Category: innovation

Innovative Research: How Innovation Varies Across Countries & Cultures

Have you ever wondered how different cultures view innovation? Why are some countries more willing to adopt new advances while others fight to keep old systems in place? In today’s article, we’ll be taking a look at two innovative research studies that reveal the impact of culture on people’s ability to innovate.  We’ll also show you how to use this information to create a work environment conducive to innovation. To begin, let’s jump right in to discuss how a country’s culture affects the early stages of innovation.

What Affects the Early Stages of Innovation?

In a study on innovation in European countries, innovation researchers wanted to see if understanding different national cultures could help them predict certain behavioral patterns when it came to initiating innovation [*]. To do this, they categorized cultures using four dimensions –– power distance, uncertainty avoidance, individualism-collectivism, and masculinity-femininity — and then tested the relationship between each dimension and innovation. Today, we’ll concentrate on the first two dimensions: power distance and uncertainty avoidance.

 

Power Distance Measures: Just How Much Power Lies in the Hierarchical Structure

 

Cultures with large power-distance measures are those with formal rules and a centralized decision-making system. These societies keep information-sharing to a select few — only those in power, know the master plan and everyone else remains in the dark. On the other hand, small power-distance cultures don’t rely so heavily on a rigid chain of command. There’s free-flowing communication between hierarchical levels. Both of these traits help foster an environment where creative thoughts and ideas can flourish, which may ultimately lead to breakthroughs. So, which culture do you think does better in the initiation phase of innovation…the one with small or large power distance? If you guessed small power distance cultures… you are correct! Countries in this category include the UK, USA, Germany, the Netherlands, and Nordic countries[*].

This innovative research shows that high power distance cultures, such as Belgium, France, Poland, and Portugal, may be unknowingly inhibiting their innovation efforts due to this trait. If people are more likely to feel confined and afraid to come up with new ideas for fear of disapproval, they won’t even try. This strategy will severely limit innovation initiation, according to the study. The next dimension may also greatly impact the early stages of innovation.

 

Uncertainty Avoidance in Innovative Research: Whether Tense Situations are Avoided or Tolerated

You may not think there’s a connection between uncertainty avoidance and innovation, but there is according to the research. See, cultures with high uncertainty avoidance adopt an attitude of “What’s different is dangerous.” People are encouraged to follow the rules to a T — without ever stepping out of line. When this type of environment is created, you’ll often see a workforce that’s unmotivated to think creatively. As a result, they may struggle to come up with new ideas and innovative solutions to existing problems.  Not only that, your team may be much more resistant to change. And as you can imagine, this way of thinking can negatively impact your innovation efforts. On the other hand, a low uncertainty avoidance culture constantly revises rules and makes allowances to bend existing ones, given the right circumstances. Cultures that rank low on this dimension also expect conflict and see it as just another part of life. Ambiguous situations are viewed the same way — since they’re inevitable, you must always be ready to adjust your plan and adapt accordingly, two things that work well when it comes to innovation. Now before we dive into the specific traits shown by innovative cultures, it’s important to understand a few fundamental findings first:

“Existing cultural conditions determine whether, when, how and in what form new innovation will be adopted,” as our next study shows[*].

Let’s explore this idea next.

 

Cultural Impacts on Innovation

Which characteristics do cultures with high innovation rank well on?

Researchers discovered that there’s a greater acceptance of innovation when the foundation is already ingrained in the culture.  For cultures built on long-standing traditions, innovation may seem as if it’s going against the societal norms that have been passed down for generations. Therefore, it may not be as well-received or encouraged. Yet, researchers discovered, and research revealed, that when societies are willing to take traditions and adjust them to fit modern times, innovation is much more likely to happen. To that end, there’s one more factor that may contribute to fostering an innovative culture: whether people believe they can make an impact.

Cultural or organizational “class systems” can become like shackles — with people unable to move and think freely.

And when applied to the work environment, it’s virtually impossible to motivate your team or community to work at their potential (or, as often required to innovate, to exceed their potential) when they don’t see their hard work paying off in some regard.

“Most people work in the hope of reward,” and if they don’t see any insight, they’ll be less inclined to work hard. People need to feel like they can make a difference and that their ideas are not only heard but also used whenever possible. And they need to do this in an environment that fosters community and relationships.

For an innovative culture to flourish and thrive, the scientists learned, this form of social capital is needed.

Cultures that adopt these characteristics, plus the ones listed below, are considered high innovators[*]:

  • Focus on higher Individualism
  • More inclined to take risks
  • Willingness to accept and adapt to change
  • Future-focused
  • Low on Power/Status/Hierarchy (Low Power Distance)
  • Weak Uncertainty Avoidance
  • Open to new ideas and information
  • Willingness to travel frequently
  • Positive attitude towards science
  • Emphasis on higher education and creating a highly-educated society
  • Early adopters

How You Can Apply These Findings to Your Workplace

Now, you can consider how your business might rank in terms of these cultural tendencies.

For example, when it comes to scoring your company’s power distance, which statement do you agree with the most?

