Innovation, Now!

The continuing financial Tsunami has ceased to make waves. We ought to have seen it coming but were too scared to open our eyes. Like we’ve done in the past – all we’ve ever learnt to do is to solve problems based on ‘fitting historical patterns’ – we believe that we’re at the bottom of the economic downturn and things will look up from here on. Anybody noticed that the slide has been going on since September 11, 2001? And we’re satisfied waiting. The time for innovation is here and is urging us to do something – differently.

Talk to technology and business people and they will tell you that innovation is a tool. Therefore researching a need and then developing a solution to address it is called innovation. Then why call it innovation, why not keep calling it R&D? Are we simply using the word because it sounds nicer? Continue reading

Innovation 101 – Cost vs. Quality. Deuce.

To me it doesn’t matter whether India will be able to maintain its cost advantage. What does is sustainable and long-term value as a combination of cost and quality. In my view we are seeing the end of the traditional benefits of outsourcing. In whichever way customers were disguising their need to leverage lower costs, the only reason for outsourcing was cost arbitrage. We have seen that gap closing especially in the case of Indian talent. Squeezing benefit from outsourcing purely on a cost basis is clearly the last remnants of Industrial age thinking, which besides all other untenable factors, seems to think of human beings as alternatives to machines. I suggest for this reason alone, that we delete ‘outsourcing’ from business lexicon.

Joel Delman, Los Angeles design director for Product Development Technologies(PDT) points out

Having already gained the lion’s share of  manufacturing work, countries like China and India are now focusing on building  their capabilities in the innovation and design phases of product development.  While some may dismiss the seriousness of this trend, we’d be naive to believe  that the United States has a monopoly on a creative workforce.

(read Cost vs. Quality: The Dangers of Outsourcing Design Overseas) Continue reading

Innovation 101 – The Jugaad phenomenon

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.

Maruti Gypsy 2020?

Continue reading

Innovation 101 – Mouse Trap?

Mousetrap, mouse, bait (chocolate)Enough about money and the Oscars. And I’m still wondering why all the fuss about Slumdog Millionaire. Just like one swallow doesn’t make a summer, one event doesn’t make a nation. Sorry guys, but I’m getting sick and tired of diversions.

First it was Obama’s swearing in that we were waiting for. Come 20th January and we kept waiting for a miracle. Then came the Oscars and we’re all very euphoric that Slumdog Millionaire bagged 8 golds. Now we’ll wait for India to go to the polls and hope that the new government will right the economy. All we’ll do is wait.

The Pied Piper has driven out all the rats – now he’s after our children. And we continue to build better mousetraps while wondering why there are no takers.  The ‘smarter’ guys believe that if the mousetraps were cheaper, they would be able to sell. For me it is a no-brainer that a mousetrap is needed only if there are mice! Come let’s innovate they say. How about a GPS system that will show us where each mousetrap is located. Maybe some wheels to move it around. And a radio controlled wheelster on which to mount it. Gimme a break people – who’s going to ‘grow’ the mice?

We cannot solve the problems that we have created with the same thinking that created them. — Albert Einstein

The first law of holes: If you are in one, stop digging. — Anonymous Continue reading

Leadership innovation – The beginning and the end of history

Wow, what an amazing Valentine’s weekend! Thankfully “The Consortium of Red-faced, Jobless and Retrograde Men of India” ( male counter to the Facebook group “The Consortium of Pub-going, Loose and Forward Women”) was kept in check to allow India’s youth to celebrate Valentine’s day.

 
Vikram Kirloskar launching the new TOYOTA INNOVA
Vikram Kirloskar (left) – Launch of the new TOYOTA INNOVA.

But that aside, I had a blast. My friend Vikram Kirloskar, Vice Chairman of Toyota Kirloskar Motors, invited us to the most memorable evening with Jagjit Singh, the Ghazal Maestro. His satin voice had everybody spellbound for a riveting two hours. In Vikram San’s words – “It is Toyota India’s heartfelt gesture of gratitude to our customer ‘family'”. The event was fraught with simplicity and genuine warmth. I wish some people would take lessons from Toyota and especially from Vikram on humility and the natural way to live and work.

In concert with Jagjit Singh

In concert with Jagjit Singh

 How business can ‘flow along’ with such warmth. And to top it, to be immersed in such soul-stirring music. What more could I have asked for. My take away was that the “Toyota way” goes far beyond shopfloor efficiencies and product quality. It is a statement of life and living.

Then came Spiritual Sunday at the Chinmaya Mission precincts on Lodhi Road in New Delhi. Before you start imagining yoga mats and a saffron-robed Godman, I must tell you that the event had to do with the launching of Anil Sachdev’s SOIL – School of Inspired Leadership. Continue reading