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The Beat of Subtraction

An Innovation Template In The World of Rock n’ Roll

“Your job is SO cool”, I exclaimed, as Ruth Blatt was telling me about her blog in Forbes magazine, which focuses on the intersection between rock n’ roll and business.

It was a beautiful September day in Cafe Floriole, Chicago, and Ruth and I had met up to explore how Systematic Inventive Thinking could highlight the commonalities between the world of new product development, market shares and board room meetings and the world of electric guitars, rock bands and stadiums filled with enthusiastic music lovers.

Very early on into the conversation we both understood that we were onto something really exciting. I was explaining the notion of “Subtraction”, one of SIT’s five thinking templates, and Ruth immediately started to find great examples from the music world.  

A few weeks later I received a lovely email from Ruth notifying me that she had posted a new article based on our conversation:

Here is a link to her great article – http://www.forbes.com/sites/ruthblatt/2013/12/26/the-remarkably-simple-technique-behind-these-innovations-in-music-and-in-business/

I now have a real urge to prove that SIT applies to other “non-business” fields – so if you are a blogger that writes about poetry, cooking, gardening or politics – don’t be a stranger.

All we need is a nice sunny day, a nice cup of coffee and some time on our hands and I assure you we will find SIT in your world too J !

Alon

Systematic & Cinematic – Part 1

The SIT Thinking Patterns in Award-winning Movies

As you know, SIT’s 5 thinking patterns (Subtraction, Multiplication, Division, Task Unification and Attribute Dependency) have been academically proven to exist amongst many successful products, services, strategies, communication activities and packages. But did you know these patterns exist amongst award winning films as well?

To prove this point, I will be sharing with you a number of examples of how the patterns take shape in films that decorate cinema’s hall of fame.

The first example will focus on “Subtraction” which involves eliminating the most valuable component from the system and then finding benefits for the new form.

If you can think of any other interesting examples using “Subtraction” or any other tool – please share !!

Subtract the main hero? are you PSYCHO?!

Psycho is a 1960 American suspense/horror film directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, John Gavin, and Janet Leigh.

The film depicts the encounter between a secretary, Marion Crane (Leigh), who goes to a secluded motel after embezzling money from her employer, and the motel’s disturbed owner and manager, Norman Bates (Perkins), and the aftermath of their encounter.

Psycho is now considered one of Hitchcock’s best films and is highly praised as a work of cinematic art by international critics.

For me, what makes Psycho so effectively scary is the fact that Hitchcock enables us to sympathize with Marion, the leading character, for about 20 minutes of the film and then violently eliminates her from the plot in the famous shower scene. This subtraction so early on in the plot was never done before in the history of movies and went against the traditional plots where main characters were expected to survive or at least monopolize the plot almost to the end. In the context of 1960, Hitchcock recognized the impact on audiences of subtracting this main character and popular actress so early on: I can imagine the distress and anxiety the audience must have felt once they lost their heroine because of a crazy serial killer and a sadistic movie director.

To the audience’s relief, Marion is soon replaced by private detective Milton Arbogast (Martin Balsam) who has been hired to find her and recover the money she took.

Hitchcock probably assumed the audience would feel that killing the main character again would make no sense or be too cruel to imagine – so he deliberately kills Arbogast the minute he enters Norman’s house. Two dramatic subtractions within a few minutes of each other – now that’s what I call real horror !

Now, SIT ideation workshops are obviously much more pleasant than a Hitchcock movie but I sometimes wonder if when I ask my clients to subtract the most essential components in their system they don’t think of me as murderous madman :) ….

From Prosecutor to Facilitator – How I Used “Closed World” to Catch the Bad Guy

Prior to joining SIT, I worked as a prosecutor at the District Attorney’s office. During that time, I tried and prosecuted a wide variety of felony cases and represented the Israeli Attorney General in parole board hearings.  In my new role as an SIT facilitator I’ve began to characterize some of my legal challenges through the terminology of Systematic Inventive Thinking.

Strict rules ‘limit’ every step of a prosecutor’s work. However, one of my most innovative cases demonstrated how, in SIT terms, constraints can be used to enhance rather than stifle creativity.  The case was an Israeli version of “Catch me if you can” and involved a brilliant man who, for over 17 years, posed as a highly ranked officer in several security institutes and managed to get away every time he was caught. During the entire period he drove a well equipped luxury car that he smuggled into the State, successfully performed cons worth millions (some of his victims gave him their entire savings), stole all kinds of equipment, including ammunition, and had intimate relationships with several women, who fell in love with his faked identity. He even married one of them!

So, what’s innovative about the way I handled this case?

As I began to delve into the case, with its long trail of victims, it became clear that in classic criminal terms his actions weren’t ‘so’ severe. Criminal law tends to be stricter in its sentencing towards felons who caused much lesser damage, but whose actions are considered more violent. For example, felons who commit bank robbery, or cause bodily harm during a fight. Yet, this impostor’s victims suffered painful financial as well as emotional and mental distress. I needed a way to exercise the full rigor of the law – and I needed to think differently to achieve this.

