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We Need to Improve our Innovativeness

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Innovativeness is associated with individuals and organizations that embrace change and actively seek opportunities to improve and grow. Innovativeness is a term that captures the essence of creativity and originality in bringing forth new and better ideas, products, or processes. It refers to the ability to think, challenge existing norms, and introduce novel solutions to problems at hand. Organizational innovativeness is the process of creating positive changes in an organization’s structure, processes, and outputs to ensure the organization’s adaptation to changes in its environment. Innovativeness is the capacity, competence, and readiness of organizations and their employees to develop virtue or introduce novelties or inventions in business or other practice. Achieving innovation requires the coordinated efforts of many different actors and the integration of activities across specialist functions, knowledge domains, and contexts of application.

An organization with traditional silo type manufacturing set up had ventured to transform its one of the production lines into flow production systems. The team were trained by their parent company in US, practicing lean for quite some time. They created a lean line but soon reverted back to the old way. Saying Lean Transformation is not for discreet manufacturing. A common belief is that flow production is possible in mass production environment, that too in auto sector, and is not relevant in other places. However, with some new guidance the organization attempted to lean management once again and could succeed. The key differentiator was interactive, involved learning by doing, at the Gemba and identifying resistances at various levels and managing it well. As usual, the management wanted the transformation to happen in six months, but as the work progressed and the work involved could be understood, they adjusted to a two years of time frame.

It’s easy to use lean techniques to improve flow to have higher throughput and save some resources in the process. However, the lean thinking is to make better products at affordable price with lower production cost. What is often missing in the Lean Transformation is Jidoka, recognising the problem and separating the human work and the machine work. The key is to understand the product-service interface continuously, improve it to offer better product and better service for increased customer satisfaction. Without jidoka, lean is useful, but not innovative. Indian companies must do innovation to leapfrog instead of doing incremental changes with cosmetics.

Since 1980 the global economic expansion is driven by China and India. The developed world has been shrinking and the emerging economies, other than China and India, had been stagnant as a % of the global GDP adjusted to PPP (Purchasing Power Parity)India is at the position where China was in 2000. India is now contributing to 16% of the "Incremental Global GDP." 

 

It is proven beyond doubt that rapid growth cannot be based only on physical assets, it must be coupled with the intellectual assets. We have large young population ready to take this opportunity. Internet was the biggest productivity booster around 2000. Artificial Intelligence, Lean Management, and Higher End Technologies can be the vehicles to transform the world in sustainable manner, which industrial revolution has missed.

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We have seen the world transform before; we have seen these transformations play out over the generations. What is different now is that the technological changes have become too rapid. In the past, the technologies that our ancestors used in their childhood were still central to their lives in their old age. This has not been the case anymore for new generations. Instead, it has become common that technologies unimaginable in one's youth become ordinary in their mid-life. Now with Artificial Intelligence we are automating intellectual tasks, that previously thought were human specific, we need jidoka to redefine the proper place for the human work and the machine work.

Certainly! Innovation is crucial for organizational growth and success, but it comes with its share of challenges. For example; Apple has cancelled its plans to release an electric car with self-driving abilities, a secretive product that had been in the works for a decade. Earlier Google too tried it but was not successful. Though autonomous driving is available to the public in limited settings–like Uber’s driverless fleet in Pittsburgh, or Singapore’s autonomous taxis. Semi-autonomous driving, like Tesla’s Autopilot, which has automatic braking, auto-steer, lane-changing, and other safety features, is also available. Similarly, the developed world is facing challenge in EV (Electrical Vehicle) market. Markets are slowing down. India’s EV market is at an inflection point. EVs accounted for about 5% of total vehicle sales between Oct 2022 and Sep 2023—and could reach more than 40% penetration by 2030.  It's driven by strong adoption (45%+) in both two-wheeler and three-wheeler categories. These categories are not available to the developed world. 

We have figured out some common hurdles and solutions faced during an innovative transformation.

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Unrealistic Expectations: Setting unrealistic expectations can lead to loss of confidence and hinder innovative outputs. Balancing between over-promising to attract top management and under-promising to manage expectations is important. More important is to understand that “The Goals and Targets” are not for the guide or facilitator, it’s for you and your team. The Solution: Be honest about project risks, embrace a “test small, fail quick, and learn quickly” mindset, and set appropriate goals and expectations.

Unempowered Teams: Some managers worry that innovation diverts attention from daily tasks. The Solution: Understand and engage with such managers and address their real worry, instead of confronting them or making it a prestige issue and getting into conflicts. Empower teams by providing resources, autonomy, and a supportive environment for creativity.

 

No Clear Strategies: Without clear strategies, innovation efforts may lack direction. The Solution: Develop a well-defined innovation strategy aligned with organizational goals. Many senior managers look for great result but do not find time to get involved in the process of improvement.

Weak Innovation Culture: A culture that stifles creativity and risk-taking can hinder innovation. The Solution: Foster a culture that encourages experimentation, celebrates failures as learning, opportunities, and appreciates innovative thinking.

 

Resistance: Employees may resist new ideas due to fear, comfort with the status quo, or lack of understanding. The Solution: Communicate the benefits of innovation, involve employees in the process, and provide repeated training and support.

 

Resources: Lack of budget, time, or skilled personnel can impede innovation. The Solution: Allocate resources strategically, explore additional funding options, and prioritize innovation projects.

 

Risk Aversion: Fear of failure can discourage experimentation and bold ideas. The Solution: Create a safe space for calculated risks, celebrate learning from failures, and promote a growth mindset.

 

Lack of Collaboration: Departments and supplier entity working in isolation hinder cross-functional collaboration. The Solution: Break down silos, encourage knowledge sharing, and promote interdisciplinary teamwork, take small improvement projects and put the team to work together.

 

Short-Term Focus: Pressure to meet immediate goals may overshadow long-term innovation. The Solution: Balance short-term needs with long-term vision, allocate time for innovation, and measure progress.

 

Inertia and Complacency: Success breeds complacency, leading to resistance to change. The Solution: Continuously challenge the status quo, promote a sense of urgency, and appreciate proactive innovation. Today’s innovation is a new normal for tomorrow.

Overcoming above challenges requires commitment, adaptability, and a willingness to learn from setbacks.

 

Innovation is a journey, not a destination!

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