  • Power and information-sharing stem from the top of the organization. Only high-level employees have the ability to initiate change and innovation (high power distance).
  • Everyone on the team is heard equally and ideas are frequently exchanged and discussed fairly (low power distance).

If you want to build an innovative environment, you need to shift towards the cooperative, transparent nature shown by low power-distance cultures. In this type of organization,  everyone on the team knows what’s going on and can freely add their input without fear.

What about uncertainty avoidance?

Innovative cultures are willing to deviate from strict rules and guidelines whenever necessary. So, your approach should also be one that easily adapts to new situations and changing times. By setting up this kind of environment, you’ll foster innovative ideas, and you’ll create a motivated workforce at the same time. 

Now that you understand how culture can impact innovation efforts, check out this guide to learn more about the most common mistakes companies make when it comes to organizational innovation.

How To Optimize Your Innovation Strategy by Making Your Idea a Sweet Idea

Published on: January 25, 2018 в 1:11 pm

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Categories: Creativity,innovation,innovation strategy

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What’s the perfect New Year’s Resolution?

 

Hint: think re: innovation strategy

Well, if that wasn’t sufficient, here are two additional hints…

(1) It’s not only challenging but actually promises a significant change in your life;

(2) It’s not pie in the sky, but applicable to your daily life.

 

Let’s take a more practical approach…

If your goal is to get in shape, watching TV while standing is maybe not the most effective initiative. However, regular mountain climbing is probably a bit of a stretch if you are a fairly immobile city dweller.

This is the Near-Far-Sweet Idea Mapping Model as applied to your daily life.

Near – ideas that are pretty close to current practice. They are new, but probably not impactful enough to be worth your attention.

Far –  exciting ideas, but not viable. Either the market is not ready to accept them, or you will not be able to implement them.

When optimizing your innovation strategy you want your ideas to be neither too close to home (“Near”) nor too challenging to be implementable (“Far”). You want your ideas to be new and exciting but at the same time realistic and useful. This is your Innovation Sweet Spot.

 

Learn How To Enhance Your Innovation Strategy By Making Your Ideas Sweet:

This all sounds pretty obvious and common sense. Surprisingly, the distinction is often overlooked, or at least not given systematic treatment. Categorizing the results of an ideation session or workshop into Near, Far and Sweet – as seen in the visual on the right – will give you an important indication as to the practicality of your ideas. It can also be a useful tool to improve the outcomes of your innovation strategies, by pushing some Nears and Fars into the Sweet Spot.

But before we share a quick guide to applying NFS to NPD, here are some thoughts of how it can serve as a practical tool to support the “Dual Innovation Approach” as defined by Ralph-Christian Ohr. Ohr cites research that shows that the Dual Innovation Approach is used by 70% of the most innovative companies:

innovation strategy
[With Dual Innovation] innovation management follows a balanced portfolio approach. The entire innovation portfolio is divided into exploitation-oriented and exploration-oriented innovation initiatives, where the following characterizations hold:

 

  • Exploitation-oriented initiatives are related to running the core business by executing and enhancing existing business models or technological capabilities. The primary direction of impact is valued capturing (commercialization). Examples: Product, service or process innovation, portfolio extension, innovation of selected business model components (e.g. channel or operations), market research.
  • Exploration-oriented initiatives are related to developing future business by searching for the novel, and often disruptive, business models or technological capabilities. The primary direction of impact is value creation (configuration). Examples: Business model development, platform/ecosystem innovation, basic technology research & development, startup engagement, innovation intelligence.

(https://dual-innovation.net/a-model-for-dual-corporate-innovation-management/) Ralph-Christian Ohr

 

Ralph-Christian further introduces three playing fields of dual innovation:

  • Optimize the Core (Optimization of existing business models and technologies)
  • Reshape the Core (Transformation of existing business models and/or scaling up new business models/technologies)
  • Create the New (Creation of new-to-the-company business models and Technologies)

(http://integrative-innovation.net/?p=1765) Ralph-Christian Ohr

 

Integrating Ideas

He then elaborates on the true challenge of dual innovation: neither developing extensions of the product/service portfolio within the existing business model, nor coming up with completely new ideas, but integrating new ideas into your existing innovation strategy:

When it comes to integration, most companies face huge problems. This is the space where two main activities need to be conducted to achieve business impact from innovation and to future-proof the existing business model:

  • Validated breakthrough or even disruptive innovation concepts need to be scaled up for achieving business impact. If a company does not master Scaling-Up there is a high chance that all ideation will remain only innovation theatre.
  • In the light of Digital Transformation, adapting the established core business models by innovating selected elements (e.g. platform strategies, x-as-a-service business models, bypassing the middle man or automatization of service processes) is mandatory. If a company does not master adaptation it risks to lose in Digital Transformation.

