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

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

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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

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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

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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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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.

The Paradigm Shift in Education – SIT China’s Perspective

Published on: July 14, 2019 в 11:28 am

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Since entering the Chinese market in 2014, SIT China has conducted more than 50 Innovative Thinking training sessions in the education world. Many of the sessions were sparked by a paradigm shift occurring in the educational sphere; the deep-rooted belief that educators should solely provide content knowledge to students is being reevaluated and replaced by the idea that educators should additionally empower students with life and learning skills. Moreover, the integration of new technologies and access to unlimited information is disrupting the traditional role and purpose of schooling.

I find it important to discuss the general concepts that have repeated in most activities, as I find them applicable to the global educational landscape.

In general, our activities have helped participants—whether it’s staff, principals, teachers or teachers’ teachers—understand that now is the best time to update, challenge, change and improve their schools’ current practices and objectives. The critical role that an innovative thinking mindset plays was stressed as was the importance of identifying and breaking the cognitive barriers that prevent the discovery of new opportunities. Once this general framework was established, participants were taught relevant SIT tools and principles to apply to their roles with the objective of developing new ideas or solutions that can provide value to students, teachers, schools and society.

Our training sessions focus on the 13 topics that are most relevant to today’s education landscape

  1. Developing students’/ teachers’ innovative thinking skills
  2. Enhancing class formats to create a more engaging and interactive environment
  3. Altering teaching formats
  4. Redesigning tests
  5. Creating new ways to evaluate students
  6. Finding ways to develop life-long learners
  7. Enhancing students’ curiosity and reading habits
  8. Introducing more opportunities for students to collaborate/express themselves
  9. Changing homework tasks and dealing with the No Homework for Primary Schools’ guideline
  10. Integrating moral education
  11. Building a collaborative environment among teachers and administration (less authoritative and more consolatory)
  12. Modifying and refining administrative tasks
  13. Improving communication with parents

A Few Examples of Our Work

Principals’ Training Program

We recently held a training program for 40 primary school principals, during which we focused on the changing role of educators and the recent paradigm shift discussed above (i.e. students are no longer solely provided content knowledge, instead educators also develop students’ life and learning skills).

The benefits of Learn by Play were explored while participants engaged in a playful, interactive learning experience. As a part of the process, participants reflected on their experiences and wrote their reflections on a piece of paper. A quasi-snowball fight then ensued; participants transformed their pieces of paper into paper balls and threw them at one another. Afterwards, they teamed up to discuss their reflections and, by doing so, developed a deeper understanding of each other’s thought processes.

One of the most stimulating parts of the program was on the topic of how to enhance students’ curiosity to read.  Hebrew children’s books were divvied out to the Chinese participants, who then broke into teams in order to collectively use their creative skills to generate a story to correspond with the illustrations. This activity allowed them to sense the power of group work and encouraged them to be more attentive to each other’s ideas. By giving participants hands-on experience, it was easy for them to reflect on the positive impact such an activity could have on students’ learning and life skills, while also enhancing their curiosity to read a book. Following this activity, participants applied SIT tools to this topic, which brought about one of my favorite ideas of the training—a school guard could greet children in the morning

dressed up as a character from a book, encouraging students to search for the particular book around the school and, of course, read it. Once this idea was generated, it unleashed a wave of similar ideas about additional activities the school can hold to support a book “Scavenger Hunt”.

The training then segued into “How to Assess?”. If teaching and learning formats are changed, student assessment tools must likewise be changed.  For example, should only a student’s level of knowledge be measured, or should their progress also be measured? Can their group work be assessed; how well they support each other; their contribution to the group’s creative energy? These questions opened the eyes of participants and triggered more inquiries, which all challenged the current assessment landscape.

World Education Summit for Innovation & Entrepreneurship

SIT China participated in The World Education Summit for Innovation & Entrepreneurship (WESIE) in Shenzhen on the March 23rd, 2019.  It was a large event for 500-600 participants, mostly parents, educators and individuals from private educational institutions. WESIE is an initiative created by Einstein, a local Chinese education company whose aim is to integrate Israeli educational methods and practices in China.

During the event, Yaacov Hecht, the founder of Democratic schools in Israel, held an inspiring session highlighting the power of students taking responsibility and ownership over their learning process. Several Chinese innovators in the education world shared their efforts. One important initiative regards expanding education to rural China via online classes for students of all ages, offering a wider diversity of topics and access to experienced teachers.

