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Jugaad Innovators : West In Search Of Indian Might

The world’s best known technology school wants to learn from India’s innovators. Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s business school plans to understand from India’s grassroots innovators how to make affordable, multi functionary products sometimes using complex technology without compromising on efficiency.


A team comprising students and faculty of MIT Sloan School of Management was in Ahmedabad recently to learn about frugality and creating products useful to the society. They also shared their perspective on innovations at MIT with the participants of Creativity, Innovation, knowledge, Network and Entrepreneurship course at Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A).


The team also explored opportunities of jointly developing ideas. “MIT, IIMA and Honey Bee Network are keen to find a common ground to develop unique ideas,” said Anil Gupta, professor at IIM-A and founder of Honey Bee Network. The innovators can also seek assistance from MIT on technology matters, said Gupta.


“The team spent about three hours with the innovators to understand how these innovators have developed simple products, which are low cost and easy maintenance, using Complex technology.


Lead User Process For Developing Breakthroughs Products: The 3M Experience For Surgical Drapes


Companies want breakthrough products, but most are far more adept at making incremental improvements to existing lines. A pioneering division at 3M successfully navigated a process that leads to breakthrough thinking.


But by the mid 1990s. 3M’s top managers were concerned that too much of the company’s growth was coming from changes to existing products. Breakthroughs were fewer and farther between.


Management set a bold objective: 30% of sales would come from products that had not existed four years earlier.


Accordingly some employees started becoming acquainted with a new method for developing breakthrough products: the lead user process. The process–which makes the generation of breakthrough strategies, products, and services systematic–is based on two major findings by innovation researchers.


First, the researchers found that many commercially important products are initially thought of and even prototyped by users rather than manufacturers. Second, they discovered that such products, organizations, or individuals that are well ahead of market trends and have needs that go far beyond those of the average user. Those discoveries transformed the difficult job of creating breakthroughs from scratch into a systematic task of identifying lead users companies or people that have already developed elements of commercially attractive breakthroughs and learning from them.


A product development team in 3M’s Medical Surgical Markets Division became one of the first groups in the company to test the merits of the lead user process. The team was charged with creating a breakthrough in the area of surgical drapes the material that prevents infections from spreading during surgery. The team had come up with a proposal for three major new product lines as well as a new strategy that would take a revolutionary approach to treating infection. And the team may have done even more for 3M’s long term health: It persuaded senior managers that the lead user process could indeed systematize the company’s development of breakthroughs.


Surgical drapes are thin adhesive backed plastic films that are adhered to a patient’s skin at the site of surgical incision, prior to surgery, Surgeons cut directly through these films during an operation. Drapes isolate the area being operated on from most potential sources of infection–the rest of the patient’s body. the operating table, and the members of the surgical team, But the diversity of the microbial world constantly challenged this protective fortress, which couldn’t cover, for example, catheters or tubes being inserted into the patient.


By the mid 1990s, surgical drapes were bringing 3M’s Medical Surgical Markets Division more than $100 million in annual sales. But the unit in charge of the draping business had not had a breakthrough product in almost a decade. Technological excellence was not the issue. In the early 1990s, the division had spent three years developing technologically advanced disposable surgical gowns. The gowns would safeguard surgeons and their patients from dangerous viruses such as HIV–and keep them more comfortable– by allowing water vapor but not viruses to pass through microscopic pinholes in the fabric. This technological and manufacturing feat, however, came to the market just as managed health care was taking hold in the United State. Surgeons loved the fabric, but insurers wouldn’t pay for it, and sales were disappointing.


The lead user process gets under way when a cross disciplinary team is formed. That high level of immersion fosters creative thought and sustains the project’s momentum. Lead user projects proceed through four phases.


Phase1: Laying the foundation : During this initial period, a team identifies the markets it wants to target and the type and level of innovations desired by key stakeholders within the company.


Phase2: Determining the trends: The team talks to experts in the field they are exploring people who have a broad view of emerging technologies and leading edge applications in the area being studied.


Phase3: Identifying lead users: Through a networking process, the team identifies and learns from users at the leading edge of the target market and related markets. The information helps them to identify especially promising innovations and ideas that might contribute to the development of breakthrough products. The teams also begin to shape preliminary product ideas and to assess the business potential of these concepts and how they synchronize with company interests.


Phase4: Developing the breakthroughs: The focus now is to take the preliminary concepts towards completion. Workshop/ s (two or three days) with various lead users, in house marketing and technical personnel and off course the lead user team will lead to design the final concepts that precisely fit the Company’s needs.


Subsequently, the concepts are further honed to determine whether they fit the needs of the target market users. The proposals thus arrived at are supported by solid evidence that explains why customers would be willing to pay for the new products. the invaluable knowledge collected during the process remains useful when the products/servics are developed and marketed..

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