Publications by

Robyn Taragin

Robyn Taragin

Robyn works with companies to design and deploy opportunities for innovation in a way that fits each one's unique needs. Having joined SIT in 2006, Robyn holds over 10 years of experience in strategic planning, facilitation, coaching, and knowledge management. Her clients range in size from Fortune 500 companies to SMEs and social organizations.

4 Ways HR Can Cultivate a Successful Culture of Innovation

Published on: January 9, 2020 в 11:18 am

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In the beginning, corporate innovation belonged to R&D. It was viewed as a top-down affair to which only the upper echelons of the company were privy, and you were lucky if you received an invite to the secret club.
Fast forward to today, innovation is now perceived as a culture and mindset; companies – from the long established to new startups – are seeking to instill it at all levels.

HR, given its role in the organization, is in a unique position to be a major enabler for establishing mechanisms so that a culture of creativity and entre/intra-preneurship will flourish.
Here are four ways HR can shape, frame, and facilitate a company-wide conversation about innovation:
1. Everyone is an innovator
“Accounting is a department. Marketing isn’t. Marketing is something everyone in your company is doing 24/7/365.” Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, Rework
Similar to marketing, companies have traditionally dedicated departments for innovation . Now, the expectation is for innovation to stem from anyone in any department. We, at SIT, define innovation as “thinking and acting differently in a useful way”. In this light, innovation is viewed as a valued improvement to a situational status quo; it is a way to perform your job better. It’s not tied solely to a company’s products and services, but also, and perhaps more importantly, to its productivity, operations, and processes. Adopting this outlook HR can help to ensure that its organization’s innovation agenda will promote an inclusive and empowering work culture.

2. Innovation Roles
Growing up, I loved pondering over the book “Cool Careers for Dummies”. The WEF states that by 2022, 75 million jobs will disappear while 133 million new ones will be created.
While we just established that ‘everyone is an innovator’, it is still necessary to have official innovation roles in place who are responsible for aggregating all the activities and outcomes.
We’re talking about Innovation Managers, Innovation Architects, Innovation Coaches, etc. Some of these may be full-time positions in their own right, while many companies prefer to assign these responsibilities to strong talent in the company, in addition to their current roles. HR can assist in determining and characterizing the roles needed, identifying individuals to assume official innovation positions, and defining the criteria to be assessed during the interview process.

3. Personal Innovation Goals:
Declaring a culture of innovation and actually having people participate in it are two different things. There needs to be a system in place for monitoring innovation KPIs that cultivates a working environment where responsible risk-taking is encouraged. Including innovation activities in people’s yearly goals and then assessing them during performance reviews keeps the checks and balances in place to make innovation a reality.

4. Opportunities for Innovation: Gaining Skills and Putting Into Practice
HR and learning departments offer many opportunities for training, programs, and events that people can join. Many used to believe that creativity is a talent – you either have it or you don’t. And since creativity is an important element of innovation, the majority of people were never invited to the party. Today, we know better. Systematic creativity tools exist and people can be taught to innovate. More and more companies are promoting approaches like Lean Start-Up, Intrapreneurship, Hackathons, The “Google 20%”. Running training programs and then keeping employees accountable for using their new tools during these activities reinforces what has been learnt, proves to the individual that they really can use these tools in a useful way, and legitimizes participation in these activities – even if their direct manager doesn’t see its immediate relevance.

HR has the mandate to nurture the culture of innovation by providing both the tools and the outlets in which innovation will serve the individual’s growth goals and the company’s business goals. It’s no secret that people want their ideas to be heard (and acted on!), and to feel they are constantly being challenged and moving ahead in the workplace. By HR adding an “innovation tab” to its activities, it will not only assist in drilling an agile mindset within the company, but help with employee retention and workplace satisfaction as well.

Managers’ Love-Hate Relationship with Innovation and 3Es for Effective Innovation Leadership

Published on: December 24, 2019 в 9:30 am

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Categories: Uncategorized

When implementing any strategy in the company, you’ve got to have leadership support at the forefront. Innovation strategies are no different. And while companies are, one after another, placing innovation at the top of their values and agenda, managers often experience a conflict of interest rolling out this strategy.

It appears they have good reason to feel this way. 

 

On the one hand, leaders are expected to enable change and disruption, while on the other hand maintain operational excellence and continuity. They are required to design, plan and monitor the long-term without compromising deliverables in the short-term.  They are encouraged to stimulate an exciting environment but at the same time retain stability. They are challenged to build teams characterized by flexibility and improvisation but simultaneously operate under well-defined roles and processes. They need to be clear and assertive about their way of leading, while adapting to the specific characteristics of their team.

