Nurturing Risk is Essential to Innovation

sie sucht ihn 65549 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:

read what he said …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.

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

How are Innovation and Excellence related?

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see here now Jeby Cherian wrote me a note the other day saying, and I quote: ‘one of my pet peeves is our “just enough is good enough” attitude.’ Jeby wants us to make a commitment to excellence in everything we do in India, from the design of transportation systems to roads and sidewalks to airports and other forms of urban infrastructure. Jeby points to the outstanding conceptualization, planning and execution of the Delhi Metro as a counter-example to the way things are normally done in India. This kind of haphazard and ill-conceived infrastructure and environmental planning is also often excused in the name of jugaad, or indovation.

rencontre 42 gratuit What is the essential relationship between excellence and innovation? I think Jeby is on to something, and that this relationship bears more thought and discussion.

recherche sage femme a domicile The first thing that comes to mind is that excellence may also encompass a notion of the ‘ideal fitness of things,’ which can only come about by continuing to ‘make things right’ until they achieve that state. Another name for this repetitive or iterative effort to keep making things better until they are ‘right’ and ‘fit’ and ‘excellent’ is design.

Another thought one might offer is that conceptually the word jugaad refers to a joining of unlike things, that don’t necessarily usually or naturally fit together. Continuing to work on that assemblage until the elements do naturally fit together, again, represents something more intentionally and careful, and this is one way in which we can distinguish the products of design from jugaad.

Check out our prior thoughts on jugaad and indovation here. What more can be done to help people understand the value of design and innovation in making new things possible? Your thoughts welcome below…

What does Innovation look like in India?

Innovation is emerging as one of the most important rubrics in the discourse on how to bring about greater and more consistent economic and social development in India. One observes steadily growing investments in R&D across the country, the setting up of national and state innovation bodies, as well as the introduction of government-sponsored innovation funds. There have also been several conferences and debates on innovation and how to best promote and accomplish it in India, and a number of articles on the subject, written for both formal publications (newspapers and magazines) as well as more informal platforms like online forums and blogs.

Academic engagement and Indian authorship on the subject has also exploded the last five years. A book search for “Innovation in India” on Amazon yields 790 results. Despite widespread agreement on the importance of innovation in India, there are wide gulfs between different conceptions of innovation and on the path India that should take towards securing benefits through investments in innovation.

Many Indian conversations around innovation begin by talking about jugaad, that uniquely Indian approach to making a joint, or temporary fix when something complex, like an automobile or a steam engine stops working. Initiatives like Anil K. Gupta’s Honeybee network have been started in recent times in order to document and promote the many jugaad-driven rural innovations across India. However, many observers have pointed out that while jugaad is certainly innovative, it is a response to the lack of an innovation culture — more a survival or coping mechanism at a time of need than a systematic methodology to effectively address a wide-ranging, complex set of problems.

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On India’s Innovation Path: Where is it Leading?

Over at 3quarksdaily, our own Aditya Dev Sood wrote a thought-provoking (if somewhat rambling) article on India’s Innovation Path. He talks about how discourse around innovation in India is still at a very preliminary stage, and so far has been largely centered around jugaad and frugal innovation. Aditya argues that, while these may constitute “a first, necessary, and preliminary phase of innovation from India,” there is a need for more systematic and higher-order forms of innovation.

These require more sophisticated approaches than the ad hoc jugaad approach: they necessitate a deep understanding of human behavior, social interaction and everyday practices. Knowledge of these, he argues, can be gained through ethnographic processes, especially using visual and design oriented approaches. The information collected in this way then has to subjected to thorough design analysis, so that meaningful solutions can be designed, tested and finally implemented.

This systematic, highly-intentional approach to innovation is pretty much diametrically opposite to the adaptive, improvised jugaad approach. So what is the way forward for innovation in India? We can’t possibly disassociate ourselves from the culture of jugaad that has thrived for ages and will probably continue to flourish, but there should be a simultaneous move towards more systematic processes. These are not necessarily mutually exclusive since the creative skills and capacities needed for both methods are very similar. Maybe the answer is that we should embrace both approaches, and invite experts on jugaad and frugal engineering to collaborate with those attempting more systematic innovators. Perhaps that could be the best way to tap into the incredible creative capacities of our jugaad experts, but channel them into a more intentional innovation strategy? Comments welcome.

Jugaad and its Relationship to Innovation

Tim Leberecht of frog design wrote in a recent article:

The term Jugaad (pronounced “joo-gaardh”) is a colloquial Hindi word that describes a creative ad hoc solution to a vexing issue, making existing things work and/or creating new things with scarce resources. Although sometimes used pejoratively (in the sense of a makeshift cheap fix), it is now widely accepted as a noun to describe Indian-style innovation (some also call it “indovation”) – describing the inventiveness of Indian grassroots engineers and scientists that have led to the pedal-powered washing machine, inspired the extra-low-cost Tata Nano car, or the success of India’s space program. It is, in short, the art of holistic (and therefore lateral) thinking, of unbound, resilient creativity, and of improvisation and rapid prototyping under severe constraints.

Interesting thoughts. But most innovation experts in India have come to see that jugaad arises as a coping strategy by those who lack other options. Jugaad is a symptom of a structural challenge in India, inadequate distribution and service networks prevent necessary goods and services from being readily available to those who most need them. Owing to that lack, improvisation steps in.

Ethnographers of Jugaad, of which there have been many over the past decade routinely alight on the most kitschy and visually provocative examples of such folk adaptations of technology. But real insight and understanding about India’s innovation needs in the future does not necessarily arise from those pretty pictures. Jugaad as a strategy and practice is certainly innovative, but it arise in societies that lack innovation as a process and as a driver of the economy.

What we need in India and in similar emerging economies are ways of learning from latent consumer needs through ethnography, creating new solutions through design analysis and better contextualization of technologies through user experience modeling. All this can ensure that new products, services, technologies and platforms can be imagined, designed, developed and rolled out.

In India today we need a better understanding of innovation and a more widespread committment to innovation. We don’t need more Jugaad.