SIT shared several examples of how to create meaningful learning experiences from students’ daily activities. For example, when going to the supermarket, one can practice writing the shopping list, reading the food labels, calculating the costs, planning the budget, comparing colors and shapes (for younger kids) and so much more. Taking advantage of these activities could contribute to children’s self-motivation to learn and explore outside of the classroom and take advantage of the learning opportunities all around them.

Two-Day Innovative Thinking Program

 

Since we believe teaching innovation skills is valuable in any educational context, we are currently devising a two-day innovative thinking program to be marketed to schools across China. Each program can be catered to a specific school’s needs in order to create a custom-designed program that complements their existing educational framework and provides support in the areas they seek improvement. All the trainings include the basic module of understanding Innovative Thinking and its relevance to their job function and world, and each school subsequently can select, from the list of 13 topics, additional topics they wish to cover.

Changing Innovation Landscape

The education landscape is ever changing. And though some might say it is impossible to predict the future, trends reveal that a teacher’s traditional role of only encouraging students to acquire a core standardized body of knowledge is no longer the standard. The role of the educator is expanding, and teachers, students, and schools must adjust to this new reality. The topics presented in this blog only graze the surface of topics in which one can innovate in the educational world. By developing new methods for those educating our youth, the millions of new students entering schools across the globe every year can take part in a meaningful learning journey, which capitalizes on current technology and gives them the necessary knowledge, support, and tools needed to navigate the deep waters of our changing world.

Common Innovation Myths & Blind Spots

Published on: April 21, 2019 в 2:03 pm

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Innovation is a nascent discipline and, as such, very few of its “truths” and tenets have had the opportunity to mature and to brave the test of time. Less diplomatically, one can say that much of what is said about innovation is not worth the flip-chart paper it is written on. Strangely enough, even though the topic is so new, some common views have already attained the status of myths, which makes it a bit difficult to unseat them and thus avoid some of the damage that these beliefs cause in organizations.

This third installment of our series from the Behind the Scenes of Corporate Innovation meetup, co-hosted with 3M, focuses on some of these corporate myths. Why? Because becoming aware of their existence and their effect is an important first step in ridding oneself of their effect.

The myths are divided into buckets, each placed under the relevant element from our 7 Elements Model.

Skills

Myth #1: Artists are creative. Engineers, accountants and bureaucrats are not.

Alternative: Look around you – most innovations you will see were invented and designed by engineers.

It is commonly assumed that some of us have the innovation gift while others simply don’t, rendering them incapable of innovating.

This is incorrect and, in addition to academic research, we have 23 years of experience in the field to prove it. The truth is that skills and processes that lead to innovation can be taught. Everyone can significantly improve their skills, regardless of their baseline.

 

Governance

Myth #2: Innovation cannot be measured

Alternative: ROI – Return on Innovation, absolutely must be measured, otherwise no serious innovation effort will be sustained in the organization.

To many, innovation is amorphous and mysterious and thus can be difficult to measure and monitor. There is even a fear that measurement itself can stifle innovation. This is true, but only if the wrong indicators are used at the wrong time. That’s why it’s important to clearly define what the organization means by innovation. Once there is a clear definition, it is possible and crucial to measure your ROI, although the way to do it is not always straightforward.

 

Outcomes

Myth #3: Innovation is mostly about creating products or services.

Alternative: Innovation can and should be applied to every aspect of your business.

We advocate an innovation mindset, not merely to create new products and services, but to “innovate in what you do”. If applied in a structured way, using appropriate tools, any task or process can be innovated on, to improve results and achieve goals.

 

Resources

Myth #4: Top Management’s only job is to launch the innovation program, and budget it.

Alternative: Without ongoing management commitment, the effort cannot be sustained

Top management very often makes a brave decision to launch an ambitious, company-wide innovation effort, and even budgets it generously. But, very quickly, responsibility is relegated to lower ranks in the corporate hierarchy, and management impatiently adopts the role of demanding quick and tangible results. Instead of supporting the effort for the long haul, management becomes impatient to either celebrate prematurely or move on to the next “management-flavor-of-the-month”.

 

Processes

Myth #5: Brainstorming is the best way to come up with new ideas.

Alternative: It has been proven time and again that BS is not effective in generating truly novel ideas.

Brainstorming has many advantages but, as research and corporate experiences have shown time and again, creating novelty is not one of them. By placing constraints on your thinking and using a structured approach, you can consistently achieve success.