(http://integrative-innovation.net/?p=1765) Ralph-Christian Ohr

Ohr presents a challenge: strategic ideas ought to be transformed to have maximum impact – to be innovative enough but not too disruptive. Through the NFS model, the SIT (Systematic Inventive Thinking) methodology invites you to apply two principles that, together, cover both directions:

1. Qualitative Change. Very often, “near” ideas are generated by incrementally improving on existing offerings, making them “bigger, faster, better”, i.e a quantitative change. The QC principle calls you to observe the basic logic of your product or service but change a fundamental relationship in this logical structure. Example: don’t offer your product at a discount, but offer it for free, generating revenue by a totally different business model. This is easier said than done, of course, but using the right tools, it allows you to push Near ideas into the Sweet Spot.

2. Closed World. The second basic principle of SIT is rather counterintuitive: when innovating, try as much as possible to utilize only those elements that already exist in the system.

innovation strategy

Instead of reaching out of the box, innovate inside the box. Instead of searching for new elements, find new angles and possibilities in the existing ones. By applying several tools under this principle, you will be able to pull in some Far ideas, turning wishful thinking into viable options and improve your innovation strategy

So, here’s a NY’s resolution that hopefully resides within your Sweet Spot: Map your new ideas on an NFS diagram, consider whether enough of them are in the Sweet Spot, and then push and pull those that are not to create exciting but viable options for development of your innovation strategy. Enjoy.

Want to keep learning? Check out what you can learn from an innovation facilitation session.

13 Innovation Mistakes You Can’t Afford to Make

Published on: January 17, 2018 в 2:17 pm

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Categories: innovation,Organizational Innovation

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Do you want to create an innovation-focused culture in your organization? Are you struggling to make organizational innovation a reality?

Are you tired of wondering why your team’s ideas don’t always seem to pan out as originally planned? Or do your team’s problems actually stem from the idea-generating phase?

There could be countless issues standing in the way of organizational innovation. But the truth is most of these problems are well within your control to fix.

That is, only if you know where to look and how to solve them.

Fortunately, that’s exactly what today’s guide will help you do. We’ll be going over some of the most common mistakes companies make when it comes to organizational innovation and indicate how you can go about correcting them.

Don’t Let These Mistakes Get in the Way of Your Organizational Innovation

To start, you’ll need to take a closer look at your basic approach to innovation.

You do have one, right?

If you’re shrugging your shoulders, let’s start by discussing this all-too-common mistake first.

#1: You have no proper plan in place to support a culture of innovation

You want to create an environment that allows ideas to flourish naturally. That’s great, but so does everyone else.

So, what is your plan?

Without a proper plan in place, you can’t build an innovation-centric culture. It just doesn’t appear overnight or as soon as you say you are innovation-focused.

Instead, you must first create a plan and then brand it. Let’s see why this matters.

#2: You haven’t branded your innovation process

Though your first step may be building your plan, you also need to brand the entire process using a catchy name and a logo to make this abstract process tangible to your team.

It may sound gimmicky at first, but it’s proven time and again to be one of the major contributing factors helping teams successfully innovate.

The concept behind the idea is simple: By branding this process, you’re sending the message to your employees that you’re serious about innovation, and you’re committed to it.

You’re also reinforcing the idea that innovation is now a part of your culture, not just an afterthought. But caution! Correct this and Mistake #3 may be rearing its ugly head.

organizational innovation

Examples

#3: You have created “Empty Branding”

Companies that heed the call to brand their processes often fall into the trap of spending large amounts of time and money on creating the hype without backing this buzz with corresponding actions. Employees then start to wonder about the gap between declaration and practice, which often leads them to regard innovation with skepticism and conclude that top management is committed only to PR.

So, as you devise your branding and internal communications plan, two things must also happen simultaneously:

  1. Someone from your team needs to take ownership of the entire process
  2. Someone else should be consistently managing the team.

We’ll touch on both points next.

#4: No one has taken ownership of the process

It’s essential that someone take ownership of your innovation process.

Now, this does not mean they’re the only one working on the project. In fact, it’s just the opposite.

All hands are on deck. But the person in charge ensures that a system is in place. It’s branded and weaved into your culture, and it’s properly managed.

If you’re working with a small team, this person could also be the one managing the team as well.

Keep in mind, these are still two distinct roles and should be treated as such. Otherwise, you’ll be making another costly mistake.

The ownership role ensures that the planning is done, and the foundation is properly laid and in place.

The person in the management position ensures that your systems are working and running smoothly. And if they’re not, they’ll be the ones to make any necessary adjustments (more on this next).

#5: No one is managing innovation

Just because you create a system doesn’t mean it’s going to run on its own.

That’s why an innovation manager is key and – depending on your organization’s size – her/his team.

This person helps foster and grow the seeds that have been planted in the initial approach.

To succeed, your innovation Manager(s) should use a “top-down/bottom-up” approach involving both senior management and staff in programs and activities.

Your Manager and/or team will need clear assignment of roles and responsibilities and the ability to monitor that the organizational innovation is actually happening according to plan.

But even with these measures in place, if you’re making this next mistake, these actions won’t matter as much as they should.

Organizational Innovation

#6: You’ve fostered an environment where people are scared to speak up for fear of criticism

In addition to ownership and management, your organization will also need people with facilitation capabilities.

These people help ensure that your employees feel comfortable speaking up — without fear of criticism or judgment.

