20 Dec 2012

Book Review - Jugaad Innovation

“An innovative fix; an improvised solution born out of ingenuity and cleverness.”

That’s how authors Navi Radjou, Jaideep Prabhu and Simone Ahuja define Jugaad. While we Indians generally associate the term with a negative feel, the trio give it a much more holistic definition in their book Jugaad Innovation. The Economist states that this is the most comprehensive book to appear on the subject. Is it true? Well, you have to read it to find out.

The book sets off in Ramakrishna Nagar, a village in the desert of Gujarat, where a potter Mansukh Prajapati turned into an entrepreneur a few years ago. He designed and developed Mitticool, his version of a fridge. It’s a terracotta box entirely made of clay, except for a glass door and plastic tray at the bottom. Water from an upper chamber seeps through the side walls, cooling the lower food chamber through evaporation. The fridge consumes zero electricity, produces no waste, is completely biodegradable and costs merely 2000 bucks. Witchcraft, right?
Jugaad Innovation

There are other ingenious designs and business models across emerging nations cited in this book, which make it a pleasure to read. The concept of Jugaad, the authors say, is not restricted to India. The Brazilians call it jeitinho; the Chinese have their own term for it: zizhu chuangxin while the Kenyans term it jua kali. Gustavo Grobocopatel from Argentina, unhindered by scarcity of resources and funds, launched his company Los Grobo which is now the 2nd largest grain producer in the country thanks to Jugaad. Tulsi Tanti from Gujarat, faced with infrastructural bottlenecks while setting up a textile company, founded Suzlon Wind, the world’s 5th largest wind energy solutions provider. It examines business models of YES Bank & Future Group (the founders of Big Bazaar) and tells us why and how those unconventional models succeeded in India. This book is laden with many more such examples.

Research states that a whopping $550 billion (about 60% of the total borrowing by the Indian government in 2011!) was spent by western countries on R&D in 2010. Organizations’ constant desire to over engineer and structure an innovation process does them more harm than good. That’s probably why we witness many western firms filing for bankruptcy.

Hence, the authors explain that corporate entities can (and must) incorporate Jugaad to encourage innovation if they want to survive cut throat competition. They enlist 6 principles of Jugaad entrepreneurs, which are:

·        Seek opportunities in adversity
·        Do more with less
·        Think and act flexibly
·        Keep it simple
·        Include the margin
·        Follow your heart

These principles are elaborated upon in form of 6 chapters very well; each chapter also has lessons on how the corporate sector can use the respective principles to innovate. The book inspires not only corporate leaders, but also normal people like us to develop resilience, passion, flexibility, frugality, simplicity and empathy so that we can contribute to society. A foreword by Ratan Tata and an introduction by Sam Pitroda (who pioneered the telecom revolution in India) only add to its credibility. A good entrepreneur is one who can feed 1000 families, directly and indirectly. Let’s try and make ourselves capable of feeding even ½ that number. And the only way to do it is through Jugaad. Jugaad Innovation is a must read for everyone, whether we want to be entrepreneurs or not. It will make you exercise your mind and come up with ideas of small innovations which can make even your daily lives easier.

25 Nov 2012

One Surefire Way Of Becoming A Constructive Critic!

Purvesh (read and subscribe to his awesome blog) & I got into a discussion during a booze session about my previous blog article. While he agreed that people readily dish out criticism (and another blogger took a jab at me here), he didn’t agree with the heading. He rightly pointed out that the whole world is not your critic. Only people who know you criticize you; some do it for your good while others do try to go one up on you.

Purvesh suggested the next article be on how to be a constructive critic. So here it is.

Who is a critic? Wikipedia says “A critic is anyone who expresses a value judgment. Informally, criticism is a common aspect of all human expression and need not necessarily imply skilled or accurate expressions of judgment. At its simplest, and for whatever reason, a critic may have either constructive or destructive intent.” So why do YOU criticize someone?
Simon Cowell - A constructive critic? Yeah, right!

Early in his life, Abraham Lincoln criticized people ruthlessly. He’d leave letters in the marketplace lambasting someone and readers would heartily laugh. It was when a politician challenged him to a duel and it came to life and death did he decide that he wouldn’t make his negative feelings public anymore.

