Sunday, February 27, 2011

Choosing the Correct Solution

Now, the team can spend adequate time choosing the correct solution. Here, all ideas are ruthlessly critiqued. Logic is mercilessly applied. After this process the idea is going to leave the safe, sterile laboratory of the mind and start acting in the company. Every action will need an investment of resources of all kinds. This is the time to go into detail. Weed out unworkable ideas; make sure what the company can do. Now the dream castles need to have strong foundations under them.

Outcomes should be carefully studied. This is the time for a clear understanding of the cost benefit analysis by all. There is still time to course correct.

Make sure that top management publicly lends support to every aspect of resource allocation and rewards participants on achieving innovation targets.


* Critique by other teams.

* Ensuring top management support.

* Review of road map within spirals

Friday, February 25, 2011

Group Presentations

A final presentation is made to all the teams by each of the group. All the teams do in-out listening . Don’t forget that in active listening, one listens for value, and also to record one’s own ideas and flights of imagination. It is amazing the kind of ideas that will float into one’s mind, when one listens carefully and dispassionately. All ideas should be given to the problem owner and respectfully considered and debated if necessary.

This is the last chance for the group to improve, refine and develop plans before implementation. Time can be fruitfully spent at this time - there is no need to rush into action. Get total understanding of the whole roadmap and complete buy-in from the team. Time spent to de-bug the plan before roll out is never wasted.

Team leaders can use this time to study collaborative links between teams. This will prevent turf wars, once the implementation schedule starts. Surveys have shown that this is key step in breaking down barriers and the formation of silos within organization. Unity is stressed and everyone is helped to get a bird’s eye view of the plan.

Action: A full day can be set apart for the presentation to the top management

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Define Goals and Impact

Revisit your goals and reconsider the impact of the goals on the company. In view of the thinking process and ideas generated it may be necessary to reconsider and restate the goals.

Impact of the ideas can be measured against the 6M framework. Or it could be measured merely against the bottom line. Critical to the goals are the 6M resources required to implement the idea.

Identify the key parameters by which the outcomes will be measured. These parameters may be then prioritized.

Ensure that all the ideas generated are displayed, presented and reflected upon. Put posters with all ideas around your Innovation Centre. Members of all teams can be invited to study them and add their suggestions. This is the time for debate and discussions.

Action: Reflect, review and rank ideas that can be implemented.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Analysis – the Gateway to Solutions

In the creative thinking process, incubation is followed by ‘Analysis.’ During the process of analysis, apply left-brain thinking – logical, statistical and mathematical. Solutions have to be carefully discussed and the optimum one chosen. The solutions are analyzed against the parameters chosen by the problem owner.

Some prevalent parameters are:

a) Time

b) Budget

c) Convenience

d) Human resources

e) Goodwill and impact on staff motivation levels

f) Aesthetics

g) Saving lives

h) Political capital

Different parameters find different levels of priority depending on the situation at hand. Let us consider the example of the budget as a parameter and its priority level in different cases. For a company where liquidity is low, cash flow would be the most important concern. For a company facing a crisis, time may be of the essence and big budgets would be tolerated in view of the emergency situation.

While identifying solutions, ensure that there are a wide variety of options to choose from. There is then a greater possibility that the final option chosen ensures optimal results. This systematic process ensures that the option chosen produces the best results.

Analysis is the stage just prior to implementation. Therefore, detailed analysis forms the root to strong implementation.

Action: Let all groups meet for a couple of hours to study all generated ideas observe them and discus them.

Simplicity is Key

The usual tendency is to always move towards greater technological complexity. However, the Kirloskars used simpler methods and technologies and replaced multi-nationals.

Originally the Kirloskars were buyers of outdated technology from multinationals, two decades later they are today one of the most successful players in a global survival area – water management. With a company that started in 1888, they are now stars on the Indian corporate scene.

When foreign operators came into India they became a threat to the business by competing with the latest technology, so in 1985, the Kirloskars started asking the key question which leaders need to ask, ‘Can we be self-sufficient?’

Today they hold the key to food security by providing pump sets for water irrigation projects across the world. Replacing metal pumps with practically unbreakable concrete pumps they have created systems that would last forever. To illustrate their contribution to the complete agricultural operations of a country, the youngest of the clan, Alok Kirloskar, recalls ‘six years ago the rice economy in Laos was bad. In comparison, with a unique system of pump sets mounted on boats, Laos had a surplus of rice in 2005-2006.’

