“The minds on the margin are not marginal minds”. The most powerful statement I have heard in a long time. I urge everyone to watch this no-holds-barred TED video (opens in a new window) where Professor Anil Gupta, founder of the Honeybee Network makes point after point about grassroots innovation and how our great need for one-size-fits-all business models fall miserably short of what is needed.
In his own words, here is how he started Honeybee
And one day — I don’t know what happened — while coming back from the office towards home, maybe I saw a honey bee, or it occurred to my mind, that if I could be like the honey bee, life would be wonderful. What the honey bee does: it pollinates, takes nectar from the flower, pollinates another flower, cross-pollinates. And when it takes the nectar, the flowers don’t feel shortchanged. In fact, they invite the honey bees through their colors. And the bees don’t keep all the honey for themselves. These are the three guiding principles of the Honey Bee Network — that whenever we learn something from people it must be shared with them in their language. They must not remain anonymous.
“They must not remain anonymous.” If you listen to the ‘silent’ pieces of his talk you hear frustration, helplessness, trauma, longing and urgency in equal measure. He espouses a fairness test that he first applies to himself before he preaches.
This morning’s HT Business piece “Can India become the Coca Cola of the BPO sector” by my friend N. Madhavan, (twitter: @madversity) shows how India is steadily cornering the ‘back-office’ business. His article got me thinking about whether this has happened by design or is the kind of happy accident that made India an IT superpower by the Y2K paranoia of the west. Here’s why.
The Indian service industry is fast mastering the art of Negative Innovation. When they try to add value they end up becoming a nuisance.
Negative Innovation Case #1: 0.75p for Voice SMS, Value Added Service (VAS) – Airtel.
I scroll down my list of contacts and call N. Madhavan. Maddy’s on another call so this ‘friendly’ VAS kicks in telling me I can leave a voice sms for him. Easy! So what does it ask me to do? Without hanging up, I have to dial his TEN-DIGIT-NUMBER followed by STAR or HASH (I don’t remember which) and VOILA!!! . . . I can leave a voice sms for him. #Fail. I was telling someone the other day that if Airtel could show me ONE . . . O N E person who had ever used the service, I’d eat my words now and forever more. VALUE for whom? Continue reading “The VALUE of Negative Innovation 101”
Labels have always had a place – behind the collar and on cartons. That’s where they belong and that’s where they ought to stay. Make fashion statements out of them and we’re heading for big trouble. Because labels have a way of sticking beyond their life. Would you still call India “Third” world? See, the label just won’t go away.
Example #1 – Hybrid Design.
As though we don’t already have enough confusion around understanding “Design” – designers and non-designers both – our propensity for labels is adding clutter to the chaos. This recent Fastcompany article “Beyond Design Thinking: Why Hybrid Design is the Next New Thing” thrives in the romanticism of stating the obvious.
This post is meant for those of you who have set up automated alerts for the new magic word ‘Jugaad’, the most fashionable innovation thread about India these days. Several innovation ‘gurus’, management experts, authors have latched on. The common thread – they’re mostly based in the US and are of Indian origin. The more equal of us. Keith Sawyer calls it a ‘fad from India’ and that’s exactly what it is.
Business Week* reports on a management fad from India, that goes by a Hindi slang word, jugaad (say joo-gaardh). It means “an improvisational style of innovation”. It’s “inexpensive invention on the fly”. It sometimes has negative connotations, like cutting corners. The idea is that it doesn’t have to be perfect or fancy; it’s just good enough to satisfy immediate needs.
>>*See the comments at the end of the article.
Don’t be fooled – Jugaad is jugaad and innovation is innovation. Jugaad is a dangerous mindset – you heard right, a mindset. You ‘fix’ things by simply putting together bits and pieces, never mind that they don’t fit or that the final product is unreliable, unsafe, whatever. When something goes wrong, you can always use the excuse of not having time, resources, skills, etc. After all you did achieve ‘cheap’, didn’t you.