I have use Itha Taljaard on two separate occasions to assist with strategic planning and creating innovative business models through the Lego Serious Play methodology. In the first instance I used Itha to facilitate a workshop with senior team members of the DBSA to help formulate Scenarios for 2014 (the exercise was conducted in 2007) as part of a strategic planning session. At the time I was the head of Strategy for the DBSA. The teams were invigorated with this innovative way of actually building the models of the future. It forced them to step out of their comfort zone but also engage in deep and meaningful conversation with individuals they did not work with on a regular basis. The individuals that were part of the original workshops created new connections within the company and it opened up new ways of work and gave us the opportunity to introduce other innovative tools and techniques later on into the organisation with their buy in and support.
In the second instance I used Itha to facilitate a team building/business model innovation session with the newly appointed innovation team at Standard Bank. We needed a tool that would help us map out a future state of what innovation would look like if properly implemented using the core competencies of the individuals appointed in the team. A strategy is normally something difficult to relate to, very similar to Innovation, and unless you can touch, feel or see something, how do you actually achieve the desired outcome. When you build a business model, or a future state using Lego that reflects your strategy, its easier for the participants to “see” themselves in that model and to “see” how all of the different pieces fit together. This is exactly what we achieved, but more importantly the gaps could be “seen”, the “overlaps” were evident. The other key takeaway is that the participants of a workshop, build the model together. Everyone has contributed to the end goal.
Over 10 years after running the 1st Scenario session at the DBSA, I can still see the models in my mind as clearly as the day they were built. Also important to note, that many of the models actually did materialise by 2014 and even sooner.
Prior to embarking on the Innovation Drive our company had very successfully focused on the Back to Basics strategy in a drive to improve efficiencies and productivity. We are a very results driven organisation and this strategy came easy to us. We achieved our goals and were exceeding all expectations. However with such an inward focus we started noticing that our innovation and new ideas were starting to lag. The silo effect between departments was also more prevalent. The realization within the Senior Management Team was that what had gotten our company to be successful to this point was not going to ensure success in 10 or 20 years from now.
We started working with SensetoSolve – specifically Itha, on a strategy to position the Innovation drive within the organisation. She has worked directly with the Senior Management Team over this period of 18 months. We kicked off the strategic process with the LEGO Serious Play Workshops for the Senior Management Team. We invited some of the other employees to attend the workshops in a drive to tap into different perspectives and into a collective intelligence.
The workshops were highly successful. The LEGO immediately takes all of the participants, even the engineers, out of their comfort zone. Participants started thinking about the current status quo and it forced us to look up and outwards to what was and is still transpiring in the world outside. It stimulated different types of conversations and some healthy debate. The LEGO Serious Play central theme was “Identify alternative revenue streams that could be developed and would contribute to the business over the next 10 to 20 years in such a manner that our current business would only contribute 10% of the revenue to the bottom line.” This in itself was a bold step – because although it was and still is not the intention to cannibalize our current business – we came away with a realization that some of our people need to work in and on the current business, some of our people would have to focus on the “new” business.
We have used the work done in the LEGO Serious Play Workshops over the last 18 months to build and implement a strategy of innovation which we have positioned as “Leading the Future” – We have already acquired some businesses, expanded into partnerships with other international companies, appointed an Innovation and Digital General Manager and he is busy building his team, aligned our meeting structures to facilitate easy flow of communication up and down the organisation and embarked on a conscious programme to influence our company culture to unlock the innovation on every level. And it all started with some LEGO blocks……
In any strategic exercise the most critical element remains the ability to execute and deliver on all the creative and fancy plans. In my mind the basic ingredient is your people…once they are on-board and have bought in on the strategic direction, you are firmly on-track to suffice the overarching intent.
This is where the methodology of ‘LEGO Serious Play’ comes into play – make your 1st and 2nd layer of management part of the strategic journey. They must be involved from the word ‘go’ and not merely on-boarded post the strategic workshop, via a cold, clinical boardroom meeting and/or Power Point Presentations – or a neatly ring binded doorstopper and/or delivered via We Transfer and/or Dropbox. Nothing wrong with all the said technology, but ‘when/where/how’ utilised, will determine the level of buy-in, execution and impact on the key deliverables(as per the agreed Company Dashboard).
In a month’s time Itha Taljaard (Sense to Solve) will once again assist me with a Strategic Workshop in the Wine Industry. Due to the enormous benefit of ‘LEGO Serious Play’ and based on my own experience in the corporate environment, post such an unique workshop, it was an easy sell to get the thumbs-up and to go ahead.
11. We have also exposed the team-members to De Bono’s ‘Six Thinking Hats’ course – during this journey of revisiting the modus operandi of strategic planning – and it was my personal experience that we raised the bar in all we do….these members took it further into/down the Company (cacade approach) and after two years the ‘Lego/Thinking Hats/Brain Profiles’ where common ‘language’ and visible in all we do, throughout the Company.
12. In closure:- ‘LEGO Serious Play’ is an amazing initiative that can guide strategic planning…..it will unleash potential within any team/company….encourage teamwork….clearly understand and bed down the difference between responsible vs accountable and create a real golden thread that runs from top to bottom in all we do – allowing everyone in the company the opportunity to get his/her mind around the content/deliverables/overarching purpose….putting his heart behind it and ensure alignment with his/her guts and then execute accordingly.
13. A set of tools that I can whole heartedly recommend and will continue to instil when working with large and/or small teams…..got the T-shirt!!!!!
