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Home > Marketing & Innovation > Content > Articles

“Can’t Stop Moving”
An interview with Ari Manor, CEO of ZOOZ

Published in Ma’ariv’s Managers & Firms supplement, Issue 59, January 25, 2005.
Written by: Harela Stutzky-Be’er, Ma’ariv journalist. 

Ari Manor studied Genetics but was drawn to Marketing. And if he was already going to go the marketing route, then he wanted to promote, increase, and strengthen. He therefore founded ZOOZ (meaning “to move” and “money” in Hebrew), a company that provides consulting and training services in strategy, organizational development, creativity, and innovation management. It’s hard, it’s exhausting, it doesn’t suit everyone, “but”, Ari says, “the ones that innovate are the ones that lead.”

Although there is no connection between Bagir’s light and flexible suits, Guy Plastic’s child-proof storage boxes, and Kapro Measuring Tool’s levels, they do have something in common: Systematic Innovation™. The meaning of this concept is that all three of these companies (as well as others) have succeeded in predicting future products in their respective fields that will appear on the market, to implement and launch ideas, innovative products and important innovations, and mainly to assimilate systematic innovation processes. This is no easy matter to implement, as anyone who has experienced any change knows, especially on a revolutionary level. However, when at the end of the effort the new products are a true source of growth and contribute 20 percent or more to total revenues, the change in undoubtedly welcome.

Systematic Innovation™ was developed by ZOOZ, a company that provides consulting and training services to organizations in areas such as strategy, organizational development, creativity and management skills, marketing and innovation management. The company was founded in 1999 by 40 year old Ari Manor, who serves as the company’s CEO

At the very beginning, the company was a one-man show and focused on all aspects of marketing. Later on, a few more tiers were added to the company and it developed the field of Systematic Innovation™. The company currently employs approx. 20 consultants and instructors from numerous and diverse fields, including marketing, product development, international retail trade, creativity, leadership, employee motivation, and more.

Manor is the only one in the company who comes from a completely different background, Genetics. However, during the multifarious years of his career he realized that marketing held a special appeal to him. “I see Marketing as an intellectual process, a battle of the minds and the ability to influence thousands of people you don’t know and can’t see, and without having to sell of yourself or your soul”, he says. “In marketing a person can do something or think about an ad, and suddenly something happens to thousands of people, and they respond and change. There is great power in this but also an element of danger”, confesses someone who radiates a fair amount of power and confidence himself.

He was born and raised in Tel Aviv as the younger of two children. His father was an engineer and his mother was a doctor. After his military service in the Nahal he set out on a trip around the world and toyed with the idea of what he wanted to be when he grew up. “I wanted to do something interesting and fun, that I could grow with and make a good living from”, he relates. After ruling out computers on one end, and training street gangs on the other, Ari decided on Biotechnology and studied Human Genetics at the Interdisciplinary Program at Tel Aviv University “because AIDS was a hot topic then that didn’t seem to be making much progress, and I figured I could help”.

However, during the course of his studies two things happened: the AIDS mystery cleared up somewhat and Manor, who for years taught psychometric and matriculation prep courses at HighQ, was exposed to the world of training at a very purposeful and practical level, and he thoroughly internalized his experiences. For long he would base his training sessions at companies and organizations on what he learned there.

After he completed his Masters degree, he traveled to Africa for a year with a friend and from there he continued on to the United States where he founded a company in New York “that slightly resembles the take-away services in Israel”. Afterwards, he returned to Israel and became Vice President of Global HighQ, traveled to Sweden and became CEO of HighQ Sweden, traveled to the U.S. again in 1995, completed all his adventures abroad and returned to Israel with one clear insight: “Marketing is my thing.”

Upon his return, he was offered a position to manage SIT, a company that had just been established. “The company decided to develop training services to businesses and help them develop new products and services”, he tells. He worked there for two years, “and that was a lot of fun, but since my orientation is very practical and purposeful, I checked a few of the ideas that were developed and compared them to the how much money the companies actually made from these ideas. I discovered that some companies made money and got on the innovation bandwagon, even on an international level. However, other companies didn’t make a single red cent, even though they had good ideas.”

Manor began analyzing the issue and delving into the topic of innovation. He discovered that it is a much more complex and multi-tiered process than what meets the eye, and involves much more than raising good ideas. But implementing his conclusions was delayed by two years: “During the height of the race to crack the human genetic code I was given an offer I couldn’t refuse to join the biotech company Compugen’s marketing department, so I left SIT.”

Manor worked at Compugen until the company grew and moved its headquarters to the United States. Ari then left Compugen on good terms and founded ZOOZ, whose name was selected out of 50 names following a market survey and according to name selection principles: “The name needs to be short, with only one or two syllables (to be easily remembered), slightly different, and one that attests to expedience and functionality. In ZOOZ’s case, the name means a type of money (albeit old) and also to move,” says Manor.

How does Systematic Innovation™ work?