The pivotal move was – in SIT terms – to build a list of “closed world” components. This included: laws from different areas such as tax and customs that have a criminal dimension, people from different divisions in the justice department, institutional agents who might know the suspect, and so on.  By doing this I brought into play a much larger set of resources (many of which would not normally have been considered) from which to build my case. And because these came predominantly from my ‘closed world’, I was able to get hold of them without too much effort. From these components, I then assembled a multi-disciplinary team of content experts, which included psychiatric experts (that had examined the suspect thought the years), customs representatives, money laundering experts and sexual offenders specialists. Again, this was not a standard procedure.

By creating cooperation between several units and different experts that usually deal with different areas of the law, I was able to write an extensive indictment, ascribing to the suspect numerous felonies that would normally have been omitted or overlooked for the reason that they are simply off the radar to my department.

Thinking inventively is not exclusive to SIT. I had done it intuitively as a prosecutor. Today as an SIT facilitator, I’m able to lead teams to think counter-intuitively in a conscious and systematic way – and apply a set of principles, such as “Closed World”, to explain the cognitive process.  So the good ideas don’t get away.

Bingo vs. Judo – A Facilitation Technique

Our “Systematic Inventive Thinking – SIT” method consists of multiple layers. In our blogs we often refer to our “Tools and Principles”, but today I would like to dedicate a few words to another integral part of SIT – the facilitation.

What brought this about, you may wonder? Well, I have to “blame it” once again on my everlasting muse – my nephew.

The story: I am preparing to visit my nephew in China. However, being the “fun aunt” that I am comes at a price. I have to constantly innovate and come up with new games, activities and generally speaking “fun stuff”. Therefore, I found myself ideating long and hard to come up with ideas for a new game.

At some point, one particular idea which appealed to me the most, still felt like it needed a boost. As I was racking my brain to find that missing piece, I realized I was going about it the wrong way. I was looking for the missing piece in the game much like one waits for the missing number to be called at a bingo game. Instead, I decided to run this idea by my nephew, listen to what he says and build on it, so that together we develop it further.

Switching from thinking in a “bingo mode” to a more interactive “judo mode” has other advantages too. Sure, the outcome may not turn out to be exactly what I had in mind when I started out, but more importantly, it would result in a game that my nephew would like to play. Also, by taking an active role in its development, he would truly make it his own, become more enthusiastic about it and eventually play it with more excitement.

The facilitation technique I used is called “bingo vs. judo”. Instead of coming up with a “ready-to-use” answer (aka bingo), we bounce off of the group to make a good idea even better or to generate a discussion (aka judo). Also, this technique allows us to be more flexible and tuned in to our audience’s needs, interests and concerns.

In the story above, instead of me coming up with a ready-to-use game, I decided to mentally spar :) with my nephew to get the game up and running.

How can this be used in professional life? Here is one way of how the above technique can be used in your work life. When we get ready for meetings, interviews or presentations, we often use pre-existing templates such as business or marketing plan template, interview questionnaire, project proposal form, etc. While templates certainly make life easier by ensuring we include the essential information, they also force us into a “bingo mode”. Meaning, we often present, complete, investigate and even think only about the things the template requires.

We at SIT also use templates when we develop project proposals or when we interview stakeholders prior to an innovation workshop. However, in order for us not to be bound by them, we include questions that would move us to a “judo mode”. For example: our pre-workshop questionnaire includes the question “is there anything else you think we should know that we did not ask about?” or in a project development proposal, we would include a slide with “what additional information is required before executing the idea?”.

True to the judo tradition, I leave it up to you to find other ways to adapt your templates to get into a state of structured flexibility :)

And finally, here is a nice example of a judo mode:

7 Reasons why I Love My Job

It’s not the kind of job they talked about when I was at school. However, after 9 years of being an Innovation Facilitator, I think I can retroactively say, with confidence, that “this is what I (would have) want(ed) to do when I grow up”. Here are my top 7 reasons why.

1.

I like seeing people nod when they hear something that makes a lot of sense to them but they’d never thought about before. I like the grateful expression on their face.

2.

I enjoy watching and laughing at the same jokes I’ve used to teach a point (even for the umpteenth time), but especially to watch the reaction of people experiencing it for the first time.

3.

It takes me around the world where I meet people who speak English with every kind of wonderful accent, from Russian to Australian, French to American.

4.

I enjoy seeing how during a session colleagues become friends, so they feel better at work, so they like their work better, so they are happier, so they bring more happiness to the world. Which makes me happy :)

5.

Having fun while working hard or working hard while having fun; whatever the order, it’s a winning combination.

6.

Taking people with me on a journey where they will get out of their comfort zone, shaking things around, revealing insights about their professional world and then landing back on solid ground with fresh perspectives on their life and work. Well that’s even better than being a pilot.

7.

It is an opportunity to teach old dogs new tricks (myself very much included).