 

Behaviors

Myth #6: Innovation and creativity are always fun.

Alternative: Dabbling in innovation, as enrichment or mental exercises can be lots of fun, but true innovation, in the sense of challenging your deep assumptions and firmly set ways of working, mostly involves hard work and requires discipline. There is much in the process that one can enjoy, but true change of beliefs and habits cannot be all fun and games. That is why very often a facilitated team effort is required to achieve impactful innovation.

 

Communication

Myth #7: Those who oppose innovation programs are wrong. They are simply “resisting”.

Alternative: Very often, those who “resist innovation” have an important point to make.

Resistance to innovation often emerges from the “wrong” motivations: fear of change, turf wars, oversized egos, etc. But, this opposition doesn’t always need to be “overcome”, rather, it is often very useful to listen carefully since those who oppose change often do so for valid and solid reasons. Resistance can also be a sign of the strong potential for novelty, pointing at valuable dig-sites.

These are only several of the common myths and traps that organizations deal with and fall into when embarking on innovation journeys. Talk to us, and we’ll be happy to hear/read your thoughts, and also to acknowledge – when relevant – that we ourselves are as vulnerable as anyone else to being wrong(:

With this post, we finalize the “Behind the Scenes” MeetUp series but continue to share and learn.

 

What to expect?

  • A soon-to-come additional MeetUp in Minnesota. We are discussing potential topics with our colleagues and will update accordingly.
  • A new series based on our ‘learnings’ from our New York city meetup, co-hosted with Kaltura, on Digital Transformation & Innovation.

A Glimpse into SIT’s 7 Elements Model

Published on: March 31, 2019 в 11:32 am

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Part two of our series on the insights, content, and learnings gathered before & during our Behind the Scenes of Corporate Innovation meetup, co-hosted with our friends at 3M, focuses on SIT’s 7 Elements Model for Organizational Innovation. This model was briefly introduced at the MeetUp as a framework to address the main challenges voiced by our corporate colleagues.

We would like to take advantage of this platform to share some of the basics of this straightforward yet powerful model with you. In a nutshell, the model allows organizations to analyze their innovation activity or, as it is referred to in our model, take their Innovation Pulse, and plan a focused and customized innovation strategy based on their analysis.

The model was created as an output of 24 years of experience, working with over 1400 companies, identifying patterns and efficient processes that led to useful strategies. Over time, we formulated a set of tools that can transform an organization into an innovative organization that continuously innovates and maintains its competitive advantage.

Working with the 7 Elements Model brings three significant results:

1)     Assesses your current situation in respect to innovation (“the Innovation Pulse”)

2)     Defines your goals and objectives

3)     Draws an initial Road Map for achieving these objectives

How does it work?

 

The first step is to assess and chart, on a diagram, the organization’s current efforts according to 7 distinct—yet extremely interconnected—innovation elements (please refer to diagrams below for both a description of each of the elements and a sample assessment).

 

7 Elements Descriptions

 

 

 

Example of ‘Innovation Pulse diagram’

Desired State & Mapping the Gap

This output allows you to view a clear picture of current innovation activity in the organization and areas that require improvement, thus allowing you to build a second, complementary diagram, an ideal model of your desired state in terms of innovation (see picture below).

 

Defining Your Course of Action

The two diagrams can then be compared to identify the gaps and determine priorities. This allows you to determine a course of action to close the gaps to achieve the desired state. SIT can assist in this task, working in one or several of the following modalities:

a)     Training

b)     Facilitation

c)     Consulting

d)  Outsourcing

This process gradually engages all parts of the organization by creating networks involving continuous learning, challenging assumptions, and systematic monitoring of results.

The valuable task of transforming into an innovative organization is, without a doubt, a demanding journey, yet one that can be made to be simpler, clearer, and well managed using SIT’s experience as expressed in the 7 Elements Model.

4 Most Critical Innovation-Related Challenges

Published on: March 25, 2019 в 5:43 pm

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About two weeks ago, we shared a post about our Minneapolis Meetup, co-hosted with 3M: Behind the Scenes of Corporate Innovation.  Since we believe the content, insights, and learnings from this meetup are valuable, we will use the next three weeks to present some of this information to you:

  • Today we will share the 4 most critical innovation challenges, as expressed by our 40+ participants;
  • Next week, we will share with you our new 7 Elements Model with which you can analyze your organization’s innovation pulse and plan your innovation strategy;
  • In our third installment, you can read about some common myths and traps, and how to avoid falling victim to them while establishing a culture and practice of innovation.

