Nurturing Risk is Essential to Innovation

Jacob Koshy, in a recent WSJ article, wrote about how, despite the fact that India has been labelled as a nation of innovators and has embarked on a self-declared decade of innovation, this is only true in the loosest sense of the word. Most often, examples of so-called ‘Indian innovation’ are limited to improvising, tinkering, and quick-fix solutions – in other words, jugaad. Koshy observes:

…apart from the immediate, simplistic appeal that this tinkering or ‘jugaad,’ presents—of a poor, uneducated villager developing a water-bicycle that can be pedaled across a river, or a school dropout fashioning a pedal pump-powered washing machine—we rarely hear of these mavericks improving on their designs, or licensing their work to a company.

Why is there such a failure in translating these creative improvisations into successful, marketable innovations that add real value? [Read more…]

Our biggest failures and what they taught us

We’re putting together a book right now, and it’s got us looking back through old projects to explore what we’ve learned over the years.

This may not surprise everyone, but we’re finding that the greatest lessons we’ve learned over the years have come from our failures.

When we’d just started out, we got a project request from a huge American internet services company. They were curious about internet usage and the data needs of people in India. Specifically, they had discovered that many people in India owned computers, but were not connecting to the internet. They were confused as to why someone would be using a computer but be disinterested in the internet.

So they asked us to do ethnographic research on this demographic to find out how they were using computers. We focused on South India, and through research we found a number of people who owned computers and could afford internet access, but hadn’t adopted it yet…

[Read more…]