Call for Innovation: Do or Die Situation for Indian Organizations


Since last 3 years India has been the most emerging market for all industries in Europe and USA. Outsourcing all production work to India was the most common solution to reduce production cost. Due to this money started to flow in India and international organizations realized the potential. Last 2 years shown major economic explosion. This affected Indian organizations in many ways.

Indian organizations got benefited due to economic explosion. People had enough money to buy goods and services which were of a better quality and design. Since many foreign companies were serving goods and services of high quality and design, Indian organization had to match them to survive in the competition. They were forced to pay attention to design, quality and service. These companies eventually hired a lot of designers. Many new design schools opened in India in the last two years to cater to this growing need of industries.

Things changed so fast that there remained a fundamental flaw which is now back firing. Organizations hired designers but failed to use their creative potential to the fullest. These organizations were not ready for the fundamental changes which enable designers explore and show their creative talent. Indian organizations are infested with hierarchy, rigid policy, strict rules, uneven power distribution and frightful environment which are major contributions to kill creative ideas and motivation to work. This is making designers quit jobs frequently.

1) Research suggests sustained innovation and creativity demands a specific kind of

o Organization policy

o Organization structure

o Organization processes and

o Organizational environment

For any Indian organization these changes are radical change in the way it governs or makes business. These changes are perceived as a threat to the current success, progress and optimized processes for economic production of goods and services.

Innovation and creative process in organizations is governed by managers. These managers are not designers nor do they have formal training in innovation and creativity. They are more concerned about optimization of the resources, reducing the cost etc. Research says these managers are responsible to kill creativity and disconnect a good idea to reach the CEO.
Research also says no organization can survive for a long time just by reducing cost.

2) Some companies who started recently did it right, but they did not succeed in a long run because there was no system to manage the process of innovation and creativity. And why would there be? There is no institution which gives training in innovation and creativity. This education is fundamentally different from the design or design management education that is given in any design schools.

India as of today is becoming more unattractive to MNCs who are trying to come in because of increase in the salary expectations. It clearly shows that market is going to stabilize in a few months from now leaving India with no incoming money. This would continue without organizations finding a sustained ways to keep the money circulating. Edward De-bono says innovation and creativity is the only sustained way to survive in conjunction run and stay ahead in competition.

It is time for Indian organizations to capitalize on the current economic situation and successfully institutize innovation and creativity.

When I first started my studies I thought this is the case only with Indian organizations but recently I found that this is a typical scenario across globe. Organizations in India and abroad are facing problems either in implementation of innovation and creativity or managing innovation and creative people.

Some CEO's think that their organization does innovations and is very creative at work. They tend to confuse innovation with design. There was an interesting survey done which found that the definition of innovation these CEO's made varied from gaining a lot of business from the product to changing the color of product from black to blue.

There are various measures of innovativeness. A simple way to find is to look at the product, process, system, service, or an environment environment the organization developed in one year and ask the following questions:

A) Are there 5 new products that did not exist in the world before?

B) Do these 5 products fundamentally change?

o The way company made business

o The way company manufactured distributed or marketed the products

o The way it is used by the end user

C) Have the products solved the problem that was giving for over a decade?

Some designers think that a good design (example an ergonomically better mouse) is also an innovation. The exact difference between a better design and innovation can be explained if you look at the following briefs given to designers

o Design a better mouse. (Would definitely be a mouse)

o Design a hand held input device. (Can be any input device)

o Design a way to give input. (may be device, may be process)

o Design an input system to do the task. (May be one or many device)

o Design an environment to do the task. (May be one or many device or none)

Not many organizations give their designers the last two briefs which have high probabilities of getting close to an incremental innovation.

A radical innovation is still much ahead of these briefs. This may cater to unsolved problems in areas where there is no existing product. In those cases the briefs are made from intensive trend analysis, market research, socio-psychological and ethnographic studies. There are many ways that organization can adopt or deal with this fussy front-end and develop a strategy for innovation.

What does it take to do these changes? How would it affect the way organization function? What is ROI?

1) It takes major change in the way organization works in terms of the organization structure, process, policy and the environment. There is a systematic way to implement this change. As I told earlier that these changes will always be resisted and avoided in organization, because for successful implementation of change effective communication and convincing necessities necessary separately from managing the change.

2) Companies try to adapt models of previously established companies. These models may have compatibility issues. They either may not suit the kind of work the company does or they may face problems related to culture, social and political conditions in the organization.

3) There is no limit to ROI of implementing innovation and creativity but there are ways to work around it and demonstrate it on sample projects.

4) Innovation outsourcing (different from design outsourcing) can not solve the problem as it would get expensive over a period of time and companies would need to have it in-house.

5) Innovation and creativity training would help to some extend but without organization make the fundamental changes, institutionize innovation, bring it into process, and consistently feed the innovation pipeline that may not be able to taste the real fruits.

3M, Google, give atleast 15% of time to employees to work on project that they feel interesting and would benefit the company.
3M made post-itTm from such a program and is still making 100 million dollars each year. 3M also has a policy to make 5 products every year that did not exist in market before.
Google, E-bay, Amazon and Apple changed and are the top 4 growing brands in the world.

The take-away are:

o Start with outsourcing Innovation. Hire an innovation consultant.

o Train people in house in innovation and creativity / hire designers.

o Build a innovation center.

o Mean while slow Change. (managed)

> Organization structure (hierarchy, power distributions)

> Policy

> Processes

> Environment

o Establish system for sustained innovation.

> Market research

> Trend analysis

> Design and innovation management

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