 

This is the paradox involved in leading innovation – injecting the “new” while keeping (or making it the new) routine. It’s invigorating for management to be given the innovation mandate, but understandable for them to approach with caution given all the demands made on them. What we’ve found has helped leaders overcome this paradox, is to utilize the 3E model by Nadler and Tushman with a focus on innovation: Envision, Enable, and Empower.

As a leader, sketch out the model and answer the following questions based on your particular role; the characteristics of your team and its place in your organization’s structure; and your innovation goals (whether set by you or higher up).

 

  • Envision:  Your Innovation Dream

  • Envision the future: Imagine and clearly describe the destination. What is the vision for your team/unit/department? Describe your “team of the future”.
  • “First, be the change you want to see in the world “- Get in touch with your inner Ghandi and be the change you want to see in the company. What are your strengths, drive, and sources of authority? How can you serve as an innovation role model? 
  • Transformational Moments – Leverage opportunities that arise in day-to-day work as an engagement tool for inspiration. How can you take advantage of routine events to create strong connections to the future vision and make it feel attainable even today?

 

  • Enable: Your Innovation Framework
  • Failures and successes as opportunities for growth: Humans (and corporations) are inherently risk-averse and innovation is often risky. How can you encourage yourself and your team to take risks? How do you assess risk? How can you build tolerance to ambiguity into your team and develop methods to mitigate risks?
  • Cultivate an innovation environment: Part of leading innovation is creating the right climate that enables it. How do you build the right teams and motivate them? What assurances need to be put into place that will encourage reciprocal trust? How can you instill courage to try new approaches (and that it’s ok to sometimes fail)? What mechanisms need to be established to ensure transparent and sincere communication (downwards and upwards), active listening, and openness? 
  • Resistance to change: People say they love change. Most don’t. Innovation demands change, and so, will inevitably generate resistance. Being sensitive to resistance (whether it comes from colleagues or other stakeholders) is crucial to enabling innovation to happen. What types of resistance do you expect to encounter and from whom? Which types can be nipped in the bud and how? Who do you expect will need ongoing reassurance and how do you plan to win them over?
  • The Lab:  Life is all about experimenting. Labs are also for non-scientists, and experiments are not conducted only in R&D. How and where can you create a space where your team can switch from talking to doing? What would be your parameters, guidelines, and budgeting for experimentation, rapid-prototyping, and creating MVPs?
  • Collaboration across units/collaborative inquiry: Although investing efforts in one’s unit is key, creating collaborations and partnerships with others is also very important for driving innovation, especially in a corporate setting. Understanding the underlying assumptions of existing practices will enable leaders to both adopt appropriate collaboration models and create (or adapt) new ones, overcoming NIH (“not invented here”) syndromes. What is the company culture on collaboration? Who would be your natural partners? Is there a less intuitive partner you could bring to the pool? How do you create mutual benefit for all parties involved?
  • Models for sustainable innovation: Each unit is different in terms of culture, goals, people, etc., yet there some universal ingredients required to sustain innovation in any team. What mechanisms do you need to put into place to ensure that innovation continues to thrive over time? What people and roles need to be identified? Which additional skills do you need to provide to your team through training?

 

  1. Empower: Put your team on the path for personal success
  • Nurture your team’s creative spark: Build on your team members’ passions and strengths to get them to contribute to your project or encourage them to lead one of their own. What incentives will motivate your team? How can you influence them team to act in novel ways? What individual and collective strengths can you leverage?
  • Cultivate champions: Each team or organization has a few outstanding “champions” (talents) that add extra value. How do you identify these champions? How and what should you invest in them? What should their role/s be? Which conditions can maximize the potential and contribution of each champion?
  • Challenge assumptions: Review and challenge the status quo: Which methods, processes, behaviors and assumptions are deemed as “fixed”? Which may not be relevant today? How can you provoke them to promote change and imagine opportunities to do things differently? 

 

Sketching this model out, and candidly answering the questions for each E, will produce the blueprint leaders need to effectively lead innovation and instill innovation in leadership. Constant examination of the blueprint will be the reality check to achieve the vision that is so desired, while not compromising on executional excellence.

 

***Thank you to Roy Ben Dor and Tani Katz for their help in preparing this blog.

 

SIT is a privately owned innovation consultancy, headquartered in Tel Aviv with offices and affiliates on five continents.

We are a group of experts from diverse professional and cultural backgrounds, sharing a passion for innovation and for helping organizations and the people within think and act with more agility. During our 25 years of activity, we have worked with more than 1400 companies in 73 countries.