 

Young Innovation – A Success Story

There’s an Indian phrase: ‘Sab Kuch Milega’, which stands for “everything’s possible”. I heard it often when I was younger and it made me wonder if I’ll remember to teach my children, too, that when they want something, the sky is the limit. This is one of my favorite aspects of innovation. Everything is possible!

So, apparently, there are many other dreamers out there and I had the pleasure of facilitating a session for a group of dreamers who succeeded in reaping the rewards of their dream. It’s the 4th year in a row that I’m helping prepare participants in the Young Entrepreneurs program in Israel for the international competition. This year, the team chosen to represent Israel in the competition was “Mifras” team from Rosh Ha’ayin with their Mamabaker (bazekalo) device. A simple, yet powerful trick in baking, which prevents the dough from sticking to the rolling pin and flattens it equally across.

Using the SIT MarCom tools, we worked on enhancing Mamabaker’s brand fusion, sharpening their message into a clear single minded one, and boosting their presentation skills. We also used another aspect of SIT to generate ideas for capturing the crowd’s attention during the competition, so their name will be remembered.

This creative and motivated group of teenagers has much to teach entrepreneurs of all shapes and forms about teamwork and inspiration. In the international competition, they won the 2nd place for their product and 1st for their presentation! All throughout their work, they’ve cracked all kind of challenges with great motivation’ never gave up and found the time and resources to incorporate the community and disabled populations in their work.

SIT looks forward to continuing our tradition of volunteering to help the young dreamers experience the power of inventive thinking in the biz world, as well as in everyday life.

 

The Post IP Apocalypse – Part I

The Challenge

Historically R&D companies have enjoyed success by focusing on the release of new innovative products to market. For various reasons, including the knock-on effect of the 2008 Financial Crisis, many R&D companies now have less resources available to invest in new developments.

Today the top Management of many companies is in the process of re-assessing portfolios, looking into all aspects of lifecycle management, from launch, through to post-patent strategy of every project. Now is the time to find ways to make the most from existing portfolios, and build plans for the long-term product lifecycle.

This challenge is made more difficult – by an order of magnitudes – by the growing strength, speed and quality of Generic copies of off-patent R&D products. This competition is a truly cross-industry phenomenon, operating at a scale never before imagined.

SIT – Generics Attack

Systematic Inventive Thinking (SIT) – has a designed a methodology to help companies combat the Generics Challenge.

The Generics Attack approach uses SIT to develop innovative solutions to Generic threats. These solutions can apply on a product level, or across a range of products. The approach can also impact at company level, adjusting to a company’s existing strategy.

Beating Generics

  1. SIT confronts existing thinking across several levels of resolution: from products, distribution and marketing, right through to global strategy, partnerships and co-opetition, pricing schemes, and loyalty programs.
  2. SIT’s tools and innovation experience help map the possibilities and test the limitations of the existing portfolio; constantly re-evaluating and providing suggestions for improvement as necessary.
  3. SIT advocates innovation throughout the entire product life-cycle, stretching far beyond the product itself. Our approach provokes thinking in unexpected ways, finding practical, implementable solutions that are right in your sweet spot.

In the next post, entitled ‘Generic Attack’, we explore several approaches for combating Generics.

 

Re-Imagining the Ad Agency of the Future

Re-Imagining the Ad Agency of the Future : A Systematic Approach to New Agency Business Models.

Four years back I was on my way back from a project and had a stop-over in Warsaw. I dropped by to catch a quick coffee with an old friend of SIT, who is the MD of McCann Erickson. To my surprise, I found out he was sitting in an open space together with all the employees. I’ve asked him why and he explained that its part of a new spirit he brings to the agency.  Like an open source attitude towards information flow in advertising agencies, he said. It sounded new and interesting to me and I offered that we gather other agencies from his network and develop a new agency format.

Five months later, 19 brave and open minded CEO’s and MD’s from 13 different offices of McCann Europe gathered to rethink the agency as we know it today. Using the SIT methodology, we developed collaboratively 11 different business models of the Agency of the Future. We all felt we were making history, changing the landscape of advertising for good.

In an environment of ever-changing markets, the advertising agency has to constantly re-invent itself to keep up with the new demands and challenges. Today budgets are split between different service providers, talents are “shopping” between the agencies and clients take more and more functions in-house, cutting out many of the ad agency’s traditional roles (and revenue streams).

Responding to this new zeitgeist, SIT has also changed the way we engage with ad agencies. From reinventing creative campaigns, we now help reinvent the future of the ad industry itself, working with leading advertising networks to design innovative, unique agency models.

Instead of applying innovation to the inner structure of a piece of advertising, we now apply it to rethink the structures, culture, process and talents of the agency itself, asking ourselves what is it that we’re REALLY selling from now on?

During Cannes Lions 2012, we spoke with marketers and creative minds from all around the globe, asking them about their vision for the agency of the future. This is what they imagined…we’d love to hear your take too.

www.adagencyofthefuture.com