Jeby Cherian wrote me a note the other day saying, and I quote: ‘one of my pet peeves is our “just enough is good enough” attitude.’ Jeby wants us to make a commitment to excellence in everything we do in India, from the design of transportation systems to roads and sidewalks to airports and other forms of urban infrastructure. Jeby points to the outstanding conceptualization, planning and execution of the Delhi Metro as a counter-example to the way things are normally done in India. This kind of haphazard and ill-conceived infrastructure and environmental planning is also often excused in the name of jugaad, or indovation.
What is the essential relationship between excellence and innovation? I think Jeby is on to something, and that this relationship bears more thought and discussion.
The first thing that comes to mind is that excellence may also encompass a notion of the ‘ideal fitness of things,’ which can only come about by continuing to ‘make things right’ until they achieve that state. Another name for this repetitive or iterative effort to keep making things better until they are ‘right’ and ‘fit’ and ‘excellent’ is design.
Another thought one might offer is that conceptually the word jugaad refers to a joining of unlike things, that don’t necessarily usually or naturally fit together. Continuing to work on that assemblage until the elements do naturally fit together, again, represents something more intentionally and careful, and this is one way in which we can distinguish the products of design from jugaad.
Check out our prior thoughts on jugaad and indovation here. What more can be done to help people understand the value of design and innovation in making new things possible? Your thoughts welcome below…