Sunday, November 6, 2011

Beyond jugaad: A summary of current practices and participant takeaways in managing innovation

Three of us (Prof. Rishikesha T. Krishnan, Prof. S. Rajeev and I) facilitated a three day Executive Development Program at IIM Bangalore last month titled “Going beyond jugaad: Building a systematic innovation capability”. 22 executives from 12 organizations participated in the workshop. On the third & last day, one representative from each organization presented their current practices for managing innovation as well as areas they would like to improve upon based on the learning at the program. Here is an attempt to summarize their perspective (not meant to be exhaustive and limited by what I captured in my notes).

Before we look at how different organizations are managing innovation in India, it makes sense to see participant and company profiles. The 12 companies represented following sectors: Aircraft manufacturing (India center), Automotive manufacturing, Consulting, India centers of high-tech products, IT services, IT enabled services (BPO) & Media (leading FM radio channel). Titles of the executives varied from CTO, DGM Innovation cell, VP New business / Marketing, Group Manager, Sr. Development Manager, Mobile Architect, Technical Fellow, Senior Staff Engineer etc. All the participants were very serious and active players in the innovation initiatives in their respective organizations.

Let me classify their perspectives into 3 key areas: idea management, buzz creation and learning & development.

1. Idea management: Almost all the participating organizations had a system in place for managing ideas. What varied was the scope of the innovation. In some organizations there was a bias for the IP (patent) management. In some cases the global process for big ideas was very active. However, the contribution from India center was low. In some places the system was active only in some part of the organization and in a few places the existing approach was primarily top-down.

Key takeaways: Encourage small ideas, implement bottom-up approach, create a challenge book (problem focus), make the measurement system more robust, improve the idea velocity, use cross functional teams. A couple of executives said their focus would be large impact idea creation using strategy models.

2. Buzz creation: Many organizations had events such as sponsored challenge or bright idea campaign to generate ideas and buzz around innovation. In some cases these events generated several hundred ideas every year. Garage forums encourage prototyping, Tech fair creates a platform for technical paper presentation, Inspire series invites external speakers, Wall of innovation displays innovators, Quarterly newsletter raises awareness on innovations inside and outside the organization.

Key takeaways: Almost all executives felt that they need to improve the participation level. Some said they need to improve the reward and recognition system.

3. Learning & development: For educating employees on innovation, organizations conduct idea generation workshops using methodologies such as design thinking, encourage informal communities for knowledge sharing, sponsor MTech/PhD and introduce innovation during company induction program.

Key takeways: More awareness building, Spot new trends in a structured manner, Inculcate right brain thinking.

12 organizations is a small sample. However, we hope that the seriousness demonstrated by the executives spreads in their organizations and beyond. Let’s build a culture of innovation systematically!

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