Thursday, December 30, 2010


This is a technique, one aspect of which is to look at the opposite of what we want.

For example, look at how to increase costs or how to reduce turnover or deposits and then turn the points made upside down to arrive at how to reduce costs. People find it easier to be negative than to come up with a cost reduction technique. This can then be combined with attribute matching.

* Play devil’s advocate – take the exact opposite view of the one you have been holding.

* Everyone should take responsibility and ownership.

* Write down your worries – and then let go…..

* Learn to relax. Spend 20 minutes consciously relaxing each muscle of your body.


Problem: How to reduce cost?


How to Increase cost

How to Decrease cost







Monday, December 27, 2010

Focus On Markets Ignored By Others

"Empowering people is the most effective way to create profitable companies", says Mr. Thyagarajan, founder of the Shriram Group of Companies in Chennai. He brought workers into management and spent a lot of face time with them. "They made it happen", he says. His methods are simple.
  • Cut out all non - value - added activities.
  • Engage each one of the workers, including contract labour, by uniting them for a common cause.
"How can you solve the problem with the same tools that caused them?" He brought in a good CEO and made him accountable. The strategy worked and profits began to flow in. "I always found people who could do things. Then I empowered them and left them alone!"

Shriram Chit Funds was started in 1974 with four chit fund companies focusing on truck operators. Now, its volume of business is Rs. 27, 000 crores. When asked why he started with four companies at a time when Small Business Units (SBUs) were not popular, he explains, "Each area had a CEO who had total freedom. Growth was faster, because each CEO felt more energized. We South Indians are suspicious of anyone who grows too fast. This strategy also kept the company out of envy's radar. I was able to call forth a 'Start - Up' attitude. Once I was sure of the leadership, I maintained an attitude of tolerance towards mistakes." The SBUs worked very well and grew quickly.

He recalls how Mr. B.K. Shah, CEO of New India Assurance transformed it into a giant insurance company by appointing 500 inspectors all over India. "In a single stroke of genius, he was able to create a giant - a successful giant. People said he was crazy, the company would be cheated. This motley group, 70% were matriculates and 15 non - matriculates, were given a month's training and the authority to handle and issue policies , premium receipts and issue bank cheques. The market was aghast. But it worked. People performed. They delivered. They lived up to the challenge of high expectations. This is what inspired me to create the Shriram Group's army of agents, over 60, 000 of them. We give them respect and rewards. They create wealth for the company. Our attrition rate is almost zero!" The company considers the truck operator a financial partner. They collect no collateral. "We help them develop the business, because we are co - creators of value. We give truck operators a vision of themselves. We treat them with respect. We support schools for drivers. We support AIDS prevention with the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation. We try to deal with their total credit needs. We are rewarded with total loyalty! The best credit risk, in my view, is a truck operator."

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Bring Adhutha or Wonder into the Organization

This is a very useful, feel-good emotion. Welcome wonder into you life. Celebrate the beauty of the stars, and enjoy the wonder of the mountains. Greet the dawn and say goodbye to the sunset. The moonlight has been created to heal your wounds. Sleep on the lap of Mother Nature and become a child again. Go on excursions with your team.

Action to bring Adbutha into your life

* Be alone in silence with nature at the beginning and end of every day.

* Enjoy a walk among tall trees and green gardens.

* Plant seeds and saplings. Distribute them.

* Set apart time for prayer to praise God for His glorious creation.

* Set apart time to enjoy beauty.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Creating The Financial Mall

The cheerful HSBC Bank branch at Bombay's Flora Fountain seems a hot spot for out-of-the-box thinking. Visually, it is bright and full of activity. The 35,000 strong workforce, with an average of thirty, crave change and innovation. "The worst thing we can do is shut them out. They believe in themselves, they are passionate about their ideas. They need to know where the idea is going. Just generating ideas is not enough!", says Naina Kidwai, CEO.
Her ideas on innovation are interesting. "One needs to be able to generate ideas, grow them and finally disengage from them when the time comes! The last may be the toughest!"