As I said earlier, we criticize people because we want the best for them or because we want to show them down. But the words we use almost always decide how the person takes it. Harsh words generally compromise the point we’re trying to drive, while sweet words probably ensure the person won’t heed them.

So how do you become a constructive critic?

The secret: YOU DON’T! We cannot criticize someone because we think are better than them at something or we have dollops of advice to offer. Often the advice may be way off target or totally redundant. Then we have criticism techniques – sandwich method and chutney method and blah blah. But are we qualified enough to criticize anyone? Maybe someone is not as interested as us in that aspect; they’re much better at something else. Does that mean they retort by criticizing us on what they’re good at? The war will never end. So don’t criticize anyone.

Yes, you’ll say criticism is important to help subordinates improve at work, help children learn what’s right, help friends get out of bad habits… News Flash! No one does anything unless they want to do it. Will your criticism convince them to do something that doesn’t interest them?

If you really want someone to improve, trust his/her capability to learn and improve. Be it at work, home or amongst friends, let the person do things his/her way and learn from experience. He may come up with alternate and better ways. And if that doesn’t happen, the person will approach you for help. Don’t start the “I told you so” bit and dish out advice like water. Ask relevant questions to make the person himself provide the answers you wanted to give all along; he’ll accept the point faster. If the person is stuck and asks for help, hand out a pointer or 2 to get his mind running.

I’ve worked under a lot of people, but distinctly remember one superior who did exactly what’s written above. He never spoke badly to anyone, never tried showing his authority or tried teaching us what to do. He offered advice when asked or when the situation was critical. Even in the latter, he would ask the person to come up with an action plan after reviewing which he would add pointers if needed. Needless to say, he is one of the most loved and respected people known.

I know this is the hardest thing for us humans. We subconsciously end up judging a situation/person and offer our 2 cents. But merely trying one step of not criticizing anyone (constructively or unconstructively) will change the way we look at the world. We’ll be more patient, accepting and approachable; we’ll broaden our horizons. Plus, the world will start looking at us differently. And remember – today, to stand out, you have to be different.

14 Nov 2012

Who Is Your Biggest Critic?

No! Not yourself! But the world! The world dons the hat of being your most constructive critic, whether you like it or not. Never mind the fact that there is nothing constructive in their criticism. Most people have the habit of judging you based on how good you are in their domain. You may be good at many aspects, but aspects which they know better decide how good they think you are. So you may be a good musician, biker, blogger, athlete, person, etc. But they’d rather focus on your clumsiness while cooking, grooming, allergy to bullshit, things about your attitude that they find offensive, etc.

Mind you, even leaders have to put up with this behaviour. People won’t just tell them how a situation should be handled; they will also chastize the leader for trying something contrary to what the masses believe.

Yes, it’s important to be diplomatic in today’s world; it’s KALYUG after all. However, one must fight the tide that is the herd and come up trumps.
Who's Your Biggest Critic?

Here are 5 suggestions:

1.      Be Amused: - Isn’t it amusing how the world is full of irony? While people will criticize you for a certain act, they will justify it when they do the same. Trying to fight at such times will aggravate tension. Instead, realize the criticism is hollow; the person can’t practice what he preaches. Does such criticism matter? Be amused at how filled with contradictions the world is, and you’ll soon be able to see the world through a larger perspective.

2.     Smile: - Believe me, it dispels tension within you; you can always worry about the world seeing your pearly whites later. When someone points something out in you, smile. It’ll make you realize the person is incapable of seeing things from your viewpoint. Also, he is insecure. One genuine smile and you’ll be in a forgiving mood instead of a sparring one. The latter isn’t worth it. And when you think you can’t smile, force yourself. Smile for 20 seconds and you automatically start feeling better. It really works!

3.   Be Confident: - Confidence stems from self-respect. Don’t lose your self-respect for anyone. Self-respect lets you care for people without being walked upon. Confidence lets you do what you want, be how you want and deflect criticism that shouldn’t come your way in the first place. Doubt there’s any need for further elaboration.

