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.

Copy with pride: What you can learn from other companies’ innovation programs

Published on: February 2, 2020 в 12:57 pm

Аuthor:

Categories: Uncategorized

Copy with pride: What you can learn from other companies’ innovation programs

Every year, Forbes and Fast Company reveal their lists for the most innovative companies. These awards often get people in the non-listed organizations wondering – “How do they do it?” “What are they doing that I’m not?” Or worse – “I’m doing a lot of things like them, why aren’t we up there?” The super-status bestowed upon these companies creates lots of inspiration for trying out new techniques to promote innovation (typically followed by lots of googling and article reading). 

 

Copy and pasting other companies’ innovation methods is not as quick of a fix as one would hope. Think back to when “Idea Boxes” (similar to “suggestion boxes”) first emerged. On the surface, it’s a great concept. And the truth is, its underlying promise still rings true: Anyone can submit ideas. Everyone is invited to take part.  But the reality for many companies that tried to implement idea boxes as literally just idea boxes was that it left them with mixed feelings and more stuff on their plate to sift through.

Innovation is not a one-size-fits-all. You have to make sure efforts are customized to your company’s goals, resources, and culture. And so as they say – before you copy from a company, walk a mile in their shoes. Then you will be able to copy them and have their shoes.  

Jokes aside, in this day of networking, knowledge sharing, and even co-opetition, there are so many opportunities to investigate firsthand not only what other companies are doing, but how they actually do it. From embarking on an Innovation Journey to another country or keeping it local and visiting companies nearby, there’s much to learn from any organization whether or not they appear on the “Most Innovative List” (they’ll be flattered, trust me). The key here is having a personal interaction and seeing with your own eyes:   

 

  1. New directions that you haven’t thought of – What is the most unique thing the company you visited is doing? It doesn’t have to be a huge, complex mechanism (although it can be). Look for the impact. Understand why it works for them. Did they need to make any adjustments along the way? What changes would you require if you adopted it in your company?  
  2. What’s not working #1 – Think what you’d like to improve in your company’s innovation efforts and see if this is something your host company has struggled with as well. Have they found ways to overcome it? Is this something you could approach together and share insights?
  3. What’s not working #2 – Don’t forget to find out (diplomatically) what isn’t working for them. Make sure that you avoid those pitfalls in your company also.
  4. Validation for what is working – Is there something you’re proud of regarding how innovation runs in your company that might work well for your host company too? Based on your visits, are you able to gain confidence in how your company promotes innovation? 
  5. Same same but different – Look for similarities in your innovation approaches. Do you share methods or innovation structures? Perhaps small differences can provide a helpful tweak.   
  6. Knowledge sharing – Visiting companies offers new vantage points and exposure to knowledge accumulated by others. Traveling abroad provides unique insights that can result from having a different cultural outlook. Staying local offers opportunities for continued personal meet-ups, and ideas for resources you can partake in. You never know what might be going on in your own backyard. Regardless of visiting a company near or far, this is a game of give and take. Extend an invitation to meet back at your company.  This will be the making of your own innovators’ network where you can all continue to learn with and from each other.  

 

Getting your company to the “Innovation A-list”  and sustaining the position over time is a process of implementing, fine-tuning, and evolving an array of techniques and mechanisms. Finding the right combinations for your company isn’t always a matter of reinventing the wheel, and certainly not successful if just replicated blindly. Get yourself out there, gather intel, and then renovate the wheel to work for you. 

In a world full of technological advancements, don’t let the non-techy ideas get pushed to the wayside. Promoting both Tech and non-Tech gives you a varied portfolio that highlights the range of innovation in your company.

Published on: January 26, 2020 в 10:34 am

Аuthor:

Categories: Uncategorized

Non-Tech Innovation – Three reasons why your company needs it to succeed

Is technology stealing the limelight of innovation? Obviously, a lot of innovation is about technology, and technology can drive innovation in many ways. But beware the trap: sometimes organizations equate I = T and miss out on the huge opportunities of non-tech innovation.