During the group discussion, there will always be employees who speak up more often than others. But it’s essential that these team members don’t overrule the quiet ones.

If you’re creating an environment where people can’t speak up, they won’t. And some of your best ideas may never surface.

To alleviate this phenomenon, take breaks during discussions to moderate any employees who are taking over the conversation and encourage quiet team members to speak up without worrying about what anyone will think.

However, expressing yourself and generating ideas is still only half the battle. You must also use them, or you’ll be making this next error.

#7: You also lack proper systems to manage innovation in your organization

If you really want to see your team’s ideas take off, you need to figure out:

  • How you’re going to manage those ideas
  • How they will be put in place
  • How you’ll measure their viability
  • How you’ll gauge if something is working, needs to be scrapped, or just needs a slight tweak (more on this later)

Get these systems in place right away or your best ideas will slip through the cracks.

Speaking of ideas, the way your team ideates to come up with ideas could be another issue holding your innovation back.

#8: You’re still using traditional brainstorming-type methods

Are you still relying on the ol’ brainstorming technique where everyone sits around the conference table and tries to come up with ideas on-the-spot believing that “there’s no such thing as a bad idea”?

This is a huge mistake far too many organizations seem to be making. And their growth — or lack thereof — shows it.

We touched on this in detail in this article, so we won’t spend too much time here today.

In short, ideation sessions require structure and discipline if you want to break out of existing paradigms and biases.

To do this, you must focus on what you already know (“inside the box”), and then you must look at the problem from a different angle, which is also the next most common mistake on our list.

innovation mistakes

#9: You’re looking at the problem from the same angle every time

If you’re looking at a problem the same way every time, you’re always going to get the same results.

Take a step back and try to attack the problem head-on using what you know and the fact that your current angle is not working.

If you’ve tried to solve the problem from all sides, maybe you’ve been working on the wrong problem altogether.

#10: You haven’t mapped out the real problem first

If you’re stuck on the same issue and keep wondering why you’re not making any progress, you must ask yourself, “Are we sure this is really the problem?

Chances are, it might not be.

Start creating systems to solve the wrong problem, and you’ll be wasting everyone’s time.

So before you dive into different angles of approaching the same problem, you must first identify that you’re truly tackling the real issue at hand, not merely one posing as the problem.

Only when you correctly identify your true problem can you put your team’s skills to work on fixing it. There are tools that will help you do just that and surprise – finding the root cause is not necessarily the right way to go about it. Actually, it seldom is. Another common issue: you may not be giving your team the tools they need to succeed.

#11: You don’t give your team the tools they need to succeed

Even if you uncover your team’s strengths, if they don’t have what they need to get the job done, your innovation efforts will be wasted. Managers often erroneously assume that if they just put in the relevant incentives – carrots or sticks – their people will be driven to innovate. But no amount of motivation will help people who simply lack the skills and capabilities to innovate. And these can be acquired using the right methods.

And not only are the tools available, but employees can also become adept at using them, and can dramatically improve their organizational innovation capabilities with practice and dedication.

Besides giving your team everything they need to succeed, you also need to encourage communication and cooperation — especially if you have different departments working independently.

#12: Your organization is divided into silos

When business units do not communicate or collaborate, it is easy to lose sight of key insights, miss opportunities for synergies, and greatly decrease the probability of implementing meaningful projects.

Though this may occur in many ways within an organization, it is especially detrimental when it comes to organizational innovation. So, focus on fostering communication and teamwork.

Now, what happens when you create a plan, implement ideas from your team, and still don’t achieve the results you were hoping for?

Do you consider your team’s efforts a failure?

#13: If something doesn’t work, it doesn’t mean you’ve failed

Creating a culture of innovation cannot be achieved without a few failed attempts at implementing new ideas under your belt.

But it’s how you deal with these ideas that matters more than if the actual idea was a total flop.

So many organizations chalk the first (and only) loss as a sign that the idea failed and all others will similarly fail like, but this isn’t always the case.

You may only need a few small tweaks to your idea for it to be a huge hit and avoid innovation mistakes. Building on what didn’t work will only lead to stronger concepts.

If you’re not careful, you’re bound to toss out good ideas simply because the first run didn’t go quite as smoothly as planned and that will cost you.

Improve Your Innovation Efforts Today-Avoid Innovation Mistakes

Now that you understand some of the most common innovation mistakes when it comes to organizational innovation, you’re ready to solve them like a pro.

Start by assessing your foundation. Do you have an innovation plan in place? Is it branded? Do you have someone who oversees, manages, and moderates it?

If you don’t have answers to those questions, this is your first place to start. Readers who have all of those things in order are ready to refine their system.

Upgrade your brainstorming sessions and implementation processes. Do you have systems created to generate new ideas and implement those that do come in? In this article, we provide valuable systematic tips for implementing an effective brainstorming process.

When you identify the real problem and tackle it from a new angle using your team’s skills, you’ll have a clear game plan and know exactly which tools your employees need to get the job done.