4.     Be Assertive: - Make sure your confidence doesn’t spill into overconfidence. There’s a thin line between assertiveness and aggression. The aggressive, know-it-all person deserves to be picked upon by others. Know your limits, respect people and others’ respect will eventually find its way to you.

5.    Listen: - Yes, this sounds like it contradicts everything written above. But you must listen to people to keep finding areas of improvement in yourself. There’s a true saying – “The moment you’re through changing, you’re through.” You don’t wanna end up like the rest who can point out hundreds of faults in others but fail to look inwards. So listen to the underlying message. Disregard how it’s being said. Most people don’t understand the meaning of constructive criticism. You’ll pick out finer points to improve yourself. You’ll be able to handle negativity also; you’ll learn how to turn adversity into an adventure.

Marc and Angel say that most people criticising don’t do so personally. They’re merely disappointed in themselves, which reflects in what they see in the world. Also, if people are criticising you, it’s because you’re doing things which displease them and threatens to break away from convention. So if you’re gutsy, go ahead! Be who you are and stand up for what you believe in! Some say if the world is moving the direction opposite to you, just turn around. I disagree! The world is waiting to be herded in thousands by people like you who are confident. This confidence yields power. Are you strong enough?

image courtesy Google Images

13 Oct 2012

Please... Just Listen!

During days of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln, the then President of USA and master at managing people, called upon an old friend from Illinois. Lincoln invited the friend to the White House, stating he wanted to discuss some problems with him. When the friend arrived, Lincoln spoke to him for hours about the proclamation of freeing slaves. He went over arguments, pros and cons and read articles aloud. After talking for hours, he shook the neighbour’s hand and sent him back without asking for his opinion. “He seemed freer after the talk”, the friend said. Lincoln didn’t want advice; he merely wanted a friendly listener whom he could unload on.

Not just Abraham Lincoln, all of us want someone who listens; not just hears, but listens. Hearing is generally without interest in what the person says. We could be preparing a response, waiting for an opportunity to intercept the speaker, start off with our own views or be distracted by something happening in our lives we consider more important. Listening, on the other hand, involves paying attention to the speaker (could be a friend, colleague, family member, orator), understanding, acknowledging and responding accordingly, if needed.

Yes, we all want to respond, to advise... we love using the phrases “I Think”, “According to me”, “I would suggest”... The fact, however, is that the other person doesn’t want to know what we think. Every person speaking to us is not asking for advice. Often the speaker is merely looking for someone to listen to her/him quietly. S/he merely wants to feel lighter, respected, comfortable. Should we impose our thoughts upon someone? Do we want to bore people with talks about how we would have handled things? Are we pompous brats so full of ourselves that no one else is significant enough?
"Listen to me!"

Dale Carnegie, author of the book ‘How to Win Friends & Influence People’ has written: If you want to know how to make people shun you and laugh at you behind your back and even despise you, here is the recipe: Never listen to anyone for long. If you have an idea while the other person is talking, don't wait for him or her to finish: bust right in and interrupt in the middle of a sentence. Do you know people like that? I do, unfortunately; and the astonishing part of it is that some of them are prominent.

There indeed are many people of the self-obsessed kind in the world; probably more than 90% of the population. Would you like to speak to someone with such traits? If no, doesn’t it make sense that you should first be a good listener to expect similar treatment? If yes, try these:
  • Stop whatever you’re doing. People don’t appreciate speaking to someone who’s doing something alongside; the listener seems disinterested. And it’s rude.
  • Quit suggesting what you would’ve done. Avoid even thinking “Here’s what I think...” Quit thinking that you know what’s best for the person, because you don’t! Stop believing that your way is the best way of solving a problem.
  • Lean forward and pay attention. Keep quiet. Let your mind open up to what the person is saying. Remember, the person wants you to listen. It is her time to speak.
  • Absorb what the person says. Understand where s/he is coming from. Accept the fact that the person thinks different and is in a different situation. If all of us were the same, the world would be a boring and dull place.
Listening to people broadens our horizons. We understand mentalities, psychologies, perspectives and mindsets. We can predict the person’s behaviour to an extent, leading to healthier relationships. Insights in their lives and thoughts build stronger bonds between us. Plus, since we’ve paid attention and helped someone unburden themselves, we win another friend; a friend who will mostly be there when we need one.

