[quote style=”boxed”]One thing we decided early on, which turned out to be an excellent business idea even though it wasn’t conceived as one, is to always work only with good people with whom you feel comfortable–and that includes clients. Also, try and leave a gift whenever you meet someone.[/quote]
Amnon Levav is a co-founder and managing director of SIT, Ltd. He has personally facilitated hundreds of projects and workshops with companies worldwide, and is a popular keynote speaker on the topic of innovation. As co-founder and co-developer of Systematic Inventive Thinking, Amnon is naturally an expert in all of SIT’s applications–problem solving, marketing communications, product development and strategy–and is a designer and implementer of programs for organizational innovation, transforming companies from within. Amnon facilitates programs in four languages–Hebrew, English, Spanish and Portuguese–and can ask for a beer in several others.
Amnon leads SIT’s expertise in social innovation and in what the company calls SIT Futures–creating new business models based on SIT’s intellectual property.
Previously, Amnon was editor in chief of Status–The Monthly for Management Thinking, and before that he spent six years studying mathematics, philosophy, cognitive psychology and linguistics at Hebrew University. Earlier in his life, Amnon accumulated other useful experiences working as a garage mechanic, construction worker, room-service waiter, and–the role most dear to his heart–a social worker with juvenile delinquents, where he believes he learned more about coaching and inspiring others to reach their high potential under rigorous conditions than any professional training could have taught him.
What are you working on right now?
I’m getting to know Assia, my two-week-old daughter, while trying to enjoy the process with her two older sisters.
Where did the idea for SIT come from?
I heard about two young engineers (Jacob and Roni) who were working at the university on a method called TRIZ, invented by a Russian engineer (Altschuler), for solving technological problems. I thought it would make for a good article in the magazine I was editing at the time, and became convinced that the ideas could be applied to other areas of focus as well.
We wrote the article, and things got more interesting when the owner of an ad agency (Haim) contacted me to see if the method could work in advertising as well. It turned out that it did, and next thing we were creating versions for developing new products and problem-solving. It just seemed exciting; I never intended to create a business, nor had I any thoughts about making money from it
What does your typical day look like?
I don’t have typical days, but there are some recurring components. I wake up the girls, take the eldest to preschool, play with them, go to the beach nearby, and read to them before they fall asleep. I also go to the office when I am not traveling, and talk to colleagues from SIT. I typically use–more or less equally–Hebrew, English and Spanish during the day. I talk to a few people in distant lands, answer many emails and start a few email conversations as well.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I’ve never asked myself that question before. I think my best strategy is probably to talk about them with people, discussing them, and trying to sound like I really mean what I say.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
I really don’t like the word “trend” or the compulsive search for them. The self-fulfilling aspect of them and the supposed need to be on top of them all the time are two things I find annoying. An exciting trend would be an anti-trend trend, but I’m afraid I haven’t spotted it yet.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I never had a job I didn’t like, but I remember that during my Army service I made a conscious decision to never ever take any job in which I would be counting the time until the end of my shift. I feel that it is the worst crime one can commit against oneself.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I don’t think my example of entrepreneurship is of much use to others. The only thing I think I consistently do is review the values that describe how I think we should live and act. I discuss them with my colleagues, check and recheck whether we are living up to them, and try to fix things whenever I feel we’re off.
What is one problem you encountered as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
It’s hard to always have enough money so that income doesn’t become a worry and you can spend your time and energy on the stuff that matters. I can’t say I’ve found a solution, but one thing that helps me is to have good people around me who are better than me at the things at which I’m not so good (and there’s many).
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I’m willing to give them all away, although I’m not sure which ideas fall in that “business idea” category. One thing we decided early on, which turned out to be an excellent business idea even though it wasn’t conceived as one, is to always work only with good people with whom you feel comfortable–and that includes clients.
Also, try and leave a gift whenever you meet someone.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?
I would help people get into the shoes of those they are facing. There is only one way I can think of achieving this, and that’s through education, starting really early.
Tell us a secret.
Brainstorming is B.S.
What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?
I am totally 2009 (?) about the fact that I just use the old fashioned stuff: Google search, maps, and Wikipedia. But I like asking people who use other resources to help me.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Zen in the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel. It’s short and teaches or reminds you of some things that are especially worth remembering in these days of trends and tweets.
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
It never occurred to me–even remotely–that I might want to “follow” anyone, let alone read all kinds of semi-sentences written by someone who knows they are being “followed.”
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
I laughed a few hours ago when my three-year-old daughter demonstrated to me “how a lady dances.”
Why do you think do people in organizations find it so hard to be innovative?
This is the question I have been most passionate about answering in my 17 years of working in innovation. It’s a pretty strange phenomenon when you come to think of it: there are so many intelligent people who are highly motivated and well organized, and yet they themselves will admit they are far from achieving their potential to innovate.
My experience, and that of my colleagues, leads me to believe that there are three types of factors: 1) on the individual level, the factor we call “mental fixedness” 2) in teams, a series of blocks and traps mostly perpetuated by the myth of brainstorming and 3) a combination of organizational factors that are possibly the hardest to overcome.
Why did you choose to answer these interview questions?
I have no idea. Because I’m trying to sell the services of my beloved SIT? Because I’m succumbing to the pull of the ego that wants some public attention? Because I’m curious to see what kind of contacts and interesting interactions they will lead to? Because I’m passing the time while my partner is watching her favorite movie for the “nth” time? Maybe.
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Amnon Levav’s email: [email protected]