Sunday, January 30, 2011


The Whole world is moving towards a simpler way of life that is good for the earth. Start a movement to make people conscious of their carbon footprint. Hold a loft the motto of the green movement.

· Reduce

· Re-use

· Replace

· Repair

One of my clients says ‘Refuse’ to accept environmentally unsafe practices. Simplicity was the goal of Indian rishis. Opulence and waste are frowned on in a land where Narayan Murthy of Infosys travels Economy Class. ‘Simplify’ is the theme that will help India to make a mark during the downturn. It will be easier in India where scarcity makes ‘Simplify’ a necessity. Deccan Air has cut the frills out of flying and says ‘Simplifly’.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Blow it Up!

A paint company had the problem of paint chipping in a few years and becoming difficult to remove. An engineer playfully said ‘Let’s blow it off with gun powder’. The company took it back to the lab and came up with a workable idea – an additive which could be painted on the surface and the paint could be peeled off in strips.

Take everyday ideas and blow them up!

If you want to save costs on painting, how can you eliminate painting itself, possibly by using materials which do not require painting (for example, mud, stone, rough tiles).

If you want to save office space, how can you eliminate the office itself? Possibly by allowing people to work from their homes or coffee shops.

If you want to save electricity, what about locating meetings under the trees, as in Shanthi Niketan.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Devil’s Advocate

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'.

For example, if you are an optimist work out the motivations of the pessimist. Most of us tend to see situations through the flawed windows of our own nature. We are optimistic or pessimistic and do not really participate with others in understanding all aspects and connotations of a problem. Using the Devil’s Advocate approach can help us study all aspects of a problem.

Each of us can walk in the shoes of the adversary. Don’t forget, while thinking you should remove all barriers and obstacles. Thinking is the easiest way of testing a solution by exploring all possibilities and prevent any major financial distress. But most people are as careful and timid with their thinking as they are with their actions, and lose the possibility of nurturing creative ideas.

Whilst people feel busy and productive, leaping into activity, you 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 alternative solutions and progress lies in constantly striving, through innovation, to delight the customer.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Kalari Technique

Kalari is an Indian martial art from Kerala, where every muscle and sinew is used combat. The technique is fast and furious.

Take a verb from the following list and ’check’ the item against certain aspects of the problem. The comprehensive list of verbs helps reduce the possibility that a solution might be overlooked. You sequentially move through the following list of verbs to suggest possible solutions to the problem.

multiply distort fluff up extrude

divide rotate bypass repel

eliminate flatten add protect

subdue squeeze subtract segregate

invert complement lighten integrate

separate submerge repeat symbolize

transpose freeze thicken abstract

unify soften stretch dissect

Example for Use

A common problem in project management is a plan’s failure to meet the desired schedule, either at the initiation of the project or during the course of implementing the project.

Approaches to rearrange resources to meet the schedule date for an information systems development project:

Multiply Increase the number of personnel

Increase the amount of the project budget

Increase the tools available

Eliminate Eliminate some of the functionality of the system

Subdue Simplify the design

Invert Design a prototype to test early on instead of at the end

Separate Separate the critical from noncritical activities

Unify Combine modules

Distort Worst-scenario formulation

Rotate Personnel

Squeeze Schedule



Complement People skills with computer skills

Submerge Egos


Less important problem

Freeze Specifications

Personnel (disallow transfers to other projects)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Role Play

Show participants an interesting scene from a movie for inspiration.

An automotive parts company working on waging war against waste (WWW) saw a scene from ‘Rang De Basanti’ and then created five skits on different aspects on cost reduction using the list of characters. The participants are asked to step into the shoes of a character. The usual list of characters are – hero, heroine, villain, director, comedian and character actor. The subject will be the problem chosen and the group enacts actual situations for a better understanding of the problem.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Take The Battle To Their Backyards

Dr. Yusuf Hamied is hardly the pharmaceutical pirate of popular belief. He presides over his empire, radiating excitement and high spirits. "We are the biggest supplier of drugs for AIDS treatment in the world!", he says. Cipla managed this coup by working on the second P of the marketing mix - Price. While world leaders sold the drug at US$ 15,000 for one year's treatment per person to poor African countries, he rocked the world when the New York Times announced that he was willing to sell at US$ 300, as well as help any underdeveloped country set up its own manufacturing facility. He literally saved millions of Africans and Asians from the death sentence that AIDS had become. His considerable influence resulted in President Bush making Cipla, a part of his AIDS report. He used out - of - the - box thinking to combine and recombine drugs to create new formulations. Responding to the patient's need for convenience, Cipla created the double dose Trimune, which could replace the highly inconvenient six - dose medicine packs.