The real change came when they invested in a research department which rolled out one innovation after the other, rising to satisfy increasingly higher levels of client needs. Today Kirloskar stands among the top five engineering companies in the world. They are involved with prestigious projects like Rand Water in South Africa. Poised for exponential growth, their corporate motto is Excellence through Simplicity. The Kirloskar chose to compete by simplifying. They could quote Rs.500 crores for a project where the foreign collaboration quoted for Rs.3000 crores. Simply by replacing the delicate expensive pumps with inexpensive, practically unbreakable concrete pumps.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Do not benchmark: Make dreams true! – Infosys

A start up with five people and an investment of Rs.10,000, Infosys is now a US$3 billion company with 90, 000 people. Mr. Gopalakrishnan, CEO of Infosys, has the peaceful air of the corporate yogi. ‘Infosys needs to innovate to meet the needs of the new emerging markets in our own backyard - India and China, with two billion people whose rising expectations have to be met. Products have to be created for this market. We can leapfrog over the mistakes of the developed, mature economies. We can start on much higher platform, without repeating the mistakes they have made!

The structure for innovation is created by the ‘flat’ organization. World class organization where hierarchies are less apparent, a closer relationship with clients, bottom up activity, giving more importance to the grassroots. It was Jack Welch who popularized ‘Dreams’ as targets. To be truly innovative one needs to stop looking at others or looking over one’s shoulder.

At Infosys, we provide the Source Forge, a technology-based frame work to create projects. There are specified innovators embedded in each unit, to research new products, to act as catalysts in each team. The organization then provides equipment and budgets to create proto-types. Presentations can be made formally, to opinion leaders. Customers are often involved in the process. Our research department itself has 50 people. We try to create an environment for people to collaborate, work together and share information; wiki, blogs, intranet and source forge. This technology environment provides the platform for people to work together, share information.'

Technology creates the flat organization, where everyone can communicate with each other. Anyone can access anyone else. I will write to everyone who writes to me. Technology is the enabler. If someone has a great idea, I will certainly review it’, says CEO Kris’ Gopalakrishnan. I believe that we are an innovative company, where every unit is asked to come out with innovations. Everyone is asked, ‘What are the new things you will do in the coming year?'

The barriers to innovation? ‘Indians are content with small improvements. They are afraid to think global or about the quantum changes that innovation is all about. We are restricted by the modesty of our dreams. The poverty of our aspirations. It is this lack of confidence that stands in the way of our becoming a world power’, says Kris.

He echoes the words of the German CEO of the Indian business in Alcatel who said, Indian engineers do not have the confidence to differ with their European clients, to go beyond the brief to question status quo. That is why their products lack the originality which only confident dissent can create’.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Look for Grandma's Remedies

When faced with the problem of rats biting cables and causing major short circuits, Deepak K Chabria, MD Finolex, recalls the company’s response. "Instead of protecting the cables at a high cost, they coated the cables with very bitter chemicals, which the rats hated! Somewhat like what we do for a child sucking his thumb."

"We have 10 people in R&D, he says, "but we believe that R&D is everyone’s job. All 1300 of our people are encouraged to innovate. Our technical people travel and watch. We look for the strengths of well - run companies abroad and bring it back to build a more efficient Indian ethos."

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Incubation Process

Following total immersion in the ideas collected, the past, present and future possibilities come next. This is time for quiet reflection, allowing the mind to absorb all that has happened.

Incubation is the period when the ideas are handed over to the vast computer which is the sub-conscious. It is a secret computer into which everything one has ever thought or felt or experienced or smelt or touched, flows. Many inventions are the result of a flash of inspiration, happening during incubation. Whether it was Newton or James Watts inventing his steam engine, while watching the steam puffing out of a teapot on the stove, the moment of illumination happened during a silent gap in the storm of thoughts. Incubation is critical. Spend years working and thinking. Then switch off and let go. Hand over the problem to the subconscious, so that the universe may step in.

A total change of scene can aid incubation. A participant once recalled how after months of searching a moped launch, the team went to a movie about high fashion in Paris. He experienced an Aha! moment right there. The moped had so far been sold as a poor man’s scooter: in dingy dealer outlets. Presented in a lovely, stylish ambience, the whole brand was changed to express a style statement with romantic overtones. The moped suddenly became a fashion accessory.

The best ideas are stimulated during incubation.

Process and Benefits

Ø During idea generation, a list of alternative solutions are generated, seeds are sown.

Ø During incubation the seeds are allowed to sprout, to grow unobstructed.

Ø During analysis the plants are pruned and weeds are removed, till only the usable alternatives remain.

Ø Implementation involves choosing the final solution, planning, developing a detailed roadmap, communicating it to the teams and finally acting on the blueprint.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Incubation Cycle

After idea generation, the next step in the thinking process is incubation. After you have spent time collecting the facts and generating ideas, forget the problem. Hand it over to the subconscious to incubate. The subconscious is a vast computer, which stores everything you have ever seen, felt, smelt or experienced. Read a book, watch a movie, listen to music or ride a bicycle. Incubation after hard work can result in discovery.