The bank had a program called 'Magic Ideas' in 2007. "The ideas had to be developed, critiqued and presented, fully grown", says Naina. The best ideas received awards. Those that passed the preliminary 'smell' test were acknowledged. The best were honored at an annual event. "The bank can be quite bureaucratic because of our compliance requirements. The systems orientation can make innovation difficult in all areas. We look for places where flexibility is possible", she explains. "We are a listening organization. We try to listen to everybody. We realize the need to get feedback from people doing the job at junior levels. The peon interfacing with the customers needs to support us", she says.

She outlined the mega exercise undertaken in 2005, where 130 task forces were created to look at ways to make the bank a better place to work in. Each essential element was chaired by a top officer reporting to the CEO. These were cross - functional teams which came up with truly innovative solutions - flexi-time, focussed attention on grassroots participation and ways to create happiness and excitement. There was a serious effort in 2007 to engage the whole bank. How to involve everyone in idea generation? How to engage the brain, which is so under - utilized? "We use a form of carpet bombing. We put people who were creative into every team to infect the others." 'Project Vridhi' or improvement, focuses on small ideas. The awards ranged from flat screen TVs to iPods. The bank's present focus is on SMEs, because sixty percent of India belongs to this group who succeed in the face of enormous frustration and corruption. "I think everyone needs to work three times harder in the Indian system. Networking and partnership are key.", she says. "We will learn from anyone. We studied ideas for retail by studying Pizza Hut. We looked at Mindtree and Wipro for their technology inputs. Jet Airways taught us better service. I thought about diversity and women's groups when I read an article about Jack Welch of GE."

Customers can too look forward to an unusual experience. The bank is not a branch but a mall. There are Saturday surprises which include food and ice cream for visitors. There is a charity sale too, where NGOs sell their products. All festivals call forth decoration and celebrations. There is a 'May I Help You' desk and a special lounge to give high net worth individuals an extraordinary experience. This is presided over by a relationship manager. The 'Turn It Upside Down' experience of changing HSBC Bank from an elite institution into a people's retail institution required radical change in recruiting, training and deploying. "In small towns, we looked for people who could speak the local language well and blend into the local culture. We needed to become more user friendly in rural areas. This was a period of extraordinary innovation, requiring a soul - level change in the bank's mindset.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Diversity Tool 3: Interns

Invite a student from a premier foreign university to work in your plant. Encourage him to work on a burning issue. Involve him in an Innovation Spiral.

* Adopt Tent Thinking vs. Marble Palace Thinking.

* Keep things in right place.

* Focus on now

Focus on your breathing. Take a deep breath, and then exhale slowly. Repeat a couple of times a day

Monday, December 20, 2010

Diversity Tool 2: Alternative Views

Help participants appreciate the point of view of otherwise ignored stake holders. A holiday resort company setting up a resort in a Pristine tribal area in Ooty, invites the Toda Tribals to participate in a session examining ways to maintain the environment while involving them as employees and guides. There was an interesting session when one of the tribals took the role of a cricket (a small insect) in the Jungle. The fragility of the eco system was brought home to the promoters.

* The rules for thinking are different from the rules for doing. Implementation is possible only with a clear foundation of rational thought and practical application.

* Help the team member when they are in distress.

* Set personal goals

* Enroll in a TM programme today.

Diversity Tool1: The Naïve Resource

The Naïve Resource.: Invite a surgeon to be involved in a one hour MindsPower session with a team from a Foundry.

* Company wide innovation is not about nurturing solitary genius in sterile laboratories, but requires the bubbling enthusiasm of teams.

* Mutual understanding.

* Rediscover God

* Do not use elevators when you can climb the stairs.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Bug-list Technique

According to Hendry Petroski, the author of ‘The Evolution of Useful Things’, inventors share the feeling of being driven by a real or perceived failure of existing things or processes to work as well as they might. Fault-finding with the world around them and disappointments with the inefficiencies with which things are done appear to be common traits among inventors. According to Marvin Camaras, an inventor quoted in the same book, ‘inventors tend to be dissatisfied with what they see around them . . . maybe they’re dissatisfied with something they’re actually working on or with an everyday thing...they say this is a very poor way of doing it.’ The bug list technique was developed to capitalize on this tendency of faulting things around us – to lead to corrective action.

