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The First Princi.pal is a story waiting to be told. Meandering through the life of Dr. PS Mani Sundaram, it captures anecdotes of mixed flavour to highlight the genius of one of independent India’s foremost institution builders. Princi gave Regional Engineering College, Trichy (now National Institute of Technology) the distinction of consistently featuring among the top 10 Engineering colleges for 50 years running. His was a professional career that had to beat the odds of functioning under India’s political and bureaucratic regimes of the 1960s and 70s. Not only did he measure up to the challenges, his astute administrative sense made sure he did so in style.
A charismatic leader—administrator par excellence, pragmatic visionary and academic entrepreneur—he upped the ante of India’s higher education. Besides driving the astounding success of REC, he laid a solid foundation for Bharathidasan University as its first Vice Chancellor. His foresight has seen it grow from strength to strength in the three decades of its existence. Today the Bharathidasan Institute of Management stands tall as one of India’s premier Business Schools, rubbing shoulders with the IIMs.
2014 marks the Golden Jubilee of REC Trichy’s founding and a fitting occasion for a tribute to the great man.
(This essay was first published on Egology – The Ideafarms Blog on December 12, 2013)
Last year, Amit Gulati, who runs Incubis Consultants, invited me to participate in an interactive session to think through design ideas for a low-cost washing machine. The workshop brought out some very interesting and fascinating ‘ways of seeing’ that completely overturned the engineering / tech / product way of approaching design problems. Did we need to redesign the washing machine (Product) under stricter constraints [this is the way most people think – start with an existing product, strip it of features, use cheaper materials and processes, reduce quality and make it low-cost], or did we need to go up a level and reframe the problem itself.
Image Courtesy: Incubis Consultants, 2013.
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In the old days — as recently as the dying years of the last century — technology was trying to keep up with our needs. But instead of playing catch up, its pace overtook our needs. In the end, technology, especially those products that were powered by the silicon chip, won the race. Today we have more technology than we need and yet, rather than using what already exists to solve societal problems, we still go after creating more and more technology for the narrowest part of the pyramid – the top. Continue reading →
8 Steps to Innovation: Going from Jugaad to Excellence
Vinay Dabholkar & Rishikesha T. Krishnan
I have a confession to make. The cover led me to believe that this was another one of those innovation cookbooks by two opportunistic wannabe Jugaad aficionados (I still have a huge problem with the cover design in that it is trying hard to impress while succeeding to do just the opposite). The first chapter could only reinforce my belief that here was another version of the many ‘product improvement through R&D is innovation’ treatises that are strewn about ever since innovation became a fashion label. Am I glad that I persisted, if only to collect enough ammunition to tear it to shreds. Surprise, surprise! The book is not only an easy read but is a good resource for organizations that want to understand how to carry out innovation.
The authors give out two clear messages –
(1) that everybody can innovate,
(2) innovation success is less about isolated creative sparks than a concerted approach both to motivate the elephant (incentive) and direct the driver (clarity).
This post was first published in January 2009 but has gained renewed relevance in today’s crisis ridden world. It reminds us that too much focus on quantitative metrics can go only one way viz. downwards. (Incidentally, Knowledgeboard has since shut down.)
When I coined the phrase “Heart Capital” a few years ago, I didn’t recognise it’s prophetic undertones. And for those who might want to read my article, here’s the pdf Heart Capital.
The ideas and views regain relevance with today’s ‘communities’ on the collaborative web. (2.0)
To humanise is to recognise that technology cannot replace the charm of personal contact. To humanise is to disrupt current business thinking and methods. To humanise is to add emotion. To humanise is to add fun to work and work systems.
I think the discussion about emotional environment is important; a lot of money goes into trying to create great physical spaces for work (and that’s no bad thing) but the manners and subleties of human contact deserve equal attention.
I would add that as well as being fun, the creation of real “heart capital” requires taking risks and being vulnerable. Acknowledging our true feelings feels risky in many enviroments; yet in my experience it is often a touchstone for deeper and more satisfying human engagement.”
The sheen of Web 2.0 is fading. People have laid their claim on the next ‘version’ – 3.0. See how our thinking is so linear. Why are we forcing ourselves to believe, and in retrospect, that there was something called Web 1.0! Isn’t that how versioning happens?
I’d rather have called it Web-as-a-Platform (WaaP) because that’s really what it is.
My reasoning is simply that by ‘componentising’ the Web we have created –
a way for individuals and groups to ‘talk’ to the world and to each other in ‘open spaces’;
collaborative software to capture, exchange and share collective ideas and ideologies;
a philosophy where people can improve upon – or add value – to other people’s efforts; and
less dependence on technology ‘consultants’.
What I have yet not been able to see is the ‘meta’ part of the phenomenon. Call it Web-as-a-Vehicle (WaaV) – likened to a mass transportation system and not a car. I might call it Meta-more-for-less (sounds like metamorphosis). We need a hard look quickly at how to design the interfaces (if they do exist) between the existing technology components or we run the risk of building yet another set of ‘silos’ made up of existing Web 2.0 pieces. Which in simple terms means bridging the “gap in capability” between the ‘individual’ creating the content and the techie who built the component.
Google’s Chief economist, Hal Varian, says executives in wired organisations need a sharper understanding of how technology empowers innovation, here.
… the kinds of innovations I think will arise on top of that will be innovations in how work is done. And that’s going to be one of the most exciting aspects, in my opinion.
That’s the key here. How work is done must supersede how things work.