Jugaad and Your Global Innovation Strategy

A recent post on BusinessWeek explored an “emerging” concept in Western-style innovation management -- one that has deep roots in India - called Jugaad.  The article mentions a meeting led by my former colleague (and still friend) Navi Radjou, and notes that jugaad is “an improvisational style of innovation that’s driven by scarce resources and attention to a customer’s immediate needs.”

Explore the term “jugaad” and you will find a range of enthusiasts and detractors.  Many - particularly those more intimately familiar with the terminology -- argue that jugaad is not, by its very definition, a robust innovation solution to complex business problems.  Rather, its just another way of saying “get it done whatever it takes” – meaning that innovation is done in an inexpensive manner, “on the fly”.   In this context, it seems like a tough way for a multi-billion dollar company to build an innovation practice.

Nonetheless, its also clear that there is growing interest in the term in the Western business community, and there are indeed strong fundamental reasons for all of the attention.  At Forrester we see many examples of companies which  -- having outsourced IT capabilities or supply chain functions to emerging countries in the 1990s -- are now looking to geographies like India and China as a new source of creative inspiration and innovation.   While these countries have too-often been viewed only as sources of low-cost labor (or new markets for Western-style goods) they are increasingly being viewed as a crucial step in a global innovation value chain.  A host of trends support this changing paradigm, whether it is statistics from the National Venture Capital Association (which show 58% of VC firms expecting investment in India, and 70% expecting investment in China, to increase in 2010) or Booz Allen’s Global Innovation 1000 report (which shows extremely strong innovation spending growth in India and China). 

So while many will debate the potential of “Juggad” as a true management discipline, the new interest in this term, and other terms such as “Trickle Up Innovation”, signify a shift.  There are strong signs that these concepts will be mentioned by your CEO or Chief Innovation Officer in the next year as global innovation hits their radar screen – so paying attention to concepts matters as you turn your attention to 2010.

Comments are welcome. 

Chris