Back to the meetup: prior to attending, participants were asked to list their three most critical innovation-related corporate challenges. In brief, there were 24 respondents, who identified 67 challenges, many of them later confirmed by the rest of the attendees.

SIT’s facilitation team analyzed these responses and detected four main buckets, which are arranged below according to frequency of appearance in participants’ responses. Quotes from the survey are also given to further demonstrate and highlight the relevance of these themes.

 

4 Critical Innovation-Related Challenges

 

1. How do we de-risk our innovation efforts

Companies are accelerating their front-end efforts; they are producing more ideas and launching more development projects. However, they feel that this only exacerbates the stress of having to decide where to allocate development resources, how to select those products or services with the highest probability of success, and how to manage their launches.

SIT’s take on this: The shift toward more agile-minded approaches, often through Lean Startup, should in principle alleviate this stress, since LSU dictates that instead of focusing on de-risking a specific “big” idea, one should test numerous MVPs and quickly pivot based on the results of “experiments”. But it

seems to us that although many companies have officially adopted an LSU process, they find it difficult to wean themselves off the habits of testing and seeking a high level of certitude for each specific innovation before launch.

“Lack of external leverage; too many options to choose from makes it even more difficult.”

 

2. How do we change our company’s culture/mindset?

 

The most common task these days goes way beyond launching a product, or even an entire product line. Key words are “culture”, “change” and “transformation”. The desire is to find ways to influence the entire organization, change strategies and business models.

SIT’s take: We’ve seen this process evolve in the past 24 years, from attention to a specific local result such as solving a problem or launching a single product, to the demand to generate an entire pipeline and roadmap, all the way to the current situation, in which CEOs and top management either realize the need or are pressured by their boards or stakeholders to lead transformational changes in their organizations. This can often lead to futile high-profile and costly changes-for-the-sake-of-changing, but, if well managed by a committed management team, can truly transform and invigorate a company.

“Focusing on long-term development, not the “right now”.

“Internal cultural shift necessary to transform our business model.”

 

3. How do we accelerate / acquire speed and agility?

 

Companies are not only pressured to change, but to change faster. This obviously places additional demands on managers, often accompanied by stress.

SIT’s take: a paradox ensues, whereby managers are expected to lead profound transformations, rather than superficial change, which requires time and patience; but, since the environment changes at an ever-accelerating pace– requiring rapid and immediate adaptations–there is less patience and resources for profound long-term change processes to take place.

“Innovation takes time to hatch. How do we innovate with the fast-paced environment?”

 

4. How do we listen and get closer to our customers?

 

After 30+ years of constant effort to get closer to the client, listen to the Voice of the Customer, observe, empathize, research and analyze, companies still feel that true understanding and insights tend to elude them, and therefore are searching for novel approaches.

SIT’s take: although true that innovation is useless unless it addresses a customer need, it is a mistake to believe that true innovation is born just from listening to VoC. We believe that being attuned to your customers is a necessary but not sufficient condition for innovation. Instead, we recommend a combination of: a) breaking the more-of-the-same-VoC mold by engaging with your customers proactively through co-creation exercises; b) using structured innovation methods to come up with initial ideas that are in turn validated with customers.

“Doing adequate research to uncover new problems.”

“Lack of customer interaction for directed innovation.”

To summarize, we found, not surprisingly, a high level of congruence between the most pressing innovation-related issues in a wide variety of organizations and positions. In the next two posts we will relate, respectively, SIT’s approach for dealing with these issues and some common traps and misconceptions when going about it.

From Nano to Mega Sessions: 9 Tips for an Innovation Coach

Published on: February 14, 2019 в 2:31 pm

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When SIT started teaching coaches to facilitate internally in their organizations, we taught them to facilitate SESSIONS. But very quickly we realized that this could be– and was –misunderstood, which led us to add the qualifier and coin the expression, still used today, 14 years later: MINI-SESSION. It soon became apparent, though, that even this newly minted term did not solve two opposing but strongly related problems:

 

1. Plenty of coaches did not dare to assume the responsibility of running a SESSION, even if it was only a MINI session.

And, on the other hand;

2. Quite a few coaches took it upon themselves to run what we could only describe as MAXI or MEGA-SESSIONS, involving up to 50-60 participants, for as much as 2 consecutive days.