Useful Lessons to Learn from an Innovation Facilitation Session

Published on: November 1, 2017 в 9:58 am

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Categories: innovation,innovation facilitation

Several years ago…

I facilitated a New Product Development workshop (innovation facilitation session) at a large corporation in the American Midwest.  At our insistence, a Sales Manager was added to the team.  Why did his presence require an effort? Pulling a sales rep from his/her daily toil is not an easy task, but we insisted their presence is crucial in a product development effort.

As expected, this extremely energetic, intelligent and experienced Sales Manager, who we shall call Dale, was the soul of the innovation facilitation session. He readily shared his understanding of the company’s clients, their needs, wants, fears and motivations. He also possessed – pardon the stereotype – the classic sales-champion talent for engaging his colleagues in entertaining conversation, and generally spreading around an excellent vibe, telling jokes and recounting sales-battle stories where relevant.

So, it isn’t surprising that we started a bit of back-and-forth good spirited banter. At some point, Dale came up with an idea. And when another colleague pointed out an obvious flaw, Dale immediately pivoted, without losing a second, and came up with an improved version. “That reminds me of a joke,” I said to Dale and the team, and proceeded to tell it:

A Joke or a Misunderstanding?

 

One guy, call him Dale, in my home town of Tel Aviv, applies for a job in a supermarket. After a short conversation, the manager says to Dale: “There’s a customer, let’s see how you assist him.”  Dale walks over and the customer hands him a watermelon that he had just picked up from the shelf and asks to buy only half of it. Dale takes the watermelon, walks over to the manager, and says: “Some idiot asked for half of this watermelon.” The manager, in distress, tries to signal to Dale that the customer had walked behind him and heard Dale’s words. Dale immediately understands, and completes the sentence: “…and this gentleman here, would like the other half.”

 

watermelon innovation facilitation

Laughter, laughter, but the joke doesn’t end here…

 

The manager is really impressed with Dale’s agility and ability and says: “Listen, Dale, that was impressive. How would you like the job of manager of our store in Jaffa?” “Jaffa?” Dale says. “They say everyone there is either a prostitute or a soccer player.” The manager is a bit taken aback and says “Actually, my sister is from Jaffa.” “Which team does she play on?” answers Dale without a second’s hesitation.

Big laughter in the room, but I detect some ambivalence and unease. Was it my mention of the word “prostitutes” (not sure I would dare repeat it nowadays in a corporate setting)? No. Something else, which I discovered only at the end of the day when the two project owners invite me to dinner. One detail I failed to mention: Dale (the real one, not the joke character) was African-American. And to my utter surprise, that evening I learned that “watermelon” has a special connotation in this context. From Wikipedia: “Watermelons have been viewed as a major symbol in the iconography of racism in the United States since as early as the nineteenth century.”

First thing I did the next morning was, of course, have a conversation with Dale. He had noticed obviously in the innovation facilitation session, but he assured me he had no doubt whatsoever that I had been ignorant of the context and connotations, so he was not offended in any way. He did feel uncomfortable though with his colleagues’ looks and concern. He knew it was nonsense. They knew it was nonsense.

So why the unease? A hard loop to get out of, but, as often happens in the corporate context, we had a task to accomplish which didn’t leave time for brooding. We went back into the room, and I shared with the group that my blunder had been pointed out to me.  I was using my privilege as an ignorant outsider to point out the absurdity of it all. The ice was then broken, and we jumped back into the work.

Now that you’ve read about a pitfall that can happen in an innovation facilitation session, check out how you can overcome your innovation challenges.

Innovative Concepts: Managing “Air-Time to Contribution”

Published on: October 16, 2017 в 11:59 am

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Categories: innovation

My mother liked to strike up conversations with strangers of all stripes, and it was one of my favorite childhood pastimes to listen in. But sometimes, when they babbled away uncontrollably, she would turn to my sister and me and mumble: “mental constipation, verbal diarrhea”.

Innovative Concepts in dealing with Air-time

My professional life provides, alas, many occasions in which I am reminded of this indelicate quip.  With a softer approach in mind, I developed a practical tool for managing the contributions of participants in a workshop that I would like to share with you.

Mentally visualize the participants, each placed in one of four quadrants, defined by two axes:

  • Quantity – the amount of air-time they tend to occupy (how often and how much they speak)
  • Quality – your assessment of their potential contribution to achieving the goals of the session.

innovative concepts

Innovative Concepts to keep in mind

A’s – Balance OK, no harm to the dynamics, unless there are too many A’s in the room, which means that something is terribly wrong. But even if there are relatively few A’s, it is worth exploring: Maybe an A shouldn’t have been there in the first place? If so, is it too late to release them from this unnecessary commitment? Maybe they can be highly valuable elsewhere? But maybe all they need is to better understand their role in your workshop and what they could potentially contribute. I remember a Plant Manager in Mexico who was sure that the Marketing Manager and her team should be allowed to lead an enthusiastic discussion about new products without any spoil-sport manufacturing comments from him, until I explained that his professional considerations (provided that they were phrased constructively) were crucial guidelines within which the marketing team, and others, could let their imagination fly. Participants in each quadrant require different treatments.

