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Café Innovation – Are you ready to employ the “jugaad” approach?

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.

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  • Hi,

    The term Jugaad has both +ve and -ve sides to it.

    On one hand it means 'Inexpensive Innovation'
    Check the following link which we call as Jugaad -

    But on the other hand it also means fixing something temporarily so that it just works which I feel is a dangerous path to tread on specially in case of enterprise softwares...

    On the funny side - In our colleage days we had a special term coined as "Jugaad Technology" :).

    • Hello Manas,
      Good comments. I am a big proponent of governance (see previous posts). If a company allows innovation to take place at the front lines - jugaad, as it is being interpreted by B-Schools and corporations - it will need to happen within a larger context of governance. This should mitigate the dangers of short-term solutions.

      Thanks for chiming in!


  • I think that the due to this 'Jugaad' only we faced these ups and down in the market, Recession and all. I have served US customers but whenever i was opting for 'Jugaad' it dint worked it was about 2 years back.
      For me its more selfish then running business for mankind. If i want to fill my pocket I will go for 'Jugaad' but if i want to serve I have to think for the other options.
    Nota Bene: Its just my views nothing personal to hurt anyone's feeling.
    • Gaurav,
      your point is well taken. I am aware that historically the expression "jugaad" has been used in all sorts of contexts. The reference here is not to the shennanigans of people like Bernie Madoff or to doing something illegal or unethical.

      Obviously, the reference here is to unleash creativity at the frontlines -- this is how B-Schools and corporations are looking at this. Any company going down this path will need to employ good governance to mitigate the attendant risk.

      Thanks for chiming in.


  • Businesses are demanding quick and effective solutions. With your blog I do realize the importance of being able to deliver solutions at the eleventh hour.

    Why not? as long as it works and if effective.

    Good Blog, a new perspective to the drawn to the term 🙂  'Jugaad'.

    • Ashish,
      Thank you for your comment! The general thinking around this is now along the lines you mention - "Why not? as long as it works and is effective."

      - Puneet