7 Best & Worst Practices for Incentivizing Innovation in Your Company

Published on: October 9, 2017 в 10:28 am

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Categories: innovation

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Incentivizing Innovation: How can you get your employees more actively engaged in innovation?

 

At the behest of one of our clients, SIT studied innovation rewards and recognition practices among 20 companies, from multinationals to SMEs, ranging in size from 200 to 200,000 employees and across sectors such as finance, healthcare, consumer goods, marketing, agriculture, food, hardware, etc.

 

Based on our research and findings, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best and worst practices for incentivizing innovation and for building your rewards and recognition programs.

Best Practices

 

#1. Innovate in your own skin

Design rewards that are consistent with your company’s culture, products, structure, and goals. Copy only if you think the model will work for your company, not because it worked wonders somewhere else.

#2. Involve authors in the implementation process

There is nothing more exciting than seeing your idea come to life. Seeing ideas through to their completion and implementation is often the greatest reward.

#3. Have something set aside for spot-rewards/awards

incentivizing innovation

Not everything needs to be a huge production. Give managers some ideas as well as a budget to acknowledge or reward innovative behavior when they see it.

#4. Uniform method

Try to have some alignment throughout the company of what’s being done, which, at some level, involves everyone in the company. It can be exciting and surprising to see where ideas originate!

Worst practices:

 

#5. Short term-ism:

Rewards with a lasting impact can be powerful. Money can be spent and vouchers used, but a letter can be read over and over and plaques displayed proudly!

#6 A system that causes strife and division:

Make sure you reward in a fair and consistent way. For example, if you create a system based on managerial discretion, follow up on it to ensure all managers are indeed providing rewards. Or, provide guidelines that allow people to win more than once, if appropriate.

incentivizing innovation

Innovating Innovation

 

Incentivizing innovation takes a lot of attention and practice, but it’s crucial to the development of an innovative organization. The more engaged your team is, the better your results.

What rewards and recognition practices have worked best in your organization?

Read more about how to optimize your innovation strategy– this time by making your idea a “sweet idea”.

The History Corner: How Sliced Bread Became the Benchmark for Future Inventions

Published on: August 14, 2017 в 3:45 pm

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Categories: inventions

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Over the past century or so, innovation is gradually becoming a more dominant factor in our world. However, despite the increasing presence and influence innovations have on our everyday lives, none of them made it into our language – save one: sliced bread. We often hear statements like “it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread!” But have you ever stopped to ask yourself how this seemingly simple innovation managed to become the benchmark for future inventions? A closer look at the history of sliced bread may shed some light on this question.

 

Read on to find out how sliced bread came to life and opened the path for other future inventions:   

In the early years of the 20th century, Otto Frederick Rohwedder had a revolutionary idea: why not sell bread that is already sliced?! A Jeweler by profession, Rohwedder had little to do with the baking industry, but living in a small town in Iowa, right in the middle of the bread basket of America, he was no stranger to it.

In 1912, he decided to implement his vision and started to develop a machine that would automatically slice bread. As his project advanced, he soon realized that slicing bread created a new problem – the multiple surfaces of the sliced bread made it hard to keep it from going stale. It was 16 years later that he completed developing a bread slicer that not only sliced the bread, but also wrapped it in wax paper to keep it fresh.

 Source: dailymail.co.uk

Overcoming doubts  

Although many bakers had their doubts about this strange machine, the first Rohwedder Bread Slicer was sold after 16 years in 1928. And by July that same year, the first loaf of pre-sliced bread went on shelves in Chillicothe, Missouri. Soon after, in 1930, a company called Wonder Bread started marketing sliced bread nationwide.

Sliced bread saved time and effort for consumers and made it easier to reach for a second and third slice, increasing comfort and consumption. It also gave a boost to pop-up toasters, which had been languishing on the shelves since 1926, as well as to spreads such as peanut butter and jam.

Source: priceonomics.com

Slice a piece  

So, what is it about this invention that earned it its unique place? Was it the unveiling of such a dominant need that was latent for so many years? Was it the fact that even one of the oldest, most basic products in the world can could be reinvented? Was it the immense success of an idea that is so simple it seems almost obvious in hindsight? Or was it the fact that even such an iconic invention still took almost two decades to develop and implement?

Whatever the historic answer may be, there is much to learn from the story of sliced bread. It is a story of a man and an idea – a story that turns out to be far more complicated than you might expect. It paved the path for future inventions. It involved insight, challenge, creativity and perseverance – much like the story of any successful innovation.

So whatever you spread on your bread – peanut butter & jelly, cream cheese or humus – tell us what you think made this innovation resonate so loudly in our collective minds. We would love to hear what you think.

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