Innovating in Human Resources

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Systematic Inventive Thinking is not only for inventing new products and services. You can apply it to a variety of functions and processes. SIT is based on the idea that mankind has used distinct patterns when creating new solutions or innovations. These patterns are embedded into the products and services you see around you. The SIT method structures your thinking and channels your ideation to take advantage of these patterns by re-applying them to something else. Consider the human resources function of an organization. Here are suggestions of which SIT technique to apply in a variety of HR activities:


Systematic Inventive Thinking
is not only for inventing new products and services.  You can apply it to a variety of functions and processes. SIT is based on the idea that mankind has used distinct patterns when creating new solutions or innovations.  These patterns are embedded into the products and services you see around you.  The SIT method structures your thinking and channels your ideation to take advantage of these patterns by re-applying them to something else.

Consider the human resources function of an organization.  Here are suggestions of which SIT technique to apply in a variety of HR activities:

  • Process innovation: HR departments support every other department with a host of processes
    like recruiting, staffing, compensation, succession planning, and
    performance management.  The DIVISION technique is ideal for innovating these processes.  Division has a tendency to break “structural fixedness,” the tendency to overlook new arrangements and configurations.  To use Division, start by listing the process steps, in order, and place them on a wall using PostIt notes.  Select a step and place it somewhere else in the process arbitrarily.  Using Function Follows Form, try to envision new benefits or opportunities.
  • Organization Design:  Restructuring is a way of life in the corporate world.  HR is almost always involved at some level given the implications on jobs and careers.  To shake things up, try using the MULTIPLICATION technique.  Make a list of the job functions in an organization.  Then select one, imagine making a copy of that function, but then changing the copied function is some novel way: role, location, alignment, deliverables, and so on.  Using Function Follows Form, try to envision new benefits or opportunities of having both functions.  Modify the idea to improve it and make it more implementable.
  • Training:  Companies spend enormous amounts of money on training.  HR is usually involved because of the impact on performance and standards.  A great technique to use here is SUBTRACTION.  This technique tends to break our “functional fixedness,” the inability to realize that something known to have a particular use may also be used to perform other functions.  To use the technique, list all the components of a training program.  Select one at random (an essential one), then imagine all the other components left to do the training job.  What would be the benefit (to the trainee, the company, to its customers, and so on)?
  • Strategy: HR departments need to have a strategy to stay relevant and to deliver the optimal support.  ATTRIBUTE DEPENDENCY is
    the most complicated of the five techniques, but tends to produce
    amazing innovations and insights.  To use it, list the attributes of
    your HR group (size, experience, locations, and so on) as well as
    attributes of your external environment (size of company, performance of
    company, performance of competition, etc).  Then, create statements such as, “As X changes, Y changes.”  For example, “as performance of competition changes, our HR department size changes.”
  • Planning:  Once a strategy is created, HR groups need to plan their activities.  TASK UNIFICATION is a perfect tool to innovate new plans.  Like Subtraction, it helps break functional fixedness, and it helps managers see resources around them in new ways to perform new functions.  To use it, make a list of the components in your HR department and outside the department.  Select a component and imagine it taking on a new role.  It can “steal” the job of another component, or perform a completely new function (in addition to its current function).

For more insights about using the SIT method, visit Inside the Box.