B’s – Need controlling, because they are misusing the team’s most valuable asset – time. There are many ways, some more subtle than others, to control a rampant B, and your task is as delicate as it is crucial to the success of the engagement. First, there is high potential for hurt feelings, and second, the possibility always exists that there is, in fact, more value in B’s contribution than initially meets the “ear”.

C’s – Can be easily mistaken for A’s and left alone. Thus, their potential contribution is lost, with unfortunate consequences both for them and the team. An important task for you as facilitator is to find a moment – probably during a break – to conduct your differential diagnosis: is the introverted engineer from R&D an A who shouldn’t have been invited in the first place, or is he an invaluable trove of coaxable, priceless information?

D’s  Are a facilitator’s best friends. They contribute. They sustain the energy. They give you the (positive) feedback you need. They will extract you from those uneasy moments of general silence. They are truly your allies. But beware of the trap of allowing them to lead the discussion uni-directionally, squelching other voices that may open the more innovative avenues you would like to explore.

In summary, all participants are your friends and allies, but a balanced management of “air-time to contribution” requires differential treatment for each and every one of them.

Found these innovative concepts useful? Now its time to learn how to break your fixedness and become a green innovator!

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”.

Innovative Technology: Top 5 Unique Fashion Tech Wearables

Wearable innovative technology is already a big part of many people’s lives. We see those running enthusiasts passing by and constantly checking their Fitbits, or tech geeks who can’t stop showcasing the iWatch on their wrists. Yes, Dave, I’m talking about you…

However, if this previously was the main topic of conversation for sports people, now things are changing. As time goes by, fashion lovers want to be a part of this digital revolution as well. Some brands have already started to listen to their needs. After all, they are the ones who want to ride the latest trends.

 

innovative technology - fashion and tech wearables

CCS Insights

It was predicted by CCS Insight that the volume of device sales will jump by 92% in 2021. Given this huge market uproar, let’s dig in to learn more about the most interesting pieces.

So, if you are one of the enthusiasts, look at these top 5 innovative technology fashion and tech wearables that will make you feel like you’ve stepped out of Vogue Magazine’s app:

Check out our first innovative technology- 21st Century Locket

Do you remember having a locket with pictures of your loved ones inside of it? You had that special feeling of having them close to your heart. Only you could see the faces of your favorite people: best friends, family, partners… But that time is far behind us and now you can become less picky and showcase them all.

The Artefact Group developed “Purple,” a 21st century style locket, and soon after won a FastCo Innovation by Design Award in 2015. According to them, the locket connects to main sources like Facebook, Instagram and SMS, but most importantly limits your exposure to only a few people you pre-select.  It comes with an app where you can control it all.

innovative technology - locket

The Artefact Group

Art Sneakers

Tired of typical wearables? Don’t have enough space in your wardrobe for all your kicks? That’s why Shift Sneakers came up with this innovative idea of being able to control the design of your shoes with an app. From animated to static images, showcase the artistic side of you and never get bored with your shoes. The waterproof HD panels on each side will make sure you can shine even in the rain or snow.

innovative technology - LED sneakers

 Shift Sneakers

Suit up

Do you like your garments to be techy? But don’t want to compromise on the appearance? If so, then the result of the collaboration between Levi Strauss & Co and Google’s Advanced Technology and Products (ATAP) group will satisfy your cravings for functionality. Use this trendy jacket while on the go or when riding a bike – manage directions, listen to music or even answer/decline calls from your annoying boss.

  Levi’s x Jacquard by Google jacket

Innovative Technology- Touch my bag!

For some of us, the sense of touch is very important, and we use it to learn more about this world. If you add visual aspects to it, then you have us as your customers. “The Unseen” collection of bags and other cool “touchable” accessories is what you might need. These items respond to external influences like air pressure, body temperature, sunlight and wind and change color accordingly.

innovative technology- bag wearables

The Unseen

Smart + Stylish Innovative Technology

As it goes, the winter is coming very soon. Don’t want to compromise on style to be warm? Emel & Aris’s coats comes with a hidden heating technology inside. This innovative technology is for the customers who like to look good no matter what weather throws at them.

 

SIT’s Approach to Innovative Technology

Did you spot our SIT tools in these inventions? Take the locket, for example. Applying SIT’s Task Unification tool, the accessory was given a new task of communicating a message. Or our Attribute Dependency, which we apply when generating a new dependency between two attributes of a product or its environment. In “The Unseen” collection, for example, a leather surface of a bag reacts to external factors, such as temperature, touch and air.

Dress to impress

Every year, new fashion and tech inventions come alive, even more unique than before. But more importantly, companies started to acknowledge the sophisticated sense of taste of their customers. Thus, producing beautiful accessories that have useful innovative  technologies involved. In order to stay innovative, companies need new idea that might come from alternating product itself and its attributes.

Found another fashion tech invention you liked? Tell us about it.

3 Useful Lessons from Innovation Facilitation Sessions that Went Wrong

Published on: September 27, 2017 в 10:38 am

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Categories: innovation,innovation facilitation

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We’ve all been at meetings, or in an innovation facilitation, in which we couldn’t wait for someone to stop talking. Some may say that in an innovation facilitation session any contribution to the discussion is helpful. But what happens if you are the one facilitating the meeting?

