It has been a year since C K Prahalad passed away and two years since my only interaction with him – over email. He sent his inputs to my paper on Dynamic Innovation Sandbox. CKP is remembered more for his work on Bottom of the Pyramid (BoP) and on core competence. However, for me, his metaphor of “innovation sandbox” holds more fascination. It is almost three years since I wrote about it first in 2008 and subsequently wrote thrice in 2009 (1, 2, 3). Here is an attempt to reflect on the question – What are the challenges in building an innovation sandbox?
1. Taking a strategic bet – When Biocon started its oral insulin program in 2002, they didn’t know what the product may look like if the program succeeds. Moreover, timeline was hazy. However, two constraints got identified – affordability and oral insulin and a study began. It would be another two years before Biocon partnered with Nobex to get the right technology platform. To develop an innovation sandbox, in CKP’s words, you need “an unflagging commitment to strategic intent”. I see senior management sometimes waver while taking a position.
2. Finding a leader: Playing within the innovation sandbox also means dealing with unusually high degree uncertainty. Like Ravi Rajhans, a member of the initial Tata Nano team recalled, “We were really, really scared. It was a big project and we were not sure where to start, where to draw even the first line”. You need a leader who can manage and more importantly keep the team motivated through the ups and downs. Getting these leaders is usually hard. Good organizations develop them.
3. Making collaboration work: Tata Motors ex-MD
Sources: (For Nano) Nanovation by Jackie Freiberg, Kevin Freiberg, Dain Dunston, Portfolio, 2010Image source: thinkers50.com