Innovation 101: The business of Culture

This post is a modified version of an article I wrote. Some patriotic leanings are evident …


Mohandas K. Gandhi

“A culture is an organization’s collective mind-set – its beliefs, intentions, and memories”, said Mark Youngblood in his 1997 book, Life at the Edge of Chaos: Creating the Quantum Organization. “Organizations that will survive and prosper in the twenty-first century will be fast, flexible, responsive, resilient, creative, balanced, and full of vitality.” He calls them [these companies] Quantum Organizations. Quantum Organizations, in direct contrast with the machine-like design of industrial era companies, operate using the principles of living systems. They are organic webs of life: dynamic, interconnected networks of relationships that are constantly learning, adapting, and evolving.”

Quantum or not, an organizational model based on his prophetic understanding of the new millennium business world is urgently needed today. A key ingredient for building the firm of the future is the setting up of a culture that can evolve, sustain and grow. Relationships, learning, adapting, evolving – simple to use words – not so simple to understand or, for that matter, apply in a particular context. For one, the mechanistic worldview [what became the order in the Industrial era] suggests the need for rigid structures. Today’s realities are quite different. Relationships are being formed without any physical contact: very deep relationships are being founded on areas of common interest.

In my opinion, the Internet has promoted globalisation as a natural way of doing business in today’s world. It has also made “individualised” infrastructure ubiquitously available. Which means that ways of working have changed from mono to network. As a natural outcome, all monolithic organisations are morphing into networked enterprises; all solo endeavours are seeking interdependence.

I wonder if this could point towards building a business culture, especially valuable from my point of view, for small entrepreneurial ventures. Building a culture consciously, methodically and based on a value system that reflects India’s ethos, history and diversity. I come from a generation that has taken pride in the American ‘twang’ and has been celebrating capitalism, without quite understanding that it won’t work in its yankee avatar in India. Do we understand our own contexts? It’s high time we did. Continue reading “Innovation 101: The business of Culture”

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Irresponsibles … 101 lessons from Mumbai.

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Am I glad that I’m not a PR-ofessional. The physical destruction we saw through 26/11 will not only be mended, even the scars will fade. Those that lost their near and dear will learn to handle their emotional crises. The politicians will do what they’re best at – hide behind/beside/despite their ideologies. Things will go on. And we’ll wait for the next strikes for the above pattern to repeat itself. While the terror mongers are being incisively innovative, we’ll do what we’re best at – shout/scream/criticise/blame despite ourselves.

I’m not about to list 101 lessons I learnt in the wake of terror. There aren’t that many anyway. In my view there’s only one lesson that I call “Irresponsibility 101” which simply speaks of the basics of irresponsible thoughts/ideologies/action/behaviour.

Here’s my unqualified and unresearched list of Irresponsibles (a la Incredibles).

  1. Politicians – whose primary responsibilities have been reduced to providing basic infrastructure, roads, power, water, transportation, security. I met an interesting and accomplished gentleman this morning, Professor A K Puri whose words I paraphrase here – ‘the government of India has become redundant and they cannot even fulfill their diminished responsibilities. No power so the genset industry thrives. No water so people drill their own bore wells. Even the private security industry is booming since nobody has the confidence that the government will go beyond protecting their own ilk (Z-cover). Public transport needs no mention, nor do roads’.
  2. India’s hand-in-glovers – India Inc. in glove with celebrity personalities from the elite sections of society, both of whom include/own/influence/in glove with media. Media, the perfect vehicle for PR-ofessionals to reach the masses.
  3. Endorsers – the aam aadmi, RK Laxman’s common man who’s silent/bewildered/helpless/victimised and whose main fault is that he tolerates eternally.
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Innovation goes bananas

Innovation is difficult to define – it perhaps even defies definition. We may be better off not even trying to. Can innovation be taught? Short answer, no. Can wisdom be bought? DITTO.

Courses in innovation are being created without any focus on the human being. Today’s innovation bandwagon focuses on philosophy, methodology, tools and what not. I ask a simple question. “Do you not need something more than education and training to be a musician”. Basically, can anybody become a musician or does s/he have to be one in the first place? If I simply teach musical notation after which you practice strumming for 6 hours a day, can you become a guitarist OR do you have to be a musician before I brush you up?

Are there some intrinsic traits or talents or experiences that are prerequisites for innovation?

Think about it!!! Continue reading “Innovation goes bananas”