Monday, June 15, 2009

Fifth India Innovation Summit '09- Day 1- Opening Session

The theme for the Fifth India Innovation Summit hosted at Bangalore between 12-13 June was- Role of Innovation in an Economic Downturn - The India Advantage. Quite relevant and timely. With close to 360 attendees and over 35 speakers, the event was a delight to anyone keen on learning more on how innovation unfolds at India. Here's a quick summary of the Day- 1 of the event.

The event started with the Chairman of CII Karnataka- T Parabrahman setting the context of this fifth edition of the summit. Apart from sharing the good practices from the companies around innovation especially in the downturn, the event focused on facilitating breakthroughs in Small and Medium Enterprise (SME).

Then the Chairman of Infosys- Kris Gopalakrishnan gave the theme address impressing on how the times are ripe for India to play a leading role in the innovation space. He opined that one always sees the cycle of boom --> greed --> bust --> new normal. Case in point being the Internet Boom and Bust. India enjoys the demographic divide, huge talent base, untapped markets, and a good education system. Therefore India is a compelling / un avoidable investment to succeed. An illustration is the phenomenal growth of the India IT Industry, especially Bangalore. Today 40% exports of India are from Bangalore, it is the largest IT/ ITES ecosystem in the country and has taken India to the global landscape.

Then came Azim Premji, the Chairman of Wipro. Hinting on the number of companies that have fell off the Fortune 500 companies into oblivion, he observed that how firms (even large ones) often miss the revolutions. In his words, "It is very important for senior leadership to be sensitive to signals, especially negative signals. They need to do the job of shaking complacency, demanding stretch. For innovation to work, there should be a framework of accountability, measurement, time-frames of deliveries and ROI based (affect the bottomline). Innovation can be not only in products and services, it can also be in quality processes, productivity improvements, financial discipline and business models – the last being most important."
In his view imbibing a culture of innovation is vital. The necessary conditions being:
  • Appreciate that success creates its own gravity. This gravity creates comfort zones. As a result ideas will get shot down at all levels. Leadership should generate sufficient escape velocity to break this gravity. Can be done by setting stretch goals.
  • Look at innovation from everyone. Everywhere. Customer is the best source. Develop the art of listening
  • Actively bring in people into the organization who are not clones of who are already in. This goal gets challenged by the current en-mass recruitment trends that happens at lateral levels. Because en-mass generates templates, and downward delegation. Important to find people who can make you uncomfortable.
  • Days of isolated innovation are over. Innovation is multi-functional, multi-geographical. Teaming is an important skill to look for.
  • Encourage people to fight and disagree on the idea after it's matured to a level. If done earlier, good ideas could get killed.
  • Allow creative failures. This is fundamental to innovation process. Failures should be forgiven as long as the lessons are remembered.

A very well received talk and a good start to the event.

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