Lodox Systems tasked Sense-to-Solve during 2014 to facilitate a teambuilding workshop making use of Lego-play. Lodox was in a peculiar situation of a small company on the brink of breaking through the barrier growing rapidly to a medium-large size company. This entailed the increase in manufacturing (capacity and actual orders), significant increase in turnover and whilst this was on the go the global medical compliance regulators tighten the controls for all manufacturers of medical devices. Lodox’s challenge was to deliver the same quality product, on time, without increasing the number of employees, increasing GP and maintain fixed overheads. Actual manufacturing of devices increased with 300-400% and employees had to understand for the company to become profitable and be sustainable over the long term, we could not afford to increase the headcount, nor increase remuneration or pay bonuses.
After consultation with Itha Taljaard it was evident that the Sense-to-Solve approach, using Lego-play would be effective and efficient to spin the heads of individuals and to glue the team together. It was decided to involve the whole company (from cleaners – CEO) in the same session mixing demographics, cultures and to challenge the standard organisational food-chain. The result was magnificent – Lego-play put every individual on an equal level giving each individual a chance to express his / her feelings and interaction to work in a way that is simply understood, though complex enough not to be confused with childs-play. Individuals get to know what make each-other tick and all start to engage with one another. In addition to the individual benefit (increasing the company climate and communication very positively) teams automatically expressed a “want” to express what they think, need and expect of the company. Different generations working together and the Lego facilitated the process of having “space” for each other. We’ve ended with a company-wide vision (not referring to a vision statement but insight to the future destiny we chose to reach). The result was immediate: positive increase in production, maintaining the desired quality levels and Lodox had its best years ever after this exercise so that we’ve paid out bonuses to staff last year.
The secret to this exercise was the involvement of Sense-to-Solve. Itha is a magician and her leadership was instrumental in this exercise. Best money we’ve spent in a long time.
I know I said it over and over again – but I really want to thank you for being so present with me / us on this journey. This morning, you mentioned that when you get to spend time with the “neuro scientist”, you walk away with so many nuggets.
I feel exactly the same when I’ve been with you and with all the nuggets you so freely and openly share.
Thank you for being a wonderful human being.
Hi Itha and Vanessa,
Thank you making this course fun, always keeping one interested and making one find oneself in the child within ourselves that we thought did not exist.
My thinking has changed on a personal and business level and will definitely influence the way in which we want to solves problems/ issues etc.
Itha has been an inspirational addition to our business, she has created a creative space where innovation has prospered and brought about new ideas which are just waiting to turn in to revenue generating business projects.
Itha, was a well organised, effective organiser of SA Innovation Summit. Her communication skills and involvement in the various aspects of the project were efficient and effectual. It was a pleasure working with her for the SA Innovation Summit 2012
Itha is the most dynamic person with unlimited energy and drive I have ever met. She is extremely focused and with an outstanding organisation ability. Her ability to deliver what she undertakes is praiseworthy.
Itha is the type of person brimming with a passion for innovation and people. Her passion for innovation and creativity was evident in her role of putting together the South African innovation summit. The whole conference from long before the start to the final execution was done in a smooth and professional manner. The conference was a resounding success and a great showcase for South African innovators.
I would highly recommend Itha to any company looking for a passionate driver of innovation and creativity and I look forward to seeing where she will take the SA Innovation Summit in the future.
I have had the privilege of working with Itha for the past few years. She has a deep understanding of innovation and the ability to tailor make her solutions to offer the client exactly what is required. Itha is an excellent facilitator, trainer, consultant and advisor. She was instrumental in assisting me with capacitating the innovation champions at the DBSA. Itha is the type of individual who will always go the extra mile to deliver a quality end product and she is extremely passionate about the role of innovation. Her leadership role in Innovation is evident from an industry wide perspective and the South African Innovation Summit has grown into a recognised event in the South African Event Calendar under her guidance.
Itha is amazing – there is no doubt in my mind. She equipped us with the tools to think strategically and plan for the future of our company. Thanks to Itha, major restructuring of our organisation has taken place, to take our company from good to great!
Itha is also an excellent asset for one on one sessions. Her HBDI profiling and 6 Thinking Hats sessions gave us more focus and inspired our team to work together as a dynamic force.
On a personal note, Itha opened my mind and is one of the main contributing factors to my successes I have achieved this year. I think differently since meeting with her, and I believe I now have the tools to assist in taking SMD from good to great.
Thank you once again Itha.
Itha presented a day-long workshop on The Art of Thinking, using the HBDI brain profiling tool, with great success. All staff meembers (teachers and administrators) were involved, and Itha’s gentle yet firm approach got us talking to each other; built an understanding of each other’s thinking preferences and has introduced a language that we can use in conflict resolution, as well as everyday meetings. I have only had posititve feedback from everyone concerned. We have asked Itha to come back and do a workshop with our learners using creativity and problem solving, and are investigating the possibility of training our teachers using her workshop around Edward de Bono’s 6 Thinking Hats. I most definitely recommend Itha’s work
I have known Itha for close to 10 years now and have had the fantastic privilege of working with her both within and outside Standard Bank. Itha is incredibly knowledgeable and very holistic in her approach to futures work and innovation. I personally rate her as the best innovation and futures specialist I am aware of. She has an great talent for being able to quickly and accurately distill the essence of a problem and to explore and find solutions to those problems in both conventional and unconventional ways. Itha’s ability to operate across and within disciplines also brings great value to whatever she tackles because she is not confined to any particular mode of operating and thinking and can therefore bring the most relevant approach to any issue. Itha is also very very energetic and hard working and leaves most people trailing in her wake in this regard. I cannot recommend Itha highly enough and I would absolutely leap at any opportunity to be involved with her on any project should the opportunity present itself again.
Itha Taljaard is an Innovation genius. She has years of experience in the field of Innovation, thinking and problem solving. Her workshops will challenge your thinking and help you improve for the better. Itha is a great leader and facilitator. She is a pleasure to work for and with. She is sure to challenge your thinking and consequently steer you towards greater successes.