Open you mind, not your mouth. The former almost never gets you in trouble.

15 Aug 2012

Rossi Back To Yamaha!

Yes, Valentino Rossi is back at Yamaha! Most MOTOGP fans are delighted; some (including yours truly) are groaning, others are confused... All the hype of Ducati and Vale being a match made in heaven, expectations on Rossi to turn Ducati’s fortunes around and world championships have fizzled. Rossi is back to the only mainstream team which will listen to him.

Rossi has now been with Ducati since 2 seasons, right? The Doctor hasn’t won a single race, while Stoner won 23 in his stint at Ducati. Meanwhile, Stoner has won a world championship on Honda, Lorenzo looks set to win it this year, while Italians are baying for Rossi’s blood. They feel cheated. Ducati spent a fortune to lure Rossi; they even backed out of World Superbike Championship. Italians were sure Rossi would lead this all Italian partnership to a comprehensive win. Stoner had done it... Rossi is considered far better than him, isn’t he?

What went wrong? For one, everyone (including Rossi himself) expected Lé Doctor to turn the team’s fortunes around. He was awesome on the Honda. Yamaha’s success was attributed mainly to him and Jeremy Burgess (JB). But Yamaha listened to Rossi; Ducati & Honda didn’t. Even before Rossi had moved to Yamaha, Ducati were courting him. But, JB warned, they didn’t seem keen to listen to him. That year, while the world watched Loris Capirossi struggle onboard the Duke, JB’s eyes told Rossi “I told you!” Ducati have always expected the rider to adapt; Capirossi did it, and so did Stoner. That’s why they were so successful. Rossi, Melandri, Hayden, Elias and others, however, wanted a bike custom made to their needs. That’s why, while Stoner would lead the pack, Melandri would languish somewhere in 18th place. Rossi expected to change that culture, took JB with him and the move backfired.

Lorenzo v/s Rossi at Yamaha again!
So why did Rossi move from Yamaha? Well, for one, Lorenzo’s presence discomforted him. He wanted the manufacturer to reduce benefits for Lorenzo. During recession, Rossi got a € 5 million pay cut. The following year, Lorenzo performed commendably and Yamaha raised his pay by € 15 million. Obviously Yamaha would invest in Lorenzo; he’s younger blood and the future of MOTOGP. Rossi felt this fee was from what belonged to him and started getting sour. What haven’t Yamaha done for Rossi? Switched to Bridgestone tires for him while the rest of the team rode on Michelins; worked day and night to make all changes he demanded to accommodate his riding style... Rossi went on to win 4 world championship titles with Yamaha. In fact, Yamaha even allowed him to test the Duke while he was on contract with the former. When at Honda, Rossi would steal into Yamaha’s garage to check the bike out (obviously he wasn’t allowed to ride it). Still, Rossi made Yamaha look like villains when he moved to Ducati. Anyone see a hint of Max Biaggi here?

It was evident from Rossi’s behaviour that he was uncomfortable with Lorenzo’s success. He moved to a team where he expected to get royal treatment like he got at Yamaha. That didn’t happen. Instead, he severely damaged his own reputation, soured relations with many in the paddock and had to use Dorna’s intervention to buy himself out of Ducati’s contract.

Now he’s back at Yamaha; the team which made him a God from a star. Someone deserving and talented will have to make way for this twisted Machiavellist. Lorenzo looks at set to win the MOTOGP world championship this year. This is a formidable all star line up for the factory Yamaha team again. What remains to be seen is how the team will treat each rider. Who will be given more importance? Stoner retires at the end of this year, Pedrossa doesn’t seem consistent enough to win a world championship, Rossi is back with the team which patronizes him; the only thorn in his side is Lorenzo (and some other protégée, if a surprise springs up next season). You can bet he’s hoping with all his heart and soul that Yamaha helps him regain lost glory. Only time will tell.
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