 

3 lessons I learned the hard way, during an innovation facilitation

As an innovation facilitator for more than 20 years, I put forth considerable effort to give each participant the chance to express herself/himself throughout the discussion. Sometimes, though, there is a pressing need to achieve quick results, and hearing out the ramblings of someone who is thinking out loud or the lengthy suggestion of a participant whose opinion doesn’t really count much in the organization, doesn’t seem to be the best use of the team’s time.

Still, from an ethical point of view, each voice is valuable, and practically speaking, it is often the reticent engineer from R&D or the shy lawyer from Legal who throw in the comment that swings the entire discussion towards a new and fruitful direction.

Given the compelling arguments – both moral and practical – I tend to monitor discussions attentively to ensure everybody gets a fair chance to contribute, regardless of their ability to wrestle for air time. Imagine my surprise then, when I learned that within a single month, I managed to offend two participants, in two separate workshops, who both felt I had deliberately avoided allowing them the opportunity to contribute to the innovation facilitation discussion.

In the first case, the participant actually got up and left the room. Although a somewhat dramatic and unpleasant moment ensued, it thankfully indicated that I had a serious problem, which I was able to deal with in the next break.

In the other case, I only learned about my mistake in the evening, from the process owners to whom my victim had complained. Luckily, we had an additional workshop session the next day, which allowed me to have a clearing-the-air conversation the next morning, before the workshop started. This, however, raised a nagging thought: I wondered how many other offended participants I had left behind throughout my 22 years of facilitation, without even noticing or discovering it, even after the fact.

 

My immediate learnings from these two traumatic experiences:

 

As an innovation facilitator, you have a commitment to the process owners: achieve results! But you also have a contract with the participants: honoring the time and brain power they have put in your hands. They must all be given a chance to express themselves.

  1. Don’t assume that verbose participants  in an innovation facilitation are necessarily content with their allotted time. They might not understand your “global” fair-time-allocation considerations. He may have talked more than his share already, but he has a great idea now that he wants to communicate, and therefore no patience to hear what lesser minds wish to offer.

2. Use break times and facilitation cues to manage both reticent and vocal participants.

Read about the innovation facilitation session in which I offended my best participant on racist grounds (or not?), and some tips on how to manage the balance between participants’ motivation to speak and their potential contribution to the discussion.

5 Surprising Reasons Why Innovation Experts Don’t Always Rely Solely on Their Innate Creativity

Published on: August 21, 2017 в 10:59 am

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Why would a world-renowned serial inventor fall in love with a method for inventing?

Recently, we had the pleasure of awarding, for the seventh consecutive year, a scholarship in memory of our client, mentor, and good friend, Dr. Micha Shemer, who passed away in May 2007. Micha was a brilliant inventor, innovation expert, globally renowned with numerous patents to his name. Based on his PhD, he invented an entire industry of soy-based meat substitutes, resulting in a company – Tivall, and quite a few imitators and followers.

The company went on to be acquired by Israel’s Osem, and later became part of Nestlé, where Micha’s innovation skills were put to much use. Our friendship and long-term relationship was important for us on many levels, but it also begs a fascinating professional question: who benefits more from learning a method for innovation, a novice or an expert? This question has been discussed in SIT for many years, with strong arguments on both sides, and is relevant, of course, to any method or technique that purports to assist people in becoming more innovative.

The case for teaching novices is quite obvious. Lack of skills and experience in innovation is no different than their absence in any other endeavor. The more interesting question is: why would someone who is inventing like crazy anyway, such as Micha, spend time and effort in studying and practicing – as Micha fanatically did – a method designed to teach him the very skill in which he so excelled?

I want to propose five possible reasons:

1. Re-inventing your own wheel

The Tiger Woods syndrome, or more recently Roger Federer syndrome, is the phenomenon of a master in his or her field practically dominating it, and yet taking the decision to completely change their style, re-invent the way they go about playing. At the risk of simplification and generalization, we can say that this step can be motivated either by a sense of imminent decline (as in the latter case) or by what we can just assume to be an unstoppable urge to excel without limits (the former). The mark of true innovation experts is the constant search for more and better.

2. Tools for Others- Innovation Experts

Even masters of their craft tend to prefer certain tools to others. Years ago, we analyzed the award-winning work of a leading ad agency in a European country and discovered that – in SIT terms – they tended to repeatedly use three “Thinking Tools”. It wasn’t easy to convince them that they could benefit from innovation training, but once trained, they greatly expanded their toolbox, resulting in a dramatic increase in the number of awards, including a Cannes Golden Lion.

3. Spreading the Word

It is not uncommon for inventors or innovation experts to find it hard to communicate their ideas, harness others to collaborate with them, and convince stakeholders to lend their support. As their thought processes are often different, and sometimes much quicker, from others’, they can be difficult to follow and understand. Organizing their thinking methodically can be very effective in overcoming the communication challenge, provided, of course, that this regimentation does not stifle their inventiveness.