Alex Osborne, the advertising genius, said that during incubation, ‘I lie like a wet leaf on a log of wood and allow the current to carry me where it will.’ Osborne continues, ‘When I am thus involved in doing nothing, I receive a constant stream of telegrams from my subconscious.’ He feels that he has done his best work when he has really been doing nothing.

The process of incubation enables you to throw off the shackles of conscious thought and float through the unconscious. The process may last half an hour or a few days. Forget the problem if possible and enjoy a mental holiday.

Tip: The process of incubation can be aided by carrying Post-it notes to record ideas that flash through the mind. Dale Carnegie suggests carrying an envelope where one can keep dropping slips of paper, as ideas float though one’s mind.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Future Consequences

Identify and forecast the various consequences of an action. You could identify the impact of a holiday resort in a forest. This could be:

· Improving the bottom line of the company

· Damaging the environment.

· Harming the health of the employees.

Sometimes the immediate impact on the company may be great, resulting in short-term profits. However, the long-term impact could be disastrous, creating many dissatisfied customers.

This is a forecasting tool which forces people to think of consequences in the following areas:

Future consequences:


1 month

6 month

1 year

5 years









Emotional and



Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Crawford Blue Slip

This is one of the simplest, yet very effective, creativity generation techniques. It can be used to collect a large number of ideas in a short time. Because the ideas are recorded and shared without the name of the originator, people feel more comfortable about expressing ideas and there is less concern that their ideas will not be considered as useful.

Procedure for Use

Each person receives a stack of blue slips. The leader presents a statement in ‘how to’ form; for example, ‘How can our company improve its service to its customers?’ Persons are then urged to write as many answers as possible within a five-minute period. Each answer is recorded on a separate blue slip. Next, the slips are collected and sorted; related ideas are grouped. Then they can be evaluated and regrouped, according to categories related to impact, originality, cost, etc.

Example for Use

C.C. Crawford, originator of the technique, gives the example of gathering 20 people to define the requirements for a new industrial sealant. They wrote independently on five sub targets:

1. Identify customers.

2. Identify experts.

3. Suggest members for a project-management team.

4. Identify possible constraints and limitations.

5. Identify critical success factors.

They then formed groups to sort and evaluate the ideas and decide upon a product definition. Their suggestion was adopted by management and within days the product was in a prototype state, significantly reducing product development time.

Friday, February 4, 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.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Corporate Citizenship

The focus is on Knowledge Banking. Industries have financial products created by industry experts. An agricultural expert with core knowledge of the field helps the Bank create financial products for this core sector. The whole banking process has an unusual sustainability model, with the business focus being people, planet and profit, instead of profit, profit, profit. The Bank believes in Responsible Banking. Their model for sustainable investment banking has resulted in the creation of a bank for the poor. Their motto People, Planet and Profits, rather than profits alone!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Alternative Explanations

A young man pouring a can of beer into a gasoline tank of his car. - Explain rationally

what this is supposed to be?

Creativity is the generation of alternatives. Any number of explanatins is possible. For instance, the car may have stopped. The beer can may have been the only receptacle he could find to collect gasoline. Or it could be a new type of experimental car which could run on water. Ask the team to generate alternative solutions to a large number of problems. Give them a certain number of alternatives to be suggested. For example, ‘Do not stop till you have fifty solutions.’ Usually, insisting on a certain number of alternatives results in getting that number.

I am much more willing to jump to a trial conclusion about something confusing that I see. I believe that my tolerance of the approximate in seeing is the primitive need to see danger very early. For early man, survival probably depended on quickly jumping to conclusions. Today, we need to unlearn this facility and train ourselves out of jumping to conclusions to help our understanding of different situations.

Set your teams to practice generating alternative solutions on a regular basis. This will improve their capacity to become fluent in the generation of ideas.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Free Fall

The capacity to let go is rare as most humans seek security. But to stand still is to risk even more - it is to risk being overtaken by change. It is to risk being ‘dragged, an unwilling victim to be sacrificed on the altar of technology’ as Jawaharlal Nehru feared.

Free fall is like bungee jumping. You let go without knowing definitely what will happen. Creative ideas are a kind of free fall. You generate ideas that have never been suggested or heard before. You risk the contempt of your peers; their jeers and laughter.

There is the old story of Columbus, who discovered America. When he returned his friends said, ‘Anyone could have done it. You just kept sailing West till you found America. We too could have done it.’ Columbus brought out an egg and said ‘Make it stand up straight’. No one could do it. They said ‘It can’t be done’. Columbus tapped the egg lightly on the table, so that it cracked slightly to form a stable surface and then made it stand. Everyone said ‘That is cheating. You can’t break the egg.’ Columbus said, ‘Who said you can’t break the egg. You are imagining limitations and boundaries that are not there. Then you are saying it can’t be done. That is why you could not have discovered America’.