“First you have to refer to the strategy of innovation itself: Is the goal to expand a product line, like 3M does for example, or to launch a new product altogether that replaces an existing product from time to time, like Microsoft does? Is the innovation designated for the local market, the world, or to some mix that includes them both? And finally, what are the objectives of innovation, meaning, at what frequency do you want to develop new products and what percentage of your sales do you want them to constitute?” The next four stages occur once the strategy has been defined:

  • The idea development stage. “This stage lasts for four days and works in the following manner: one of our instructors sits with a number of people from the organization and focuses with them on a specific topic (like a popsicle, for example) in order to clarify what aspects of a popsicle have not yet been realized. Using specific tools, the group arrives at approx. 200 ideas that attempt to encompass everything that could possible happen to a popsicle over the next few years, worldwide. During the first three days the forum internalizes the tools, and on the fourth day the participants from the organization instruct the forum on another topic. This is in fact how, at the end of the four days, an abundance of ideas are developed for two different product lines.”
  • The idea screening stage. “This is the second stage that takes place in a smaller group, with one of ZOOZ’s instructors. It is usually an inter-departmental group that also includes the company CEO and a department manager or another senior executive. The screening is done according to the organization’s criteria, which examines which of the proposed ideas are practical and which are not, which are reasonably profitable, and which are not, etc. At the end of the process we arrive at approx. 20 ideas that we test in a market survey. From our experience, a market survey is better than a focus group, which although good, is also expensive and inaccurate. A market survey is composed of a questionnaire that has both open and closed questions that give insight into customer preferences (like ideas 1 and 7, for example). Then we teach how to conduct an effective market survey and once the results are obtained, we discuss them, learn from them and decide on the five top ideas that will be launched in the next quarter.”

  • The problem-solving stage. “During this stage, the ideas that were selected are then passed on to the organization’s R&D department. If the department encounters any problems, we provide an instructor with an appropriate background to troubleshoot.”

  • The next stage is the sample/new product commercialization stage, meaning – advertising, promoting and selling them. The companies can use ZOOZ to assist them throughout the entire process or in any of the individual stages, and also regarding two critical issues: the aspects of organizational infrastructure and strategic infrastructure.

  •  

Manor: “There are plenty of good reasons for innovation not to work and not to make money. The two main reasons are lack of involvement and commitment on behalf of the management, and faulty commercialization. If the organization’s management is not thoroughly and systematically involved in innovation and committed to it, and if commercialization of the new product is not done properly, there is no chance that the ideas will be realized, succeed and be translated into money, as brilliant as they may be.”

The issue of organizational infrastructure for innovation is also designed to cause the CEO to be committed to innovation, to offer incentives to employees who come up with new ideas, etc. Otherwise, employees may leave the organization to implement ideas independently, or to take a narrow-minded approach and keep their mouths shut if they encounter negative feedback. “it’s known that a new idea not only breaks through boundaries, but also provokes difficulties. Therefore, there needs to be tolerance in an organization, mainly at the management level, to new ideas and to errors. We teach how to manage innovation and how to be open to innovations. Commitment isn’t just saying “yeah, I’m committed”. It's also about allocating the appropriate resources to it.

Strategic infrastructure means that innovation is managed within the organization’s central motive, and doesn’t shoot in all directions. For example, if Volvo’s central motive is safety, then the innovation must focus on that, not on beauty.

In order to demonstrate the above, Ari recounts what happened to Bagir: “In 2000 Bagir developed a unique suit that could be laundered in a home washing machine instead of being sent to the dry cleaners. The innovative suit became a commercial success with sales exceeding 600 thousand suits in England, sold through Marks and Spencer. In light of their success, the CEO decided to implement systematic innovation processes in the company, and he turned to ZOOZ. During the first stage, four courses on inventive thinking and problem solving were taught to mixed groups of managers from all the departments and the various subsidiaries of the concern. The courses helped in instilling the value of innovation to the company and in bonding all the various appendages of the organization so that they all spoke the same language of innovation.”

“In the second stage, 3-4 suit-related projects, which Bagir requested to develop, were defined, which included a breathable suit, a flexible suit (with an elastic belt in the shoulder), a lightweight suit that weighs 40% less than a regular suit, etc. Afterwards, one of our consultants accompanied four task teams and sat with them for a number of months with the goal of launching these suits. And indeed, at the end of last year Bagir came out with the suits and presented them to the Marks and Spencer buyers, who said that it was the best presentation for clothing that they had ever seen. The suits penetrated new chains worldwide.”

The fact that a company from Israel, a country where suits are not exactly its strong point, teaches Brits, Germans, Japanese and others that suits can break out of their traditional definitions, Manor interprets by explaining that the low-tech and relatively conservative industries (such as notebooks, fences, elevators, etc.), whose products have not changed much over time, actually have the largest growth potential. “Israeli industry cannot compete with the prices of large companies, and not with the reputation of leading brands, but it can use innovation to compete on the mid-range price levels and secure a solid spot in the middle with a product that has some sort of added value compared to a leading parallel brand.”

The condition is that innovation becomes one of the organization’s values and its center of gravity. True, it generates momentum (“if it doesn’t suit you, don’t get into innovation. It’s better not to start something than to stop halfway”) and involves a change of priorities, and the process needs to be repeated over and over again (because the competitors will imitate you) “but the ones that innovate are the ones that lead the market.”  



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