 

Meet John, the owner of a global hotel chain in Singapore. John traveled a lot and used his travels to stay at competitors’ hotels to learn about their services, facilities, food and more.

On one of his trips, John came back to one of Bangkok’s famous hotels, about a year after his first visit. As he approached the front desk he was amazed as the receptionist smiled at him and said “Welcome back, sir. It’s so nice to see you again.”

Impressed as he was, John kept thinking about this welcome. “How did she know I was here before?” he wondered. “There is no way she remembered me, so what is it?” John came to the conclusion that the hotel must have some kind of facial recognition software that informed the receptionist whenever a past guest was returning to the hotel. Regardless of the technology behind it – John felt he definitely wanted to create the same experience for his returning guests.

Back at his office, John consulted with his management team and several specialists. After significant research and deliberation, they recommended installing cameras in each hotel and using a designated software that will alert the receptionist whenever a returning customer is checking in. The cost for the system was several millions of dollars!! Excited as he was about the heartwarming effect of the personal approach, John had to abandon the idea. It was just too much money. He put it behind him, but from time to time wondered if that hotel in Bangkok actually spent that much money on such a system.

The following year he revisited the same Bangkok hotel, and when he approached the receptionist he was again greeted warmly as a returning customer. “I must know,” he said to the receptionist, “I have indeed stayed in this beautiful hotel before, but you seem to know that without even entering my name into the computer… How do you do that??”

The receptionist smiled at him warmly and explained: “It’s actually very simple. We have agreements with all the taxi companies that service the airport. Whenever they drive a guest to our hotel they engage in conversation and ask, among other things, whether this is their first visit to the hotel. If it is the first visit the driver will put the suitcase on the guest’s left-hand side, and if it is a returning customer on the right. We pay the taxi companies $1 per customer, so everybody wins.”

I’m willing to bet John never saw that one coming.  

 

John is not the first to assume the tech route was taken. Technology is changing and shaping our lives at a radical speed. It seems that unless it negates the laws of physics, we can develop anything. And amazing things are being developed. But is it always necessary or is the tech hype pulling the wool over our eyes and making us overcomplicate things?  As John’s story just proved, we need to remind ourselves that there is still room for other kinds of innovation. Here’s what you stand to gain:

 

  1. Agile and cheaper ideas and solutions – New technology can be costly, with lengthy development time. Non-tech ideas can often be rolled out directly by its inventors (as opposed to external developers) using resources that are more readily available. As we saw with John, facial recognition software would have offered a similar service. But there is something about the “suitcase solution” that makes it a more feasible option (especially in the short term) and somewhat more elegant.
  2. Getting the whole company involved – Viewing innovation as tech solutions only, limits who is able to take part. When you widen the definition, you encourage everyone in the organization to contribute. If your company is serious about creating a culture of innovation, promoting new ways for doing things: whether it’s marketing, sales, enhancing productivity, developing new services…celebrate those directions too. What people come up with will surprise you. 
  3. Breaking fixedness – Sometimes the process of innovation is overly technological. Instead of improving a given situation through examining both intuitive and non-intuitive directions, technology gets thrown into the mix as the obvious way to evolve (or to at least give the illusion that you are advancing and improving), regardless if it’s really needed or not.  Take the Path of Most Resistance and see what results when you challenge your thinking to new, lucrative directions.

 

Technology might be the way of the future, but non-T innovation is still a worthy player in its own right. Let it have a loud voice in your organization. You never know what the future will be, and you want to be sure you have enough channels proposing it. 

 

4 Ways HR Can Cultivate a Successful Culture of Innovation

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

Аuthor:

Categories: Uncategorized

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

Аuthor:

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

Аuthor:

Categories: innovation

Тags:

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

Аuthor:

Categories: inventions

Тags: ,

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.

Lean how inventive solutions allowed

Get our innovation model that has worked for 1000+ companies.

No thanks, not now.