"From the days of the national movement, our family believed in India's need to be self reliant and self - sufficient. Mrs. Indira Gandhi provided a huge opportunity for the Indian pharmaceutical industry to blossom by passing the 1972 patent laws. Today, under pressure from the WTO, India will once again lose its capacity to care for its sick. By 2015, most Indians will not be able to afford those medicines. Profits will fill the coffers of rich nations. It will be selected genocide due to lack of affordable medicine. This law affecting the survival of 1.5 billion people was passed, without debate, by a mere show of hands." He is passionately outraged.

The solution?

"Take the battle into their backyards!", he says, bubbling gleefully. He has plans to attack markets in Europe, Japan and Australia by exporting generics. His style is mega blockbuster. A warrior who takes the battle into the competitor's backyard. He studies the chinks in their armour and strikes them where they are vulnerable. Dr. Yusuf Hamied, Padma Bhushan, has made India proud by taking on the world!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Wishful Thinking Technique

Applied properly, this approach can free you from unnecessary but unrecognized assumptions that you are making about the scenario of concern.

Procedure for Use

Generally, the steps to follow in applying the technique are as follows:

1. State the question, goal, situation, or problem.

2. Assume anything is possible.

3. Using fantasy, make statements such as: ‘What I really want to do is...’ or If I could choose any answer to this question, it would be....’

4. Examine each fantasy and their statements and, using this as a stimulation, return to reality and make statements such as: ‘Although I really cannot do that, I can do…’ or ‘It seems impractical to do that, but I believe we can accomplish the same thing by....’

5. If necessary, repeat Steps 3 and 4.

Example for Use

1. How can I learn more about how customers use my product?

2. I can be any size or shape I want.

3. I will just step inside one of the products shipped today and peer out at my customer and observe how he or she uses the product.

4. Well, I don’t think I can accomplish that feat, but I can get a customer’s agreement to let me observe my product under use their facility and videotape employees at work using my product.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Wildest Idea Technique

The approach here is to move people out of their normal problem-solving modes, which are usually quite conservative, by asking them to try to come up with a ‘wild’ idea. An example was the discovery of radar, which was developed from the bizarre suggestion of a radio ‘death-ray’ for shooting down planes. Instead of rejecting the idea, someone used it as a stepping stone to formalize the concept of radar.

The approach is most useful when an impasse has been reached in problem solving or opportunity identification. Participants need to be jogged out of their mind-set by considering things so remote or unusual that they change their normal frame of reference or paradigm paralysis. It takes a while to get a group into the swing of generating wild ideas. Most of the ideas are impractical, but eventually a useful one emerges. It is usually one that couldn’t be produced by one of the more conservative techniques.

Procedure for Use:

1. The facilitator selects the first wild idea as a starting point and asks the group to build

on the idea.

2. The group continues to explore variations or extrapolations of the wild idea.

3. Then the facilitator asks the group to try to find practical uses of the wild ideas.

4. If the results do not meet the problem resolution requirements, the process is

repeated on another idea. If no practical ideas emerge, another wild idea is used and

the process continues until an acceptable idea is found. This is an important technique

because it produces a surge of ideas that are often highly cost-effective.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Customer Comes First

Venture capitalists can be a hard - headed breed. So, it is a pleasant surprise to find Renuka Ramnath, CEO, of that spectacularly successful fund ICICI venture, behaving like a coach. "I tried to develop ICICI Venture from my heart, from Indian roots, and not just by copying a Western model. Put the entire enterprise you have invested in the centre, I told myself. When you sit on a company's board, think about the company, not yourself, or that it is an ICICI Venture. I try to treat the company as my own child. I don't just think of it as a money - making machine. Money is a by- product, it is not the core. I think about their stakeholders. We are not an asset shopper, we so easily could be. We look for win - win partnerships. When we make money, even the worker makes more. ACC, a fourth generation company with eleven unions said, "We are embarrassed. We don't work for ACC anymore." I heard them out as a family member, not like an owner." ACC was one of India's most respected companies. When ICICI Venture bought into it as a senior partner, the market was shocked.

"We are investors, we have to do very well to grow." She said, "Employees will also grow. Let us both do our own jobs without judgement. We generated a 400% increase pf profits in 18 months! We gave a gold coin to every worker. Workers did 'arthi' for us - blessed us. 5% of profits went to employees. I think of my company's role as that of a mentor, a nurturer of better performances. We are not Atilla, The Hun. We are more like the Mughals. Not plunderers, but builders, like Akbar. Every company we have been associated with has done better: Blackstone, Warburg, Tata Infomedia.....What is good for the company and its stakeholders is good for us."

