Building a Culture of Innovation in Indian Corporations

Last week I attended the 2nd Innovation Conclave organized by CII in New Delhi, the prime agenda of which was to focus on the role of innovation for “creating the path to sustained business growth.” Considering that more and more Indian firms have now started to realize the value of innovation for gaining a competitive edge in the market, most presentations during the conclave underscored the significance of building a culture of innovation within Indian organizations.

From the dialogues I had during the conclave, it did become evident that while they believe in the value, most Indian firms today are struggling to build an innovation culture within their organizations. The presenters of the conclave provided glimpses into some of these challenges. When it comes to innovation, people always begin with ideas, “what they believe is right,” as opposed to understanding the context first. The fact that innovation is often mistaken with creativity was another key challenge highlighted by a speaker. It is considered more a job of design teams, with very little contribution from other teams. Countering this tendency in her organization, Anisha Singh, CEO of (an online portal for marketing small businesses), pointed that she encourages almost every member in her organization, irrespective of organizational hierarchy, to suggest new ideas, especially those who interact with their customers on a regular basis. Anisha believes that designing more non traditional workspaces and practices also help to foster a culture of innovation within organizations. “Some of the best ideas of our firm emerge during our beer drinking sessions.”

While the representatives of the Indian industry were talking about the challenges of building an innovation culture, at the same time they were equally concerned about sustaining this culture. A speaker mentioned that only having a shared goal of innovation is not good enough, commitment of human and financial resources towards these initiatives for creating policies, programs, and structures, is absolutely essential. In the midst of Q&A session, it was highlighted that Indian cultural values, such as obedience and discouragement of decision making, also stand in the way of building and sustaining a culture of innovation in India.

We, at CKS, have recently started training middle management corporate professionals around how to drive product and service innovation process within their firms based on our own approach to user-centered innovation. But, it seems that in order to arrive at successful ideas, something has to change internally within these Indian corporations. Perhaps, while designing content for our future training modules, we also need to deliberate on how we can help them build and sustain a culture of innovation within their own organizations.


About Ekta Ohri

Ekta Ohri has a background in Architecture, Visual and Critical Studies, and Anthropology and is interested in exploring links between design, culture, and lived experience.
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