An interview with Gil Benesh, Corporate Chief Innovation Officer at Elbit Systems Ltd.
Elbit is a multidisciplinary global company constructed from four main divisions, a variety of technologies, and employs about 18,000 people around the world. The company leads several markets and is globally known for its activities in the following fields: military aircraft and helicopter systems (F-35 AR pilot helmet and large-area smart display); commercial aviation systems and aerostructures; unmanned aircraft and
surface vessel systems (with certified UAVs for civil aviation); electro-optic (high power laser for a variety of applications), night vision and countermeasures systems; land vehicle systems (heterogenic autonomous swarmed robots), munitions; C4ISR (command, control, communications, computer, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance); cyber systems; electronic warfare and signal intelligence
systems; and others.
How do you promote innovation in the company?
An innovative DNA is a must for a company that confronts technology limitations in any of its verticals. For one, Incubit is the technological incubator we operate – and an arm that invests in early-stage deep tech startups, and serves as an open innovation platform. Moreover and to promote organic innovation, we established an intra-innovation strategy and its execution program four years ago. This activity includes fostering communities of innovation leaders (iLeaders) and tech scouters (Meerkats).
The main role of iLeaders is to escort and support intrapreneurs on their journeys from creative ideas all the way to implementation in live projects and spread the news of innovation in the company. The iLeaders go through training that includes lectures, workshops, and activities aimed to give them the skills and mindset required for their activities. The main role of the Meerkats is to combine opportunistic and dedicated focus scouting activities and establish the yearly disruption map for engineering and business lines. The Meerkats have training that enables them to master skills for scouting tools, platforms, and VCs.
We call our approach a 'dual direction impact'. The initial direction is bottom-up, which means building an infrastructure of innovators, mentors, facilitators of innovation methods, tools, processes. On the other hand, we expose mid range as first stage managers to case studies and practical processes to emphasize the value they could gain from this innovative infrastructure.
Throughout a series of internal hackathons and ideation sprints we enable managers and employees to experience and get familiar with innovation-related practices. This is key: it's an effective way to get people to better understand MVP, the agile approach, and how to tackle problems in a fast and exciting way. The process which starts at these activities goes to internal demo days, and projects can get funded and proceed to production. On a few occasions, we gave several motivated innovators critical responsibilities and let the impact spread into the community and not only
by me and the community manager.
We want to connect the dots between people, processes, and execution of initiatives, and add as much innovation to the DNA of each of the company's divisions as we can
What tips can you offer innovation leaders?
I believe that they should start at their strongest field and initial habitat, and think about a smallscale process which they can scale up. Besides that they should have a long-term vision in the initial stage and create short-term steps that can be executed one by one to create quick wins.
From experience I would also advise beginning bottom-up: start by finding the right people who are open to trying new methods and processes, and farther up the road perform a buy-in to add the top-down engagement. In parallel, starter innovation managers should use other companies’ and innovation managers' experience and know-how. As I see it, the innovation and intrapreneurship ecosystem should be managed as an 'open source' and must have a sharing base to support this huge community.
What's your vision for Elbit innovation?
We want to connect the dots between people, processes, and execution of initiatives, and add as much innovation to the DNA of each of the company's divisions as we can.
As I see it, there are two main goals to execute our vision. The first one is deploying innovation culture practices in all parts of the company from vision through searching, development, design, fabrication, and marketing all the way to our customers’ feedback. The second one establishing an accelerator platform for early-stage intra-innovation that will be running parallel to the division innovation platform and
accelerate breakthrough ideas that have the potential to scale to business value to Elbit.
Gil Benesh is Elbit's Corporate Chief Innovation Officer and Intrapreneurship Manager. In addition, he acts as their accelerator mentor and has been active as a board member
in a few startups. Prior to that Gil was the head of the R&D group specialized in AR/XR/VR of optics & systems, and was a tech analyst & due diligence process leader on several VCs.
Photos by Elbit and Alona Abisdris Shillo