Procedure for Use of the Technique

1. The group is asked to identify things that irritate or ‘bug’ them. Each person is asked to identify five or 10 bugs.

2. Then the list is consolidated to identify the bugs common to most persons.

3. The group is led through the list and asked to vote.

4. Then the group brainstorms ways to resolve the bugs

Example for Use

Bug Solution

‘That wretched bookmark fell out of my book again!’ Post-it Note

‘Drat! I nicked myself again. This happens every time

I change blades.’ Electric Razor

‘Where did I put those extra batteries?’ Solar powered appliances

‘I hate paying a tax accountant to prepare my income

tax report.’ Tax Preparation Software

Identify the bugs in your product or process and look for a solution.


Metaphors can also be applied to gain fresh perspectives on a situation under analysis. A metaphor is a term or phrase that is applied to another, unrelated term or phrase to create a nontraditional relationship. For example, ‘all the world’s a stage.’

Metaphors can be used to examine various situations. For example, an organizational environment might be the topic of analysis. One might ask, ‘How do people in my organization resemble animals in a jungle? How do different animals manage their interactions with each other and how do we translate them into the different leadership styles that are used?’ Answering these queries might allow new insight into the situation.

Procedure for Use

1. Identity the issue you would like to innovate on like ‘How to make customers your raving fans?’

2. Ask each member of the group to record their feelings about movies.

3. Experiential metaphor may include having the group to go for a movie.

4. Apply these ideas to the problem using force-fit and record all ideas.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


The use of analogies and metaphors can be a valuable tool in stimulating creativity, both in problem definition and problem solving. Einstein often used these techniques as a way to visualize and solve problems. The development of the analogies/metaphors creativity technique is generally credited to de Bono (1970). However, Aristotle spoke of the value of metaphor almost 2,200 years ago: ‘Now strange words simply puzzle us; ordinary words convey only what we know already; it is from metaphor that we can best find something fresh.’ An analogy is a similarity between two things and the strange familiar.’ By the use of analogies, an individual or group can often find a new insight and approach to the nature of a problem and thus its resolution.

Procedure for Use

Often one can force analogies, for example, ‘How is this problem like a time bomb?’ to examine and restructure a query. To use the technique of applying analogies:

1. Identify the essence of the query that you are facing for example, the query might be ‘How can we improve the way we work with other departments?’ Key to the statement is one of ‘improving.’

2. Create a list of devices and methods that are particularly relevant to the key concept – improving. For example, runners follow a training regimen to improve, which includes a combination of factors diet, exercise, psychological techniques.

3. Review your specific question in the context of each device or method on your list.

* All potentially positive features of the ideas are identified and the deficiencies are used to give the direction for improvement, preserving the element of novelty while the idea is modified to make it feasible.

* Never use other people’s possessions without asking them.

* Get rid of old prejudices and perceptions

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Everything Changes

This is the first of the Laws of Innovation: Everything changes - people, products, companies; Men, Materials, Machines, Methods, Markets and Money (6M). The decision to change is in your hands but there are challenges to growth.

Innovation is about transformation. Imagine a block of ice. It is cold, solid, and transparent. But it is not a block of ice forever. It melts and flows across boundaries. Water follows along its own logic which is very different from the logic of ice. Water goes to many places, has many adventures, but always comes back to its own nature – cool, beautiful and still. If you heat it, it boils; keep heating, it gets airborne by becoming steam, steam that knows the freedom of the skies, steam that cannot be held captive. Add pressure and it can rotate turbines to generate power.

