Sunday, May 30, 2010

Create a wildfire of enthusiasm!!

'Innovate! 90 Days To Transform Your Business' was launched in a glittering function at the World Trade Centre, Mumbai. The book was released by Mr. Kalanthri and Mr. Kamal Moraka. Mrs. Rupa Naik spoke about learning from the book. Over 100 corporate dignitaries and press sampled the 90 day innovation programme.
Create a wildfire of enthusiasm. This happens when every one's fingerprints are on the Strategic Plan. Turn spectators in your organization into genuine participants, willing to dive into action. HLL’s mission ‘Bushfire’ led by the MD and CEO Nitin Paranjpe inspired 4000 employees to go out into the market for 6 days. They went into 15,000 shops seeking to create perfect stores. The Idea Bank scheme at ICICI harvests the ideas of thousands of employees and provides built-in rewards, for teams that actually ‘tame the wild ideas’ and implement them.
It was Ravi Venkatesan of Microsoft India, who focused on Innovation Blow Back (IBB) in his company. IBB happens when innovations developed for the poor are now being brought by rich nations like Tata's Nano. His company offers a computer with 3 mice, so that poor children in village schools can work on the computer, three to a screen. Our poverty makes us the Innovation Laboratory for efficient, low cost, high quality innovations, like shampoo in sachets, developed by a small new entrant, Velvette Shampoo. Create innovations for the common man.
Everyday the 90 day blueprint has a plan attached or a thinking tool attached. If you would like to try it in your company, create a few small cross-functional commando teams of 5 to 7 action warriors. Let all teams follow the 90 day plan, led by an innovation champion who has direct access to the CEO. Innovation requires going away from normal practices, cutting against the grain, so 'Top Management' support is critical. START TODAY!!! Buy the book at your nearest book store!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Being Proactive

“Seize the moment. Think of all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart” – Elma Bloombeck

Seize the moment. Act now when the opportunity is walking past your door. It may never knock. Go out, grab it by the collar and bring it in. No one likes change except a wet baby who needs his nappy changed. Write down your wishes. Track your impossible dreams. Capture them, lasso them, as they speed away like runaway horses. For as Walt Disney said – “If you can dream it, you can do it!”
Dr. Edwin Land, Founder of Polaroid Corporation made a killing with instant pictures when he made his little daughter’s wish come true. She wanted to see her birthday pictures immediately, before they were developed. Ask all your team members to write down their wishes. The impossible wishes are the most precious – the highway to the path of innovation. Imagine Sam Walton who made inventory a profit centre, instead of a cost centre. Fred Smith, a senior in college, wrote a team paper where parcels worldwide could be delivered overnight. Many years as a pilot flying missions into Vietnam, he refined the idea. When he returned, he created Federal Express. It is rumored that the legendary Dhirubhai got Boeing to cut open the hull of an aircraft to transport a huge machine, which was needed to reach India before major taxes came into effect. Let ideas appear and be recorded. Leave them alone to germinate and grow in people’s minds. No criticism during idea generation. For “Analysis kills spontaneity. The grain once ground into flour, springs and germinates no more.” Henrie Fredric Ammiel.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Explore Opposites

I watched 'Coco' a movie about the great fashion designer Coco Chanel. When the whole world of glamorous women wore jewels and silks and colours to fussy excess, she created the little black dress - a total minimalist contrast to the current trend. A way of dressing that said clearly - "Less is more!" Perhaps the total lack of resources she experienced in her childhood in an orphanage, made her use adversity to make a style statement, where she used to telling effect what little she had. Innovation is often born of adversity. That is why India with over 250 million people , has the opportunity to create minimalist, inexpensive designs for the world.Innovation is about doing things differently. The surfire method is to think about the exact opposite of what everyone is doing. As VP Marketing, Apollo Hospitals group,I noticed that hospitals used to be a place for the sick. We turned it upside down and made Apollo a place for wellness with a multitude of check-ups. People worldwide who were well came to remain well, making it a household brand.

"If at first the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it." - Albert Einstein

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Revisit the Problem Bank

"Instead of pouring knowledge into people's heads, we need to help them grind a new set of eyeglasses so that we can see the world in a new way." - J. S. Brown

Give the team a chance to look at the problem together, so that their minds are expanded to achieve a holistic view. This map of problems will enable everyone to have an unified view of the geography of the problem. Encourage people to keep refining the problem and adding more sub problems. Remember, when the problem map is clear, the optimum path through the thickets and mountains becomes easy and clear. Maintain the growing problem bank on the intranet. Replace problems which are solved with new problems. This exercise enhances collaboration. It reduces needless conflict and eliminates turf protection

Monday, May 17, 2010

Problem Analysis

Let all members of the team analyze and discuss the problem. Break up the problem and analyze it in all its parts. Study the past, present and future of the problem as team members perceive it. Let everyone have a chance to imprint their personal view point of the problem.
Certainly a person on the assembly line will see the problem in a way totally different from the CEO. The problem of the mouse is different from the solutions seen by the housewife. When everyone understands the problem together, they become committed to finding a solution common to all.
When the biggest cruise ship in history, 'The Titanic' sprang a leak, the first person to notice it is supposed to have said "The problem is on the other side of the ship!" The whole ship sank anyway.
Problem analysis by the whole team, ensures that people take a holistic view without turf protection.