Both phenomena have a certain charm, but both pose some serious challenges that merit careful consideration.

Type 1: Not daring to jump in.

We respect these coaches very much for their modesty and responsible approach but are obviously worried that they are not utilizing their new knowledge to its full extent. Conversations and observations show that, in most cases, coaches in this group find it difficult to take the first step for the following reasons:

  • They are not sure they possess the skills required to apply the tools successfully;
  • They are wary of encountering resistance among their colleagues;
  • Their bosses think the course was a waste of time, and therefore do not support them in spending more time on this “extracurricular” activity;
  • They are not sure how to translate real-life situations into a script for conducting a mini-session;
  • The Coach Training did not build up their confidence to a sufficient degree.

Type 2: Daring to find a cure for cancer and/or achieve world peace

We are obviously impressed with these coaches’ confidence and ambition. We are concerned, though, that the probability of success in these efforts is fairly low, since the coach obviously lacks sufficient skills, experience, and usually also time and resources to perform the task successfully.

Key reasons for this phenomenon are:

  • Great enthusiasm at the end of the course, combined with an exaggerated sense of one’s power;
  • Pressure from the coach’s boss, who figures if they already invested 3 or 5 days of their associate’s time, they might as well make up for it by getting a huge benefit from their newfound skills;
  • The coach training did not indicate clearly enough what the criteria are for selecting a topic, and how to delineate its scope properly.

Rising to this double challenge, here are some helpful tips and recommendations:

 

1. Remind yourself, your boss, and/or your topic owner that this is a MINI Session, not a maxi-nor mega-session. This means that you do not chew off more than you and the team can swallow (type 2). It also means that you (type 1) can be much more relaxed about taking on the responsibility of facilitating since you are not really facilitating a SESSION, just a MINI session.

2. Very often, we encourage coaches to change the name of the Mini Session and replace it with Micro Session, or even Nano Session. This helps in communicating the correct scope and align expectations.

3. Communication with the coach’s boss is crucial. This can and should be conducted by the SIT trainers, by Corporate Innovation, and by the coach him/herself. Bosses often fail in supporting their coaches by expressing either under- or overwhelming expectations from them. They usually drastically improve in this respect once the situation is pointed out to them.

4. Pay special attention to the exercise of converting a story into a session (read the document as well). Also, we recommend taking full advantage of remote support given to coaches to help them plan sessions.

5. Work both in “pull” and in “push” modes: coaches should be trained to identify opportunities for offering their coaching services and, in parallel, encourage line managers and other stakeholders to turn to coaches and ask for (reasonable) support.

6. Coaches, remember, your first 1-3 or 1-4 or to 5 (depending on your feelings) mini sessions should be

  • conducted with a small number of participants, carefully selected to be supportive and constructive in their participation style;
  • about a topic you can understand without too much preparation;
  • no longer than 3 hours, but also no shorter than 2, so you have time to execute your script properly.

7. Coaches’ supervisors or Innovation Managers: if you want your coach to tackle a relatively large or challenging task, it should definitely not be their first mini session. If you absolutely must challenge them in such a way, make sure you first invent 1-3 small opportunities for them to practice on in order to gain confidence. Don’t hesitate too much – give them whatever small task comes to mind that they can tackle relatively easily.

8. Coaches should work in pairs. A co-coach helps in preparation, offers support during the session, and helps extract learnings after it. The co-coach can and should then also provide hugs, encouragement and – if needed – consolation.

9. A crucial step in preparing a session is defining and sharpening the brief with the topic owner. Special emphasis should be given to the question of scope, so that:

  • It does not require knowledge beyond that of the session’s participants, whose number should not exceed (4-6-8 according to the Coach’s experience);
  • The topic can be explained in no more than 7 minutes, with a corresponding number of slides;
  • The owner can define what kind of results are required, and why they think it is reasonable to achieve them;
  • The session is not used to solve a problem that has been tackled repeatedly over the years without success.

In short…

A motivated coach, with a supportive boss and environment, usually develops his/her skills and capabilities swiftly and consistently. But the first steps are crucial. The key is to start out gradually and raise the bar to always be challenged slightly beyond one’s comfort zone. It is the best way to ensure the coach’s personal development and to create valuable results for their managers and colleagues.