Transformation is what happens to a drop of water when it is touched by the magic of sunlight. It becomes a rainbow. It is what happens to a seed when it starts the journey to become a mighty banyan tree. The banyan tree is not an improved seed, just as a butterfly is not an improved caterpillar or a rainbow an improved drop of water. By definition, innovation is taking interesting ideas and transforming them into usable solutions for business problems. This book is about business creativity and innovation.

What can you do with a brick? Principle, a brick is not a brick forever.

The key is to understand the fact that everything can be proactively changed. Apply the idea of 6Ms of your problem.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Five-senses Exercise

This exercise helps you to unleash the power of the senses. Work-life encourages you to be a one dimensional person. This reduces the power one can bring to an idea by accessing your five senses

Take an apple. Hold it in your hand and experience it fully. Touch, feel, see, hear it while biting and tasting it. Apply the thoughts you have on this experience to the problem at hand.

This method was used by a leading financial institution on the problem of how to attract and retain talent.

Seeing the apple. The sense of sight made one of the groups think of the colour of passion. This was used to come up with the idea that individuals who are passionate enough about an idea to take the initiative and risk should be rewarded.

The sight of a rotten apple gave rise to the idea that negative elements should be identified and isolated.

The red and yellow apple reminded people about the sun and they said that HR policies should be like the rising sun.

Touching the apple reminded them of the womb and they felt that HR should be as safe as the womb.

The smoothness of the apple led them to say that career progressions should be smooth with no awkward bumps. ‘Soft issues should be handled with a kind grandmother’s touch’ said someone who remembered his first apple.

The smell of the apple drew attention to the need for a friendly, pleasant atmosphere.

The sounds while eating an apple made people feel that HR policy should be crisp. The place of work should be quiet, with pleasant sounds.

The taste of the apple led to the idea that HR policy should be easy to digest and understood. Ask them to apply the sensory impressions to the problem and come up with solutions.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Bring Courage and Veera Rasa into the Organization

Turning ordinary men into matchless warriors full of the enthusiasm to win can definitely improve performance. Gandhiji did just that, using his magic mantras to infuse courage into the freedom struggle: Do or die, Quit India, Vande Mataram.

Among the nava rasas, chivalry is key to the life of a warrior: a corporate warrior is no different and needs real courage. Wonder is developed from courage. The rapture of courage is produced by means of energy, perseverance, optimism, presence of mind and kindness. Courage and bravery are definitely feel-good emotions. Courage is represented on the stage by firmness, patience, heroism, pride, zeal, valor and wit. Bravery fills you with enthusiasm, energy and spontaneity. Bravery is not just bravery in war. It is the small, everyday acts of courage that each of us is called upon to manifest in the face of obstacles. The ability to sacrifice, which is the core of emotional intelligence, is a part of the Veera Rasa. The ability to persist in the face of difficulties is a part of this. To meet the jealousy and pettiness of the world with gentleness, humor and fearlessness, is part of it. Brilliance and elegance belong to the true warrior who aligns himself with the powerful forces of goodness. ‘Josh,’ wakefulness, energy and boundless enthusiasm are an expression of this energy.

Action plan to bring courage and Veera Rasa into your life

* Enjoy the thrill of overcoming obstacles.

* Do not be cast down by failure; instead enjoy the excitement of solving the problem.

* Be involved in finding solutions to community problems.

* Get involved in speaking up against injustice and resisting evil.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Attribute Matching

Attribute matching is a simple method which breaks down the stereotypes which are very common among many of us.

Procedure for use

  1. Come up with a procedure or process that is totally different from the process or product to be improved.

  1. List attributes of the new product or process.

  1. Apply each attribute to the product or process being considered and arrive at alternative solutions.

Example for use:

Let us say that we want to design a method of work, which is as interesting as a holiday. I would then list out the attributes of holiday as follows:

A holiday is:

A time when one can go away on picnics and play games and listen to music

A holiday is when you enjoy and meet new people

A holiday is when you enjoy leisure time activities and different sports like canoeing and water skiing

A holiday is when you catch up on your reading

A holiday is when you spend more time with your family

Now in attribute matching you apply each of the attributes to the work situation. For example, you say my work will involve spending more time with my family. This can lead to the idea that families can be invited to the work place or helped to take up jobs in your work place. Family get-togethers every week will also provide opportunities when family members are involved in contributing to the individual company as in telemarketing or with summer jobs for the kids. Both ideas are being implemented in many corporations.

