Off The Shelf Innovation – Jugaad On The Rise

Western Innovation often brings to mind endless brainstorming sessions or shadowy figures toiling away late at night behind blackened windows located in small suburban garages. The innovation zeitgeist we are led to believe is churning deep within our corporations and within geeky brilliant entrepreneurs hoping to create the next big thing. But what if the innovation zeitgeist we’re told about is really just hanging on by some imagined thread, what if the west has lost its way in the quest to innovate.

If innovation in Western countries is in danger of falling off the map it may be because so much of the energy and resources are directed toward the fabled “next bug thing.” Maybe the allure of the reward has obliterated the process of innovation, leaving it but a tattered shell of its former glory. Of course the reward at the end of the rainbow is not the problem, no I think it is that the ingenuity and the process of invention occurring before the reward have been discarded from their once prominent place in the world of innovation.

In other parts of the world existing deep within adversity and scarcity a new bird has taken life rising from the cauldron of simplicity and focus. That new bird is called Jugaad Innovation and can best be described as cheaper, faster, more efficient bottom up innovation. I especially like how the jugaad innovators are so willing to forgo reinventing the wheel before they move forward and instead have an ingrained off the shelf mentality.

Two really good articles written six months apart explain it much better than I can. I invite and encourage you to read both to get a taste of this rethinking and re-imagining of innovation for the 21st century.

First is Use Jugaad to Innovate Faster, Cheaper, Better – written in Dec 2011 in the Harvard Business Review by Navi Radjou, Jaideep Prabhu, and Simone Ahuja. The writers perhaps gives us the most engaging description: Jugaad is a Hindi word that loosely translates as “the gutsy art of overcoming harsh constraints by improvising an effective solution using limited resources.”

Second is  There’s a Different Way to Innovate  – written in June of 2012 in The Wall Street Journal By Beth Gardiner. Beth’s article is full of examples of Jugaad in action and also how it can be used to battle social ills as well. Here is an example from the post quoting author and professor Dr. Prabhu. “Young people are doing this, with social media and 3D printing, it’s a DIY movement,” he says. “I also think it’s a shift in values” as more would-be businesspeople focus on running their own businesses and reaching out to those on society’s margins.

Zen tells us that all confusion is a result of thoughts constructed into reality, Jugaad Innovation helps us see a path out of this solidified situation, at least for a while.

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