DisruptHR Toronto Interview with Ilana Ben-Ari

#DisruptHRTO is happening tonight at MaRS in downtown Toronto. Ahead of the big event, we got a chance to chat with one of the amazing speakers, Ilana Ben-Ari, Founder, CEO Twenty One Toys.

Tell Us About Yourself – Your Career History and How You Came to Be in Your Current Role

I’m a toy designer and social entrepreneur. I started Twenty One Toys after quitting my design job because I believed I could change education and the world of work with toys. Our first product the empathy toy was my thesis project in University. Originally designed for the visually impaired, I turned the blindfolded puzzle game into a tool that teaches empathy, failure, and creativity to people of all ages.

What Does an Average Work Week Look Like For You?

As most know, the life of an entrepreneur, especially in the early years is quite intense. Most days start with a huge breakfast and cup of coffee, then I’m in between meetings, dealing with manufacturing, production, managing my team of 4 staff and 15 contractors, running workshops and training sessions, and jumping on planes. Most days end around midnight and weekends are spent catching up on coffee meetings, sleep, and friends.

What Motivated You Pursue a Speaking Opportunity at DisruptHR Toronto?

DisruptHR is an incredible event that highlights the changes and opportunities happening in the world of work. It’s a great community of st people all trying to answer the question “how do we better prepare our offices for the 21st century office?”. I’m excited to speak on behalf of the changes we’ve seen first hand in how companies invest, hire, and train for skills like empathy and failure.

What Will You be Speaking About at DisruptHR Toronto and What Inspired You to Choose this Topic?

A lot of ink is being spilled about the new skills that people need in the workplace, and it’s not just technological skills. In fact, the World Economic Forum says that the top job skills by 2020 will be creativity and emotional intelligence. With markets and technology changing rapidly, companies need to be adaptive and willing to take risks to stay relevant. The average Fortune 500 company is only on that list for 15 years. To make it beyond 15 years, companies need to be willing to fail fast and learn from their mistakes.

Through our work with the Empathy Toy and the upcoming Failure Toy, we know that building these skills can have a significant impact on the success of teams and organizations. We’ve seen firsthand the positive impact that developing the skill of empathy can have on their bottom line, their team culture, and their client experience. We’ve seen also seen that the more that failure is valued as a learning opportunity, the more willing employees are to try new ideas and innovate.

What Impact Are You Hoping to Have with the Audience and the Greater HR & Talent Community?

I’m hoping to start a conversation on the importance of empathy and failure education in the workplace. To get the greater HR and Talent community excited about taking bigger risks with how they hire and train their teams. To use creativity and play to prepare their teams for the Future Workplace.

More About Ilana

Ilana Ben-Ari is a multiple-award winning industrial designer, TEDx speaker, and Ariane de Rothschild Fellow. She has been featured in the Guardian UK, was Independent UK’s small business person of the week, and winner of C2MTL’s emerging entrepreneur award. She has been working at the intersection of design and social innovation for over 7 years at studios in Montreal, Helsinki, London, and, most recently Toronto, Ontario.

She transformed her thesis project into the company’s first product, The Empathy Toy. Originally designed for visually impaired students and their sighted classmates, it is now used as a tool to teach Empathy to anyone and everyone. Already in over 1000 schools and offices in 45 countries, it was featured in TIME magazine as a “new technology shaping classrooms of the future”



Author: Editor

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