Renuka Ramnath now heads her own successful venture capital fund.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Listen To The Customer

"The products we supply may be quite similar to our competitors and any changes in the product can be easily copied", says Hari, CEO of Tractors and Farm Equipment Limited. "It is a service which is the real differentiator. It is invisible to competition. Relationships are intangible and a word of mouth can create a forest fire of enthusiasm for your product". He should know what he is talking about - TAFE sells 50,000 tractors in the domestic market and 8,000 overseas every year. They have an ongoing, company - wide innovation process with a president's award for innovation. The jury makes a site visit, and the winner and his family have dinner with the president. Tractors at Home, for example, is a program that provides on- site service by teams on motorcycles. The TAFE tractor sections create a Domino's Pizza type of service by taking the company to the farmer instead of waiting for the farmer to come to the company. "Listen to the customer, he will tell you what he needs", says Hari. "We are about to introduce a tamper - proof seal which will prevent pilferage of diesel". Another recent innovation introduced has been the creation of a diesel tank, the inlet of which will not allow gas service stations to fill petrol in diesel vehicles, thereby ruining them.

New tractors applications were created by listening to the customer's voice. For example, sugarcane harvesting tractor application to increase the productivity of sugarcane farmers has touched the lives of thousands of farmers. Using sophisticated laser technology, the back - breaking task of levelling fields has been taken over by laser levelling by tractors. Tractors have also been created for deep water paddling for paddy farmers in Andhra Pradesh.

Relationships are Key

"Others can replicate the product, no one can replicate the person", says Asha Mathen who leads the wealth management team of the Deutsche Bank. "People always have a family doctor or a family lawyer, so why should they hesitate to have a family banker?" she asks, quite logically. Asha leads a team working with a select band of high - net worth individuals, whose investment portfolio is over Rs. 5 crores each. Not one of her clients has a purely business relationship with her. "My clients trust me. They don't see me as a vendor of products. They treat me as family." As I watch, she answers a call from an elderly lady who is in hospital recovering from an operation. Clients ask her to check out new properties they are buying, family weddings and other important family events. Many share details of their wills. "I never miss a funeral", she says recalling the many times she has helped avoid family feuds. Relationships are key to business success, recession or no recession.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Brainstorming Technique

Originated by Alex Osborn, brainstorming was designed to separate idea generation from idea evaluation. It has the objective of moving people into an atmosphere of a freewheeling thought process whereby ideas are stimulated through hearing others’ ideas. The emphasis is on quantity of ideas, using the philosophy that quantity produces quality.

Procedure for Use

The following ground rules for effective brainstorming are recommended:

1. Pick a problem/opportunity where each person has the knowledge/motivation to contribute.

2. Define the problem in neutral terms rather than a preselected solution, e.g., ‘How do we get this job done?’ rather than ‘How do we get this person or this group to do this job?’

3. Record the ideas on flip charts or large pieces of paper where everyone can see them.

4. Suspend evaluation or judgment until all ideas have been given.

5. Stretch for ideas.

6. When you think you’ve got all the ideas, go for another round, being even more outrageous in possible solutions.

7. Aim for quantity to help find quality.

8. Accept all ideas, even weak ones.

9. Encourage embellishment and building on ideas.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Boundary-examination Technique

The objective of this technique is to restructure assumptions (boundaries to our thinking) and provide new ways of looking at the problem. Another way of thinking about this situation is to try to suspend assumptions. Senge says that ‘suspending assumptions is a lot like seeing leaps of abstraction and inquiring into the reasoning behind the abstraction.’ Boundary expansion is used primarily to question various frames of reference in defining a problem. Boundary examinations are based upon the assumption that a problem’s boundaries are neither correct nor incorrect. The objective is to restructure the assumption of a problem to provide a new way for looking at it.

The major strengths of the technique are its potential for

1) Producing more provocative problem definitions.

2) Clarifying often indistinguishable problem boundaries.

3) Demonstrating the importance of formulating flexible problem definitions.

4) Coping with management teams that are overly precise in their problem definitions.

Procedure for Use

1. Describe the problem as presently understood.

2. Identify key elements of the definition and examine them to reveal underlying assumptions.

3. Analyze each assumption to determine its causes and effects.

4. Restate the problem based on your deeper understanding of the elements of the problem.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Brain-writing Technique

The distinction in brainwriting, as opposed to brainstorming, is the generation of ideas individually and recording them on a piece of paper. The advantage over brainstorming is a reduction in the effect of dominating individuals. Brainwriting ensures that all participants have an equal opportunity to share their ideas.

