infuriating everyone from his management to religious groups to the FCC.

You can love or hate him (rare to find someone in the middle), but it’s hard to dismiss his influence.

Without him, we likely wouldn’t have:

  • Reality TV
  • Seriously probing interviews
  • Talk radio as it exists today
  • Much of the content of sitcoms and late-night TV
  • Some of the free speech freedoms we enjoy today (If you don’t believe me, spend some time researching it)
  • Satellite and on-line radio
  • The demystifying and normalizing of professional (mental) therapy (this could be his single most important contribution to society)
  • The survival of many long distance commuters (as I used to be), truckers and others

What are the secrets of these innovations?

  • Intense work ethic and discipline
  • Trying and failing dozens of times 4 or 5 days a week for 30+ years – the iterative process
  • Hiring smart and unique people – who aren’t afraid to challenge and disrupt
  • Also hiring some anchors whose loyalty is unwaivering
  • Patience – trying variations of the same thing over and over
  • Ability to say no – to hang up on the boring caller, to say no to “creative suggestions” of management, to say no to bad projects
  • Intense curiosity about life – especially people
  • Belief that you can always do better and the desire to do so – he’s probably better than he’s ever been at 60 – when he has more of everything than he could ever want
  • Playing the long game – turning down the “get rich quick” moments – like merchandising – throughout his career
  • Crowdsourcing – before it was cool! Between listeners calling in, guests and staff, nobody ever got more opinions about his product than Howard!
  • Courage
  • Transparency

You would have to produce some heady names to find people who’ve had a bigger influence in their respective fields than Howard Stern.

image credit: soundboardprankcalls.wikia.com

Editor’s note: Welcome new contributor Geoff Nesow to Innovation Excellence!

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    Geoff Nesnow‘s career began in IT where he learned about the power of technology to solve tough business problems. Leveraging that experience, Geoff’s career evolved to building and growing many different technology solutions. Today, Geoff is an experienced entrepreneur, and passionate coach, inventor and transformation catalyst, who likes building businesses across a wide spectrum of industries.

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  1. I think innovation is awesome and necessary. I agree with you that Howard Stern is an incredible innovator and somebody I would like to meet one day. He has taken an old medium and made it fun. He gets guests to open up about themselves and will even clean up his questions at times. All of the sex talk and intimacy talk is a great way to get people he is interviewing to understand that we all have weaknesses and strengths and that nobody is perfect in this world. God teaches us those things too if we would read the Bible.

  2. Hey Now
    Whoa whoa whoa, “I would love to toss Howards salad. Well, me and a million other dudes here in New York City.”

  3. I love him I love him I love him

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