I was getting ready to write a post on what makes innovation tick in an organization, and then I chanced upon an article in the latest Business Week issue (December 14, 2009) titled, “From India, the Latest Management Fad,” by Reena Jana, and decided a change of focus for this post was called for.
The word being used for this management fad is “jugaad,” described by R. Jana as something that “essentially means inexpensive innovation on the fly…” I could never have imagined that the Indian street-smart approach to making things happen, getting things handled, managing the right levers to satisfy a need, could one day become a mantra for major corporations (e.g., Tata, Infosys, Cisco) and academics (e.g. Northwestern University, University of Michigan)!
In a country that, in the last century or so, has not been terribly nimble in bringing to market new products and ideas, this notion of jugaad has served its millions of entrepreneurs very well. Historically faced with infrastructural limitations and stifling bureaucracy, it is jugaad that has provided the small businessman a way to move forward. And now, even “McKinsey consultants have begun talking up jugaad principles with clients …” And, this is no longer something limited to the smaller entrepreneurs.
What this brings to the table is to allow for creativity at the granular level to bubble up. In a global economy where most companies are operating on tight budgets, this seems like an idea that cannot be denied its place. In fact it makes sense to entrust innovation at the most granular level where the pain is first felt or where need is first experienced.
This begs the question whether most companies are willing to allow innovation to flow freely across their organizations? Are they ready to relinquish tight top-down control? Are they thinking about how to make this happen with appropriate governance, or do they prefer to hide behind the “we-can’t-open-the-floodgates-of-chaos” position? Do they feel confident about their people? Are they supporting their Business Process Experts by empowering them?
It is a pity that most companies jump on a bandwagon after it has been advertised and hyped for a while. If only they woke up to some of these notions sooner!
* FYI… jugaad is a Hindi word pronounced: joo-gaardh.