You can use any word as a key to enter the domain of a problem in attribute matching. This enables you to study a problem by importing ideas from a totally different field.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Thinking Tools – ‘Turn it Upside Down’ (T.U.D.)

Steps followed within T.U.D.:

  1. Common Belief: Hospital is a place for people who are sick.
  2. T U D: Hospital is a place for people who are healthy.

When we looked at a hospital as a place for people, who are healthy,

Our base of customers increased to include a vast number of healthy people who were interested in preventive and positive health programmes. The “Well Woman” programme which involved a health and beauty focus was a positive health programme. Yoga experts, beauticians and women’s health practitioners brought excitement into this vastly successful programme. Preventive health care came into positive focus.

The relationship with customers which traditionally started on a note of pain, anxiety, illness and death, began on a happy note. The focus was how to remain healthy and how to prevent problems. The lifetime relationship, which is the bedrock of direct marketing today, started on a happy, positive note.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Use Checklists to Develop Ideas

Checklists help to generate ideas in a systematic way. Once a problem is identified, teams can use checklists to explore all areas and issues that are associated with the problem. They help the team think and are often in the form of questions. Many of the mapping tools, like 6M, are just like checklists, encouraging you to be systematic in your approach.

The simplest tools include checklists like the questions which, why, where, when, how and who. Thinkers from Plato onwards have developed hundreds of thinking tools which are as easy to learn as the three Rs (reading, w[r]iting, [a]rithmetic).

The following checklist was created by Alex Osborn, an advertising manager and author of the creativity technique called brainstorming. Apply it to develop ideas on a chosen problem. Teams can then discuss the problem together.

The Checklist:

· Put to other uses?

· Adapt? Is there anything else like this? What does this tell you? Is the past comparable?

· Modify? Give it a new angle?

· Magnify? Can it be duplicated, multiplied or exaggerated?

· Minimize? Can anything be taken away? Made smaller? Lowered?

· Shortened? Lengthened? Omitted? Broken up?

· Substitute? Different ingredients used? Other material?

· Other processes? Other places? Other approachs? Other tone of voice? Someone else?

· Rearrange? Swap components? Alter the pattern, sequence or layout? Change the pace or schedule? Transpose cause and effect?

· Reverse? Opposites? Backwards? Reverse roles?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Positive and Negative

The 6M is a template and a blueprint to think ideas through. It can be used with every tool and helps the teams to separate the positive from the negative.

Each of the six key elements of a business could be analysed, identifying the feelings.

For example, invite all employees to write on post-it slips, what the pluses and the minuses in the company are as per the below table given below:

6M Positive+ Negative-







Do not be afraid to ask questions even if it makes you look ignorant – nobody is expected to know everything.

Sanctuary 3

Sanctuary 3 is a tool to generate alternativeness. When a system is working well, as a matter of routine it should be used to encourage to think of 10 alternative ways of doing it better. This is an important and interesting tool to prevent stagnation.

Imagine a company caught by high cost during a downturn. Now develop five ways to reduce costs. For example:

· Ask people to work for three days a week

· Encourage people to take an unpaid sabbatical.

· Encourage working from home or telecommunicating.

· Get vendors to supply completed parts and components to the assembly line. This will eliminate the need for stores and inventory.

· Get customers to sell to other customers for a small fee.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Sanctuary 2

Sanctuary 2 is very similar to attribute matching. They help us to put together dissimilar ideas and expert solutions from different fields. Example: If you would like to get fresh ideas on education compare it to a motor car. The attributes of a motor car are,

1. It moves

2. It should be regularly filled with petrol

3. It can carry people

4. It provides a good view of the country

5. It has four wheels

Applying some of the ideas to education will ensure that we get a whole group of creative ideas like educational programme should put different types of people together in close proximity (as in a motor car) and enable them to share ideas in a time bubble away from others.

