By Somali K Chakrabarti
The use of ‘Jugaad Innovation’, as a management philosophy, has received much attention from business and academic community all over the world, particularly the west. Essentially an Indian phenomenon, Jugaad is seen as an approach through which people devise indigenous work-around methods to overcome constraints.
To the western world, Jugaad Innovation is projected as the use of frugal and flexible approach to innovation, used in emerging countries to bring about breakthrough growth. This concept as elucidated in the book ‘Jugaad Innovation’ by [Navi Radjou, Jaideep Prabhu, Simone Ahuja, Kevin Roberts] found huge popularity in many developed nations of the west and in Japan, where companies have incurred huge investments in R&D, with limited returns in the past few years.
The use of low cost innovative solutions finds universal appeal, particularly when businesses worldwide are reeling under the pressure of resource constraints.
For example,the use of mobile payment solutions that allows money transfer via mobile phones without the need for a bank account is an cost effective and innovative way to provide financial services to economically marginalized people in the remote parts of the country.
Or, the development of Fetal Heart Monitor, a device co-developed by Indian and German engineers at Siemens, that uses microphone technology instead of costly ultrasound technology, delivers more value at less cost to patients.
However, ‘Jugaad’ as it is projected in the book to the western audience is a misnomer, since it has a different connotation in the Indian context.
In India, it mainly implies the use of unconventional, street smart ways to get around hurdles or fixing up with people in a way that may even involve bending the rules or not giving due considerations to the risks involved.
Jugaad is seen as a smart way to do things, but somewhere the overindulgence with Jugaad innovation does not seem practical. The reasons follow:
JUGAAD is not scalable
Jugaad, as we understand it, refers more to patchwork that works in a particular condition but may not be replicated in other situations or at a different point of time.
If you have seen the movie 3 Idiots, you would know how Aamir Khan used a Vaccum Cleaner as a suction pump to deliver a child, in an emergency condition, in absence of proper medical equipments. This is a perfect example of Jugaad; that, however, does not make it a standard or a safe method for delivery.
While it is true that Jugaad is a form of localization and certainly helps when one has to respond swiftly to a situation, but it is more of an ad-hoc approach, not a structured one. The use of Jugaad is contextual, and is often limited to certain place, time or a set of conditions, but it is generally not scalable, and rarely results in cutting edge technology or generates breakthrough growth.
JUGAAD relies on individual smartness but undermines collective efficiencies
In the Indian cultural context, where individual smartness is highly admired, a person who comes up with quick fixes receives much more attention and adulation than those who work through iterations towards a sustainable solution. People who are good at Jugaad are looked upon as champions while others aspire to be like them.
Jugaad relies on intuitions based decisions and intelligence of a few, over research based decisions. As such, the idea itself does not encourage a participatory approach.
However, intuitions need to be corroborated with research to come up with sustainable solutions. Companies that use a participatory approach instead of using a top driven approach for generating ideas use the collective thinking power of people to come up unique innovative solutions to problems.
Jugaad shifts focus from Long term solutions to Short term fixes
When people are accustomed to apply short term fixes, they tend to use it more often. The shift in mindset towards short term gains may lead to compromise on quality and can result in tradeoffs between risk and efficiency. The picture below illustrates how a motorcycle meant for two has been modified to carry 6 people. No doubt, people reach their destination faster than they would have otherwise, but the risk of accident increases simultaneously.
And what would you say to this?
Shared by Vijendran S Rao on Quora
Excessive reliance on Jugaad can create complacency among businesses
Jugaad becomes necessary due to dearth or non availability of better alternatives. It is a way to live with the paucity of resources as people devise provisional solutions to get around their problems.
However, a society as a whole cannot progress based on these one – off innovations. A systematic and structured approach is needed to have sustained innovation.
Indian businesses that subscribe excessively to Jugaad mindset do not spend on research and may come up with sub optimal products or services, while cutting corners on quality. Such businesses often find it tough to compete in a globally competitive market, where companies strive to provide best of the breed products to their customers.
While it is true, that we can no longer take the availability of resources for granted and companies have to work with resource constraints, but it is also true that in wake of competition companies need to produce world class goods in the an affordable manner to keep up with the competition.
Some questions in this context are:
- Do we want innovation?
- Do we want to ensure the optimal use of resources?
- Do we want a flexible approach?
- Do we want to compromise on quality or risk to come up with quick fix solution?
Thinking objectively, the answer to the first three questions will mostly be ‘Yes’, but the answer to the fourth question will certainly be ‘No’.
So, while Jugaad can be looked upon as a creative and intuitive process, but it needs to be supported and balanced by an eco- system that promotes quality R&D and supports innovation rather than endorsing undue reliance on the ‘Jugaad’ factor.
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