Changing the jugad mindset of innovators in India – Need for attitudinal change to build differentiated products

I start with a story about the journey taken by an innovator, Mr.Bheem (name changed).

Bheem is a Senior faculty member in a reputed engineering college and Director of the college’s technology lab (with industry interaction). He is an innovator with a jugad mindset. He comes out with locally built solutions for the need he sees in his ambiance. For example, one of his innovations converts a wheel chair into a moving chair that is powered by solar panels placed overhead with DC motors powering the movement. This innovation helps a person to travel short-distances, mostly within the college (without the need for something similar like a Golf Cart).

The main challenge for Bheem is to change his jugad mindset into a systematic innovation mindset, like, in our example, ability to build a better and efficient Golf Carts. The question is how does he do that?

In PDMA NPD practice, there is a class of users termed – Lead Users (users for whom finding a solution to one of their consumer needs is so important that they have modified a current product or invented a new product to solve the need themselves because they have not found a supplier who can solve it for them – source: PDMA Glossary).

In the case of Bheem, he can be a Lead User. As an NPD practitioner, I can see lead users, like Bheem, as someone whose innovations can be harvested to advance the NPD effort of a PD organization. In other words, Bheem should first network with those organizations as a Lead user and present his ideas/ innovations that can help the PD organization in building better products. In this case, networking with manufacturers of Golf carts or similar manufacturers who produce personalized transportation products.

This networking experience possibly helps Bheem change his jugad mindset by getting the critical knowledge that is required to translate an idea into a commercialized product. He could change this mindset by learning how a systematic process of innovation is implemented in the PD organization that he networked with. And, next step for Bheem after gaining knowledge with his interactions with PD organization could be to start building such a PD organization himself.

While the above story of Bheem’s jugad mindset is factual, the later part, that is, his networking with a PD organization that has implemented a systematic innovation process is imaginary. Nevertheless, the point being emphasized is that innovators like Bheem with jugad mindset can change their attitudes towards innovation by networking with PD organizations who have implemented a structured process of innovation.

Unfortunately, most of the PD companies in India do not yet see the need for such a structured process of innovation, possibly because of the costs of it’s implementation or lack of will/ the frugal mindset of senior management? While frugal thinking may be the needed, especially when competing on price, it is also important to recognize that to grow up as a world class organization, price alone cannot be a differentiating factor.

As Robert Cooper and PDMA study conducted worldwide says, the first and foremost critical success factor that differentiates winners from losers is to build unique superior products by adopting a differentiating strategy for the organization. This means that onus is on the senior management team to define a clear business strategy for NPD and then, implement an innovation framework/ program using a structured NPD process.

I hope Indian CEOs and their senior management team recognizes the need to implement a structured innovation process in their respective organizations. A successful implementation of such process powers the growth of their organizations with an ability to build differentiated products.