Friday, May 14, 2010


A few years ago top notch American Research Company came up with the finding that the next global economic powers will be the Indian Elephant and the Chinese Dragon. Energize your team with patriotism. Let them not forget that in the 1770's we had 25% of the world trade. We plummeted to 5 per cent of world trade and now we are slowly climbing to 1.2 per cent. We need to conquer the world market with huge blow back innovations like sachet shampoos, the Nano, 20$ cataract surgeries or a computer with 3 mice. India is the largest laboratory for bottom of the pyramid innovations for the poor. Most countries cannot come up with such reverse innovations, created by the poor but used by the rich. This is because each of these innovations are good for a sustainable Earth. Our planet is being threatened by the greedy energy guzzling lifestyle of affluent nations. Our innovations, driven by economic inflations may really help us save planet earth.

Monday, May 10, 2010


It is important to involve everyone in identifying problems in the system. Give everyone a chance and encourage them to throw light on problems. Once main points are identified, it becomes easy to deal with them. The problem finding exercise will be facilitated by using the 6 M’s – Men, materials, machineries, methods, markets and money.

Sometimes people state the symptoms and not the problems. For instance, consider the question, ‘How to build better mouse trap’. How much better it would be to ask, ' How to keep mice out of my space?'. This could throw open the field to gas, poison or improving hygiene. The first question would ensure that the person is obsessed with architecture of mouse traps. Scarce resources could be spent on mouse traps which would not really get rid of mice. Get everyone to ask the right questions and identify the core problems together.

Identifying and formulating the problem is the most difficult part of creative problem solving. Very often we state symptoms of the problems and end up wasting scare resources chasing the illusionary "golden deear of the epics".Management then becomes so emotinaonally commited to the wrong path, that we can end up moving faster and faster along the wrong road. It is like a man who drills an oil well, in a bad spot. More and more money is spent with no resulting strike. But those involved, refuse to fill up the unproductive well and move on to a new location. They continue throwing good money after bad, because they do not want to admit that a mistake had been made initailly.

Sunday, May 9, 2010


King Janaka tilled the soil with his own hands and he was also the greatest knowers of Truth of his time. Digging with his own hands he found the greatest gift of his life from the Earth Mother, his beautiful daughter, Sita. The CEO and his top team should be closely involved in the innovation initiative. There is no use asking the rank and file to use innovation thinking tools, when the CEO does not bother to learn them or recognise them when they are used. Thinking tools are effective only if they are regularly used and become a natural way of being. Participation by top management is critical in an innovation initiative. Swami Vivekananda said "It will not do to merely listen to great principles. you must apply them in the practical field , turn them in to constant practice".

Finally lead from the front. People do not see what you say but what you do. "The wind of grace of the Lord is blowing on forever and ever, do you spread your sail" Swami Vivekananda. Get down ,lead from the front,participate.

Friday, May 7, 2010


“The world is just a gymnasium in which we play; our life is an eternal holiday’
-Swami Vivekananda

First install the positive field in your company, where everybody is full of a joyous, ‘Can do’ spirit.This is the ‘field’ in which creativity and innovation works best. Playfulness enhances great ideas.

The environment of creativity is a supportive and nurturing environment,where everyone feels free to play, to be intuitive and bold. It is the environment that encourages people to be creative, be silly even, to take risks, and to think outside the box. There is around every organization, a field, which is positive or negative. This field begins within the individual.

Each person has within him a field that is positive or negative. The development of an inner field, a mindspace that is positive, is key to creativity. Continuously developing and pouring in positive emotions creates a positive field within which, a person interacts with others who bring in their own fields. Those who operate in positive fields suffused with love, compassion, laughter, courage and wonder, are likely to be more creative while supporting others to be at their innovative best. In order to present this concept more clearly. I have used the ancient Indian concept of the Navarasas – the nine emotions.

Learning to enhance the positive field and reducing the effect of the negative field is an important part of creativity and innovation. Thinking out of the box is possible only in a positive field. The positive field is sustained by certain tools and behaviour: verbal, tonal and non- verbal. It is a win-win field. Within such a field, all who operate together are enabled and nurtured.

“ The essence of creativity is a willingness to play the fool, to toy with the absurd,only later submitting the stream of ideas to harsh critical judgement. The application of the imagination to the future therefore requires an environment in which to safely reflect, in which novel juxtapositions of ideas can be freely expressed before being critically sifted. We need sanctuaries for the social imagination.”
- Alvin Toffler

Thursday, May 6, 2010

DO or DIE!

‘There is no harm building dream castles in the air. Now just put foundations under them’ said a philosopher. Not only is there no harm in dreaming, it is a critical element in creating the reality you want. In the era of silent movies, Harry M.Warner, Warner Brothers said ”Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?”
Dream the impossible dream and make sure your whole team dreams the same clear dream. Gandhiji said “Poorna Swaraj!” or Total Freedom! The minds of 350 million Indians were focused on that magic word , Freedom! He burnt all the bridges with the implementation mantra ‘Do or Die’.
If you want your company to pursue stretch goals you need to do this two step menouver:
1. Create a unified dream
2. Act to finish.
Ideas are easier. Implementation is the killer!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


You see things: and you say ‘Why?’
But I dream things that never were:
and say ‘Why not?’
- George Bernard Shaw in Back to Methuselah

Companies need to innovatively design their future when they are doing well.
Learning enactly how to get ideas,develop them and implement them as innovations requires discipline and direction. The journey can lead you to new strategies, new products or even new ways of working and managing .Practising the step by step tools, that lead to innovation, for 90 days can ultimately lead you to the reinvention of your entire organization. Whether it was an IAS Officer like SR Rao who transformed plague ridden Surat into one of the healthiest cities in the world or the Tata’s making Nano the world’s most inexpensive car, everything starts with a dream goal, an impossible vision which, ignites the imagination. ‘The journey of a thousand leagues starts with a single step’ says a Chinese proverb. The journey to transformation starts with your decision to chase a stretch goal,to reach for the distant star!