Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Generating New Ideas

Many of the best ideas come from “happy accidents’. Often, individuals or small groups are simply “freelancing”, working on ideas on their own. Many good ideas die short of development and miles from commercial success. In most companies, the “practice” of innovation is infrequent, ineffective, and unsystematic. To create successful innovative ideas, the following steps to be followed:

* Involve everyone in the quest for ideas
* Involve customers in your process of generating ideas
* Involve customers in new ways.
* Focus on needs that customers don’t express. Focus groups provide feedback only on existing ideas.
* Seek ideas from new customer groups.

Organizational networks are a major factor to successful innovation. Rycroft and Kasha argue that the management of such networks differs, depending on the kind of innovation being pursued. In times when incremental innovations are the norm, managers should allow self-organization to occur; this is the process by which networks re-order themselves and their knowledge into more appropriate structures without the guidance of management. When major technological changes are on the horizon, however, the role of management changes. Managers need to guide organizational adaptations that are essential to acquiring and creating the knowledge needed to innovate successfully. Tata Steel does this with employees-‘Manthan ab Shopfloor se’

Monday, August 30, 2010

No Man Is An Island

"No man is an island, but a part of the Main. Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee..." - John Donne.

All of us need others. Thoreau after his famous retreat into the woods went back to society, family, friends, acquaintances and all the joys of interaction.

It was Jean Baker Miller who said, "In modern living, the major threats come not from the physical world but from the other people. It is people who make us feel unacceptable from early childhood and on, throughout life. If one could turn confidently to other people, in seeking to deal with these feelings, and if one could do this repeatedly with faith and ease, there would be many more chances of productively dealing with life."

Our relationship with others creates the confidence and the positive feel where creativity becomes natural.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


The springboard help us to suspend judgment and provides an atmosphere for imperfect ideas, which would otherwise be destroyed, to develop. It is often the flawed idea, which may provide the seed for a brilliant solution. In most meetings, ideas and people are destroyed by what I call heat seeking missiles which makes it difficult for individuals to take the risk of giving new ideas. Facing ridicule and dealing with failure are coping skills which no one seems to teach managers.

Springboard are used to prevent ideas from being judged. They are very useful when new ideas are nurtured in an atmosphere of suspended judgment. Example Springboard would involve requesting people to prepare a WISH LIST to solve a specific problem. You tell individuals if you can have all the resources and materials and people you need how would you solve this problem? This would enable people to ignore obstacles and protect ideas from criticism. Whenever an idea is given, all individuals in the group must first say what they like about the idea. They would then ask the idea owner, how to solve some of the problems involved.

Play Devil’s Advocate. As a discipline, think of the exact opposite of the view you have been holding. If you’ve been saying ‘Yes’ get the motivation for ‘No’

If you are an optimist, as a discipline work out the motivations of the pessimist. People feel busy and productive, leaping into activity. One can happily be busy doing work which may be non productive. In my view thinking should be the major activity of managers.

Creativity helps us to find alternatives to successful activities. But progress lies in constantly striving through innovation to delight the customer.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Making Innovation A Way Of Life

In India, the pressure on companies for immediate commercial returns is high. Management is bottom - line driven. They are extremely result driven in the short term and lose faith in concepts very fast. Innovation is a concept that requires long - term buy - in and takes time to be fully ingrained in the organizational culture.

Consistent, long - term commitment and implementation are key to making the climate of innovation a way of life. The benefits of an innovation intervention in very early phases are intangible. Long term top management participation and commitment are key to success of Innovation Intervention.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Feminine Principle

We generally fear our fathers and love our mothers. The concept of a mother - Goddess appeals more to our hearts than that of a father - God. Women are trained to be lovingly supportive. They show utmost patience when listening to a child struggling to say his first word. Patience is a culturally celebrated feminine virtue. "As patient as the earth" is the phrase used for a good mother. Empathy becomes easier in such a relationship, protected by the possibility of a lifetime bond.

Traditionally, women are comfortable with the care of the old and the infirm. They are patient with lack of incompetence. Today this is changing where women have to operate in the workplace where the rules are different. Many men question the need for empathy in a bottom - line oriented workplace. Toughness is respected and empathy is considered a sign of weakness.

I would like to propose the installation of the so - called feminine qualities in the workplace. This would probably make the workplace more creative and right - brained.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Spending Time Solving Problems

Many managements are involved in fire fighting and solving urgent matters which have developed into crisis situations. Time needs to be set apart to study alternative solutions to the bank of problems that lie under the surface of a running organization, constantly fighting for time. 'Don't fix it, if it ain't broke' say the Americans, meaning do not change, if it is working well. This is disastrous advice in the present context of rapid change. Alternatives have to be developed when things are going well. Status quo is the gateway to overnight obsolescence. Innovation should be planned when things are going well. When things are going badly and survival itself becomes an issue, no one has the time or energy to look for alternatives.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Cutting edge technologies

Cutting edge technologies were considered among the most important areas for ensuring success of the company. Merely incorporating cutting edge technology can make or mar a whole industry. When the flourishing textile mills of Coimbatore failed to keep pace with the cutting edge technologies adopted by the Japanese, the whole industry went into doldrums. Conversely, when Tirupur technocrats decided to incorporate world class spinning technology, this small Tamil town found a place in the world class facility for spun knit wear.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Customer focus on Innovation