Education should provide regular inputs from an outside source (like petrol). May be ideas from people in government or agriculture or nuclear physics.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Working With Wild Ideas

A germinal idea requires the sanctuary of a mindspace that is totally nurturing. It requires a space to grow so that its wildness is not nipped in the bud. Who knows which weed will become the coffee bush? Let the wilderness flourish in a totally non-threatening atmosphere. Let the ideas grow high and tall. Leave all pruning for later. New ideas need to play freely, with no discipline. Suspend judgement, postpone reaction, extend effort.

Hindustan Lever has its innovation centers. Cognizant has budgets for its mavericks and no stop signs within those budget allocations. Mr. Lakshminarayan, CEO speaks of an innovation department that co-ordinates this.

Ask all the participants to make an impossible wish: zero cost, zero rejections or double productivity. Then proceed to tame the wish bit by bit using the innovation tools already learnt, like 6M. This process can be extended as you learn all the tools. So go ahead and spend time setting impossible goals and developing wild ideas.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Idea Generation

‘There is always a well-known solution to every problem – neat, plausible and wrong.’ H. L Mencken

It is worth remembering here that the rules for thinking are totally different from the rules for dong. You can set up a 100 million dollar factory in your mind, study the mathematical implications and destroy it without losing a single dollar. However, as soon as the first brick is physically laid, or the first employee hired, you start losing money.

Do not analyse your thoughts during idea generation. Remove all boundaries. Apply analysis only in the fourth stage of the creative thinking process. It is ideal to train trainers in the thinking tools and then encourage them to deliver training to the teams.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Product Development in the Marketplace

When you take the germinal product into a protected test market, observe the way it is used by customer. Try different version of it, if possible. For example, a manufacturer of metal furniture is carrying out hands-on experiments with customers in different retail formats whilst developing wooden furniture that customers can accept as easily as the furniture made by the local carpenter

Once a new product idea germinates, it needs time and space to grow and develop that idea. The immediate reaction is to remove all elements that make the product new and different. Most groups will rush to protect familiar aspects of the product. If it is wild idea, there will be a concerted rush to domesticate it and retain its age old and familiar attributes. Fiercely protect the wildness of the idea by enclosing it in a sanctuary. Allow it to roam free in the sanctuary for a few days. Don’t touch it. Remember if everyone loves an idea, it is probably 200 years old.

Insist that unfamiliar, strange, unusual elements are developed. Use tools like springboards, turn it upside down. Support the Champion, tone down the attackers. Work on taking it to market fast on a small investment with the possibility of a profit. Don’t try to create the perfect product in the lab.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Test Product Specifications in the Competitive Marketplace

Carefully calibrate the product, creating a balance between what the customer wants and what the competitive market will bear. On a new product, make small investments, change and react to what happens in the marketplace. Like a potter uses his hand to shape wet clay, refine your product as it makes its way tentatively through market place.

Remember, a kite can only be tested when it flies. Don’t keep your product too long in the laboratory – launch it, test it and improve it as you go along. Be hungry for early profits. Let the product evolve to achieve customer delight.

Work out a new source of revenue from an activity that has just been introduced. See how you can turn a cost centre into a profit centre.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Service Is the Differentiator

While products or services may be similar, it is possible to differentiate your product by offering a unique service. For instance, while all airlines are the same, Kingfisher Airlines distinguishes itself with the way helpers take care of luggage and especially in the way the passenger is treated as a ‘guest’. All hospitals aim to cure but the motto, ‘Our work is an offering to God’ at th Sathya Sai Hospital in Whitefield, Bangalore, differentiates it from more commercial institutions.

Use the plan as per the table given below to revisit existing product service packages and explore how products and services can be differentiated.

Product Differentiation Chart

Areas of Customer Supplier Manufacturing R&D Marketing


Product design



Place of sale