As you share ideas, use the Spring Board technique (see Day 61) and rotate the ideas among participants with each person expanding and improving the idea. By the time the process is completed, everyone has ownership in the ideas. The result is a more mature idea, ready to be implemented, compared to the results of brainstorming where the ideas are mostly immature.

Procedure for Use

1. The problem or opportunity is recorded at the top of a sheet of paper.

2. Participants record possible solutions on the sheet of paper.

3. The sheets of paper are collected and distributed randomly among participants. Each time the sheets are redistributed, care is taken to ensure that recipients never receive the same sheet twice.

4. The recipient of a sheet is asked to record three useful things about the idea.

5. The sheets are collected and redistributed and Step 4 is repeated.

6. The sheets are collected and redistributed and Step 4 is repeated.

7. The sheets are collected and redistributed. Recipients are then asked to respond to the question, ‘what is missing from the idea: what would make it more useful?’

8. The sheets are collected and redistributed and Step 7 is repeated.

9. The sheets are then collected and redistributed for the final time. Recipients are asked, ‘Assume that cost is not a constraint, what has to happen to make this idea work?’

10. The sheets are collected and typed up for review.

The approach normally produces sufficient information for each idea to be forwarded to management for evaluation.

Friday, January 7, 2011


There is a brainstorming technique, which was developed by George Prince, one of the founders of the creative thinking movement. This is a technique called developmental thinking, which is used to explore ideas, which are attractive but not yet feasible.

In simple terms, if two people, A and B are discussing an idea given by A, B - as a discipline, should identify three elements which he likes about the idea. This encourages A. B then goes on to give an itemised response on any specific concerns about the idea. The concerns should be specific and identify problem areas for A to solve. Instead of being adversaries on opposite sides of a problem, A and B become partners in growing the idea in a peaceful, nurturing climate.

There is a great deal of work done by thinkers on how to make the group climate more creative and less hostile. In developmental thinking, as the teachers at Synectics say, ‘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’. This process is a contrast to the conventional screening of ideas into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ after a typical brainstorming session, when novel ideas are likely to be screened out because they are not feasible.

* Yoga, meditation or any other form of stillness will ensure that you are in an ideal state for thinking fluently.

* Make watching a TV movie, an occasion – dress up, eat popcorn……………

* Take responsibility for change

Balance your lifestyle. Devote equal time each week to work and fun.

Force field Analysis

The name comes from the technique’s ability to identify forces contributing to or hindering a solution to a problem, and can stimulate creative thinking in three ways:

1) to define what you are working towards (vision),

2) to identify strengths you can maximize, and

3) to identify weaknesses you can minimize.

1. At the center of the sheet, write a statement of the problem you wish to solve.

2. Just below, at the left of the sheet, describe what the situation would be like in the worst case scenario – i.e. catastrophe.

3. On the same line, at the right of the sheet, describe the ideal, or optimal, situation.

4. The center position represents your current situation. On the right, describe the ‘forces’,

tugging right now, to move the situation toward the ideal. Then describe on the left side the ’forces’ moving toward catastrophe.

5. The next step is to identify approaches that would improve the situation. Because the typical situation resembles a tug-of-war, use the following three approaches to move the center line in the direction of the more desirable outcome:

* Identify things that would strengthen an already positive force.

* Identify things that would weaken an already negative force.

* Add new positive forces.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The CAPS concept enhances and supplements the 4 Ps of the marketing mix and has special significance in the marketing of services. The following connections may be considered.

1) Price + Consider the inconvenience that is caused to the customer. This could be loss of time, safety or loss of dignity. This adds to price.

2) Place + Access refers to the ease with which a service can be conveniently used

3) Promotion + Promotion of services - explore the many aspects of a service that

are intangible

4) Product + Service has far more dimensions than a product and can only be

experienced, not touched or smelt

Example for use:

Applying CAPS to a bank to improve customer service.

Consideration – The paper work could be made easy to understand and someone may be deputed to help.

Access – Computer and Internet access may be provided so that people can complete their transactions from home or office. 24/7 ATMs improve access.

Promotion – Member-get-member programs may be used.

Service – Home delivery or office delivery of cash could be offered to selected clients.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Innovation in Manufacturing

Tech Nova Imaging Systems, one of the world's largest manufacturers and supplier of digital and analog offset plates for printing have invented a digital plate that can cut down the cost of commercial printing by almost 90%. "After studying the entire commercial printing industry", Pranav Parikh, CMD, says, "we found that medium and small size printers were heavily dependent on traditional plate - making processes, which were cumbersome. At the same time, they couldn't afford the high investment costs of digital printing. So, we saw a potential to carve out a new market. Our innovative digital plate has brought the investment in equipment from more than a crore of rupees to a few lakhs".