Incorporating the customer’s voice into a product is one of the most important methods of ensuring market led innovation. Often the companies assume they know what customers want. But fashions change and so do customer tastes. Nestle, found in the 80’s that their market share for chocolates was plummeting. They conducted a TCC or Tapping Customer Creativity, that is when customers (school children) and officials of the company, learned tools of innovation in a non-threatening atmosphere and explored the field. It was found that modern children did not like chocolates which were too sweet. They also wanted some health benefits from the chocolate. The result of incorporating these suggestions is history – Nestle made a dazzling comeback with chocolates that were less sweet and were garnished with biscuits and nuts.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Providing Challenging Jobs

In the past, traditional, Indian managements maintained a shroud of secrecy regarding the company’s achievements, particularly its financial performance. Today it is well established that informed participants are better than unwilling victims sacrificed for the company’s profits. Sharing knowledge and profits have gone a long way in achieving better performance. Many companies have introduced performance based incentives as a key component of their salaries.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Doing things not done by others

A key innovation characteristic is doing things not done by others. A well known luggage company in India, was deeply concerned about the high cost of transporting the bags. During a brainstorming session, one of the members asked, “Why do you transport – all the bags are just full of air”. A nesting system was created, where one bag sat snugly inside a larger bag. The reduction in cost resulted in the company buying up its nearest rival and enjoying a virtual monopoly for many years. The first mover advantage in innovation is the key to high profits.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Improve Existing Tasks

In order to be innovative one needs to ensure that all existing tasks are done in the most innovative way. Routine matters are often dealt with automatically and thus, inefficiency creeps in, eating into the profitability of the organization. The techniques of innovation see existing tasks as a vast area, ripe for improvement. The Japanese are always looking for better ways of doing anything. They say in effect, “This is being done very well. Let us study how to do it better”. While it allows status quo to remain, they are constantly looking for ways to do existing things more efficiently.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Doing Right Things

Doing right things involves choosing the right way to do things by benchmarking with the best organization in the world. The Internet provides us with direct access to best practices. Hindustan Lever, the Indian division of Unilever has Innovation Centres in every region that study the best way anything can be done. This information is then replicated across the region. Good and better ways of doing things right, are shared on a consistent basis.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Doing Things Right

Mistakes can be expensive. The cost of rejections is the major source of concern in manufacturing. Doing things right, is essential before companies can think of doing new things. Doing things right happens through:

  • Training
  • Retraining
  • Building in quality consciousness
  • Reward and feedback systems
  • Process improvement
  • Communicating and affirming a culture of excellence
  • Building teams that co-operate rather than compete

Organizations must try to follow these steps to attain success and accomplish goals.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Innovation in Human Resources Management

Innovation in the field of Human Resource Management can be achieved by following the given steps:

  • Planning - Creative approaches to the planning of human resources, keeping in mind the existing numbers and mix, expansions, diversifications, globalization, retrials, turnover, etc.
  • Acquisition - Required numbers and mix of human resources, in an increasingly competitive global factor market for talent should be acquired.
  • Retention - Retention of the valuable human assets through innovations in physical and psychological hygiene factors, job satisfaction, etc.
  • Development - People should be developed through on the job experience, coaching, rotation, training, development, etc.
  • Utilization - Human potential should be utilized through empowerment, vision, challenging goals, plans, projects and opportunities for championing and entrepreneurship.
  • Planned separation - Separation should be planned mostly at retirement, sometimes earlier, with mutual benefit and goodwill.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Innovation in Manufacturing and Technology

  • Redesign the product, through value analysis, value engineering and other relevant techniques for optimising the value-price relationship.
  • Re-engineer the process, through de-bottlenecking, retrofitting, revamp or total replacement, as needed.
  • Improve the generation, if any, transmission and utilization of power, steam, gases and any other auxiliaries to the production process.
  • Continuous research and development for improvement of products, process, packaging and other operation.
  • In the event of collaborations, improve absorption, use and adaptation of the new technologies.
  • Search for improvements in the configuration, implementation and commissioning of new projects and their ramp up to full capacity utilization.
  • Extend the innovative approaches and practices to key vendors of parts, equipment and other inputs.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Innovation in Finance

  • Innovate to control and reduce the end unit cost of materials, energy, labour, depreciation, interest and other over-head costs.
  • Improve working capital management. Speed up the cash cycle by reducing lead times in procurement, conversion, dispatch and collection.
  • Mobilize equity and debt funds, at optimal cost and risk, through a variety of innovative instruments and derivatives, from domestic and global capital markets.
  • Look for acquisition candidates. Design innovative packages of financing the merger.
  • If there are businesses to be hived off and sold, find innovative routes to maximize value and cash flow and minimize tax and other outflows.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Tent Thinking Vs Taj Mahal Thinking

A Bank wanted to rapidly open branches at a minimal cost. They were not sure which of the locations was most likely to succeed. An Innovation lab came up with the idea of using existing organizations to set up branches: schools, petrol bunks, panchayat halls.

This solution has two advantages

  1. It was inexpensive
  2. It could be easily dismantled or closed, if not successful

Today, the speed at which corporations are required to grow, involves experiments. An experiment should be inexpensive. In fact, in an experiment, there is no success or failure; there is only a feedback.

This essentially is “Tent Thinking”. A tent can be put up, shapes can change, it can expand or reduce and it can be put down elsewhere.

Taj Mahal Thinking: This involves a fascination with permanence. Permanent structures, people and systems are expensive and difficult to dismantle. Permanent staff is a fixed overhead, which cannot be reduced as a swift response to falling demand in a recessional market. This is the Marble Palace mentality.

Success in today’s scenario goes to those who are swift, dynamic and able to respond to mercurial changes in the environment. Adaptability is the most important quality the Millennium demands. Marble palaces become fixed overheads which are difficult to adapt to any other use.