4. Teaching Curve

Micha loved to teach. He was a great teacher, but the method allowed him to take his teaching a step further. It gave him the tools to explain his own inventions and ideas in a structured format, allowing his students to readily translate their learning into immediate, practical results.

5. Innovate In What You Eat

The fact that you are an inventor and innovator, does not mean that you haven’t been eating the same steak and potatoes for the past 30 years. Learning an innovation method allows you to expand your innovative capabilities to areas that were previously out of your innovation bounds. Micha, for example, did not limit his use of the tools to his regular work as a food technologist and inventor.

He also radically applied the Subtraction technique, by banishing PowerPoint presentations from his courses and lectures. The effect on audiences was impressive, but no less moving was Micha’s recurring enthusiasm at the opportunity to replace, time and again, the missing presentation with yet another new exercise, video or additional inventive idea.

Cracking Innovator’s Innovation

The argument has been practically settled years ago, and you can probably guess how. Time and again, we see that newcomers to the world of innovation gain huge value from learning a method. However, the most impressive leaps are achieved, contrary to what many would think, by seasoned innovation experts who are still open to refresh their thinking and enrich their toolbox by learning and adopting an innovation methodology.

Now that you understand the importance of innovation methods, check out how to break your mental fixedness and become a green innovation expert.

Innovation Challenges & How They Can Be Overcome

Published on: August 14, 2017 в 10:00 pm

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Dr. Gadi Segal, a business partner and a good friend, told me once that “the more therapeutic options you have for a disease, the more likely it is that none of them are really effective.” When I make the analogy to the realm of innovation, I hesitate to conclude that none of the innovation methodologies available are really effective… Let’s just agree that the abundance of approaches and techniques is indicative of the magnitude of the innovation challenges.

Learn about the several types of innovation challenges and how to overcome them

 

Types of Innovation Challenges 

Some of these innovation challenges have to do with the process of ideation itself, while others with implementation, some are more relevant on an individual level, and others more on the organizational level. For this discussion, we can define one set of barriers that stop us from coming up with the right ideas (ideation / individual) and another set of challenges involved in the attempt to implement these ideas (implementation / organizational).

 

Fear of Making Mistakes

Think for a minute about the last time you participated in an innovation session. Think about yourself and about your colleagues. What were the barriers you were facing within that session? Did they have to do with fear of criticism? Perhaps they dealt with the insecurity that comes from not knowing how good your ideas are, or how well they will be received. Were these barriers connected to the fact that some of your ideas might have been a little too innovative? Or was it simply a reluctance to take an active a part in such a public discussion?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you were facing some of the most common psychological barriers to innovation. While some of these barriers are relevant in many types of discussions, others are more innovation-specific. Many of these barriers have to do with our common fear of making mistakes – a fear developed and cultivated by mistake-phobic education systems and organizational cultures.

 

Cognitive Barriers

There are several innovation methodologies that focus on dealing with these fears and barriers. The most familiar of which is Brainstorming. These methodologies employ various rules and principles designed to mitigate these fears.

You will notice that these barriers are relevant to voicing or sharing innovative ideas that we as individuals have already come up with. These barriers are serious, no doubt, but they have little to do with the actual act of coming up with an innovative idea. The barriers relevant to that elusive phase are quite different. They have less to do with our psychology and more to do with our cognitive capacity.

 

Structural Fixedness

Let’s take the story of the refrigerator as an example. When this product was introduced to the market (early 20th century), it replaced the previously used ice-box. This simple device used blocks of ice that were put in a designated compartment at the top (the actual “ice-box” that gave it its name) of its structure. The products kept in the ice-box were organized so that the ones requiring colder temperatures were placed higher (closer to the ice), and the ones requiring more moderate temperatures were placed lower (farther from the ice). Does this design sound familiar?

For years, we have been bending down to take out our veggies from the bottom drawer of our modern refrigerator, while the freezer door (which most of us use much less) is located much more conveniently at the top of the appliance. When you think about it now it seems strange and irrational.

Why didn’t the refrigerator industry offer us a refrigerator with the freezer at the bottom and the main compartment above it? And why didn’t we, as consumers, ask for such a design? The answer has to do with a cognitive phenomenon called “Structural Fixedness.” Engineers and customers alike have created a strong link between the product and its structure. We have become structurally fixated. That fixedness has survived not only the transition from the ice-box to the refrigerator but also decades of advance in refrigeration technologies that have followed.

 

Hidden Pitfalls

When we suffer from Structural Fixedness, we do not choose or intend to overlook potential changes in structure. We fail to consider these possibilities and, at the same time, fail to recognize our own failure. That is exactly the problem with structural fixedness and other cognitive barriers to innovation. These sneaky enemies are like stealth bombers – they stop us from coming up with innovative ideas, and we do not even know they are there.

Although we have only discussed innovation challenges briefly, one thing is already clear: If we are to use effective innovation methodologies, they must deal with more than one type of barrier.

Now that you know some of the key innovation challenges one can face, continue to gather insight and read about how to embrace failure.

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