Here is a Facebook status update of Rahul, a friend of mine, who works as a consultant in Tata Consulting Services, and is presently engaged in improving the manufacturing process of a large gold jewelry manufacturing company in India:“Last 2 days I got great exposure and learning while understanding with respect to India “What does Innovation means & How it happens” for the companies like Google, Intel, Yahoo, IBM, 3M, Infy, Wipro, Biocon and many more big & small enterprises from the CEO’s, MD or VPs of these companies….The mandate came from Summit- Making Bangalore the Innovation Hub for Asia. (in the field of Manufacturing, Pharma, Energy…and obviously “IT” 🙂 )” It was obvious that he was quite happy attending this Summit. But I wanted to understand from him the deeper insights he gained from the interactions during the Summit. Few days later he came out with a terrific insight about the Summit and put that in as a comment to the discussion thread, which was the following:
“I found that almost all big companies are involved in doing innovation in the name of fulfilling the Future needs of the people, But they are not thinking much to solve the present “Wants of the mankind” specially the basic wants of low income group..i.e. food, water, energy, transportation, house, having regular income….Business house generally think this as a charity or CSR activity, but this is wrong, these issues have huge potential for doing Innovation and also have successful business models to sustain it…..It requires patience and focused approach from individuals and organization to address the problems of the larger section of our society.”
Now that was something very significant and what I fear most about ‘innovation’ — that is trying to do something for the future by completely ignoring the present.
Trying to do something for the future is insurance and not innovation. And insurances are always made to cover known and unknown risks and consequences. I call such innovations ‘Fear Induced Innovation‘ (FII). And why is that? Risks are imagined or perceived – never real. So addressing such risks is done more out of fear than anything else — just like any insurance policy we undertake.
Paradoxically, such innovations based on fear or induced by fear are always risky, costly and most often do not serve any real purpose of the society in which they spawn and develop. They sap the resources of the society without paying them back adequately. The society is exposed to more risks than achieving solid gains in improving the standard of living of its citizens. Hence to cover such risks at low cost big companies are setting up their innovation centers in India and China away from their homelands. It is a sort of gamble that may not pay off in the long run.
What is the answer?
Innovations must be based on the ‘NOW‘ (N). Innovation must be based on ‘Present Failures‘ (F). Innovation must solve some ‘Present Problems‘ (P). And innovations must be guided and informed by reality. Otherwise it is mere distorted thinking.
I have classified the innovations that address the NFP (Now, Failures, Problem) as products of Rapidinnovation, which is a more inclusive form of practice under Design Thinking. I shall write on Rapidinnovation in my next blogs.
FII (‘Fear induced innovation’) is never the real one. CEOs are often found to run after FII to turn around companies. But they fail. No wonder, the CEO of Yahoo got fired over phone just two days back on 9th Sept 2011. CEOs of modern companies seem to work like ‘freelancers’ far removed from the ecology on which they operate, thrive and grow.
I feel that the need of the hour is to have Creative Leaders who understand the inclusive nature of innovation, or more specifically the inclusive practice of Rapidinnovation.