Getting Unstuck: Innovating Inside the Box – an Interview with Amnon Levav

I help people rethink what they’re doing and do it differently than they were doing it before.

Are the only people who innovate naturally creative? Or is there a process and are there tools that everyone can use innovate? We’ll explore this question and others with the help of Amnon Levav, co-founder and Chief Innovation Officer of Systematic Inventive Thinking (S.I.T.), a Tel Aviv-based innovation firm that works with organizations all over the world. Amnon will explain why “constraints” actually benefit innovative thinking rather than limit it. With him we’ll explore S.I.T.’s counter-intuitive innovation process, “Function Follows Form,” and some of the tools we can use within that process to innovate. And perhaps most interesting of all, we learn why innovating against the product, service or process you already have yields better ideas than blue-sky brainstorming.

In the S.I.T. innovation process shown above, we start with an existing product, service or process and then manipulate it by using one or more tools to get a new form. We call this new form a “virtual situation” because it only exists in our mind, on paper, or on the whiteboard. You can then ask yourself “If I have this new form, what can I do with it?”

In the S.I.T. innovation process shown above, we start with an existing product, service or process and then manipulate it by using one or more tools to get a new form. We call this new form a “virtual situation” because it only exists in our mind, on paper, or on the whiteboard. You can then ask yourself “If I have this new form, what can I do with it?”

Listen for:

Part 1

• Why does Amnon argue for some discomfort and “pain” in the innovation process?

• What balance does an organization have to strike between having or not having a Chief Innovation Officer?

• How is the S.I.T. method of innovation different from other innovation methods?

• What does Amnon mean by the “sweet spot of innovation,” and why is it a worthwhile construct to follow?

• How does the process of “Function Follows Form” work? How does the concept of “constraints” fit into it?

• What is the advantage of innovating against something you already have, e.g., the bike for example?

Part 2

• What is the typical mistake developers make when trying to digitize something?

• How do four of the tools S.I.T uses to manipulate an existing product, service or process work – subtraction, multiplication, task unification, division? And what is always the first step in the manipulation process?

• Why does the S.I.T. process focus first on identifying the benefits of the virtual product before discussing the potential drawbacks?

• What is “fixedness,” and how does the S.I.T. innovation process help to break it?

Innovation that is incremental to start can build up into something disruptive.

After listening to the episode:

  1. Where at work or elsewhere in your life are you experiencing “fixedness”? And is that fixedness the result of your own thinking or the thinking of others?

  2. Let’s do some innovation!
    a. Choose any product with which you’re familiar and believe could benefit from some innovation.

    b. Break the product down into no more than 10 component parts.
    c. Choose one of the components and copy it virtually, but keep the original component.
    d. Now, change the copied component in some way that makes it different – has a different purpose perhaps – than the original.
    e. What is the new virtual product you’ve created?
    f. What are its potential benefits?
    g. What are its drawbacks, and how might you improve upon those?

  3. Amnon made the challenge during the interview to innovate a way to exercise in car. What did you come up with?

For more information on Amnon and Systematic Inventive Thinking:

• LinkedIn profile – https://www.linkedin.com/in/alevav/

• S.I.T. website – www.sitsite.com

• Amnon’s Harvard Business Review article – https://hbr.org/2003/03/finding-your-innovation-sweet-spot

Jeff Ikler