With Shreya Anand
On the 19th of April 2012, the Center for Knowledge Societies conducted its first Certificate in Innovation Management (CIM), an innovation training workshop designed to provide an introduction to a basic theory and practice of innovation. The day-long workshop brought together, a wide variety of participants with a wide range of background and experience, including representatives from IBM, Tata Consultancy Services, Lirneasia, MTS, PHFI, amongst others, and a Doctorate student from the University of Cambridge.
The workshop kicked off with aum chanting, stretching exercises and ball throwing to break the ice amongst participants. Our CEO, Dr. Aditya Dev Sood, energetically led this session with some unique, playful attempts to get participants to open up their vocal chords and lose their inhibitions. One of these included a pretend bargaining with a make-believe vegetable vendor, wherein everyone was asked to close their eyes and begin an argument that escalated into a shouting match. All in all, a very amusing and enthusiastic beginning to the day.
Following the energetic beginning to the day, participants moved to the auditorium, where the workshop began in earnest. Aditya started the conversation by asking participants what innovation means to them, and why they think it is important. The answers varied considerably, with participants providing both very specific and very general descriptions of what they understood by innovation, including answers like “innovation is doing something new in a different way”, “it is about creating value using scarce or limited resources,” and “it is a way of giving structure to continuous improvement”.
Next, Aditya attempted to collate the responses and provide an introduction to some basic theories of innovation. He talked about Joseph Schumpeter’s theory of entrepreneurship and Creative Destruction, linking it to the Shiva-tandava dance of constant destruction accompanied by constant renewal. Next, he introduced management guru Peter Drucker, who was the first to talk about innovation as structured and routinizable. Finally, he introduced E.F. Schumacher, the author of Small is Beautiful, wherein he articulated the concept of intermediate (later changed to appropriate) technologies. He then briefly introduced the CKS view of innovation, which regards design as the means, or the cognitive tool, to achieve innovation.
CKS innovation specialists then launched into the presentation of case studies of innovation in order to provide participants with more structured knowledge of the three stages of innovation, namely Jugaad, Price-pointing Innovation, and User-centered, value-creating Innovation.
The discussion on Jugaad began with a conversation about various different examples of creative uses of technologies, juxtapositions of unlike objects, and creative coping mechanisms, such as the bicycle-powered washing machine developed by a student, the pressure-cooker converted into a coffee maker, religious uses of LEDs and electronics in multimedia shrines, and so on. Participants discussed the value of jugaad, and whether it can be considered actual innovation or if it is simply creative and innovative. They talked of how Jugaad comes about when there is a crucial need or a lack, as a survival mechanism, but that very few, if any, of the products developed this way are scalable.
Price-pointing innovation, also called Frugal Innovation or the theory of More with Less for More, developed by CK Prahalad and RA Mashelkar, was presented using the examples of the Nokia 1100 Mobile Phone and the Tata Nano Car. Each of these was designed to bring a relatively expensive technology to the masses, through engineering and technological innovation. Delegates at the workshop talked about the fact that, despite innovations in technology and manufacturing, the product may or may not become a market success because it did not attempt to respond to the user’s actual needs, and instead focused solely on reducing cost. While this approach to innovation may be a necessary first step, especially in a context like India, it does not create paradigm-shifting breakthrough innovations.
The third stage of innovation, which is focused on value-creation, tends to be focused on and responsive to user needs and desired experiences. Taking the example of the iPod, CKS innovation specialists talked about how Apple was able to completely transform an existing technology through the use of intelligent, user-centric design. In doing so, it transformed not only the way we regard mp3 players, but the way we listen to, interact with, and even purchase, music.
In order to highlight the value of ethnographic inquiry and user-centered design, as well as to present a structured approach to innovation, CKS Innovation specialists presented one of our own case studies – the Vaccine Delivery Kit. Divya Datta, who had managed the entire project of redesigning the kit, explained the process employed and using this case study, demonstrated the logic of the CKS Innovation Cycle.
After this intense morning session, participants took a short lunch break, following which they were presented with Certificates in Innovation Management, based on their completion of the Theory Module. After this, they reconvened in the auditorium for a brief but enlightening conversation with our guest Innovation and Design experts, Carnegie Mellon professor Eswaran Subramanian and Trust Design expert at Premsela (the Netherlands Institute for Design) Scott Burnham.
Video coverage of the workshop will follow shortly, so stay posted!