3 SIT Case Studies to Inspire Your Company’s New Product Development

Published on: October 9, 2018 в 3:19 pm

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Companies are constantly trying to create something fresh and original, but where do they even start? A common go-to is good ole brainstorming, but as we have repeatedly stressed, this is not an effective way to ideate.  That’s when SIT steps in– making ideation more efficient and creative through proven, structured strategies and methods. By beginning with a thorough analysis of a company’s existing products or services and then jointly applying our methodology, SIT’s project outcomes are novel variations of existing products or services. Here are some new product development case studies that have resulted from SIT’s ideation efforts and exemplify SIT’s methodology in practice.

Not Just a Summer Drink

On a scorching summer day, nothing is more refreshing than a nice, cold cup of iced tea. But what about in the winter time? How can a company that sells such summer treats like Nestea also boost sales during the colder months and gain an edge on competing companies such as Lipton, the leader in the industry?

Nestea’s® usual approach of using market trends to develop new products was not generating enough revenue. Moreover, non-compete restrictions from a joint venture of their parent company, Coca-Cola/Nestle, put further pressure on Nestea® to steer clear of soft drinks and hot beverages. Thus, Nestea® aimed to develop a new product that was unique in their own domain. They called in SIT to help innovate under these constraints.

Applying SIT’s attribute dependency tool, which creates and dissolves dependencies between variables of a product, SIT was able to help Nestea reevaluate the relationship between changing seasons and beverages offered. Nestea’s® team challenged the expectation that iced tea is only for the summer and launched a line of iced tea for the winter. The team applied their existing strength in flavor innovation to ensure the development of a product that could accompany consumers’ winter drinking habits–a tea that can be consumed at room temperature or heated. Here, even though the product was not completely altered per say (after all, tea is still tea), the fixed idea of bottled tea only being served cold was shattered and replaced with a dynamic, interesting alternative that created a whole new “ready-to-drink tea” product line.

Achieve Naturally Soft & Radiant Skin

As any beauty consumer will tell you, diligent skincare is the key to radiant confidence and glowing skin. AHAVA Laboratories is a world leader in mineral-based

cosmetics—their unique formulas, made of elements found only in the Dead Sea, are the foundation of millions of skincare routines. In a two-year partnership with SIT, AHAVA sought to further their enterprise by developing several new products. Even though AHAVA had the power of the Dead Sea on their side, in a market saturated with hundreds of different creams and washes—all claiming one secret ingredient or another—AHAVA was looking to create something with a different “wow” factor.

Using SIT’s thinking tool task unification—a way to assign an additional task to an existing resource—AHAVA discovered a way to use the body’s own moisture to melt active ingredients in the product upon application to the skin.  Usually, this process is achieved using water during the manufacturing process, which requires many resources and carries a heavy cost. However, using SIT’s creative process led to the invention of the Gentle Body Exfoliator, which requires only the body’s natural moisture. Because the Gentle Body Exfoliator is untreated, it has the additional benefit of a rough texture, which removes dead skin cells. As the product interacts with the body’s own moisture, it dissolves into the skin, nourishing it with Dead Sea minerals. Naturally soft, smooth, and radiant skin has never been achieved like this before.

Which Scents Define Your Home?

We’re all familiar with Febreze’s air fresheners—one spray and you’ve eliminated that stinky odor from your home or car. But how do you excite your customers when they’ve grown accustomed to your product’s smell and instead want something new and different?

SIT was brought in to create new products for the Febreze brand. Specifically, SIT focused on an already existing product, the Febreze wall plug-in, a product that plugs into the wall, emits an aroma, and whose influence can be so vast that it defines your home’s scent.

By applying SIT’s multiplication tool, which adds an additional component of a product and then alters it in some way, a novel idea emerged; why not have a plug-in device with not one tank but two separate tanks to hold the liquid perfume? In each of these tanks, there would be a separate scent. The benefits of this product were many—the plug-in could switch between scents; it would be a novelty for users, and it could pulse out different smells at different time intervals. The outcome of SIT’s project was an entirely new product, the Febreze pluggable that had two alternating scents. This product led P&G to nearly double their market share in the air freshener category.

Turning Constraints into Advantages

 

Through the stories of Nestea, AHAVA, and Febreze, we see three examples of successful innovation that not only changed the game but revolutionized their industries. Instead of brainstorming or simply following the trends of others, each company applied SIT methodology to turn their constraints into advantages, innovating and creating something unique in the process.

Visit the case studies section of our website to learn about more ways that SIT has helped companies with new product development and various challenges.

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