In the previous article A look at Tata Nano through dynamic innovation sandbox lens, we saw how Tata Motors created an innovation sandbox based on an insight from Tata Group chairman Ratan Tata. At the end we asked 2 questions: (1) How do we build innovation sandboxes when you don’t have a Ratan Tata or a Steve Jobs at the top? (2) Does every innovation sandbox have to be as expensive as Tata Nano? Let’s explore these questions using an example from a technology offshore center in
Let’s first understand the context a little more. This technology offshore center located in
There was a change of guard at the top of the parent company and in his welcome speech the new president mentioned “international trading” as a possible new area the company might enter. Video of this speech was available on the corporate intranet. A manager at the
In the next few days, he gathered 7-8 engineers together, some with business background, some with back-end technology knowledge like Oracle / mainframes and some with front-end expertise like .Net / user interface. Each of them decided to study implications of supporting “international trading” from their point of view. The group met once in two weeks for the next three months mostly studying the relevant systems and running small experiments and sharing the results.
In June 2008
Ajit is a middle manager (not a VP) and the sandbox they created with “international trading”, a “back-end” and “front-end” technology as constraints wasn’t expensive. In fact, all the experimentation happened by stealing time from the regular hours and more often putting in extra time. Ajit certainly played a key role in both identifying an opportunity and exciting a bunch of engineers around the opportunity.
What if the “international trading” project never got started? Well, unless you have a Ratan Tata or Steve Jobs with you, systematic innovation is a portfolio game. You need to ask, “Do we have a few such innovation sandboxes active with potentially high upside?”