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'TOTAL' change to sustain innovation

In the Global Intellectual Property Centre (GIPC) of the U.S. Chamber's 2017 Index, it benchmarks IP standards in 45 global economies. In this edition, India's score is 8.75 out of 35, which means our ranking is 43rd out of those 45 global economies.

BT Online | April 21, 2017 | Updated 14:23 IST
V. Mohan Srinivasan
V. Mohan Srinivasan

Intellectual property is a critical driver of technological innovation and economic competitiveness. There is a variety of intellectual property or IP rights, including patents, trademarks, GIs, copyright and trade secrets, to name a few.

Also, IP is an important factor in the facilitation process while taking innovative technology to the market place. In the 21st century, success of an economy is decided based on the extent of innovation and the IP capabilities that we build. In the Global Intellectual Property Centre (GIPC) of the U.S. Chamber's 2017 Index, it benchmarks IP standards in 45 global economies. In this edition, India's score is 8.75 out of 35, which means our ranking is 43rd out of those 45 global economies.

In the business context, innovation of a product or a service is something that meets customer expectations towards a new business or a new market territory without competition as long as it retains its innovative advantage. The ability to continuously innovate and improve products, services and work processes is vital for the success of an organisation in this dynamic era.

We are in a time of unparalleled change all around our ecosystem. As a result, what may have aided an organisation to be successful at one time can potentially be the cause of their failure too, in the future. Simply put, "innovation is about staying relevant", as said by Stephen Shapiro, an American business author and expert on business innovation with five books to his credit. Intellectual property is a term often referred to such uniqueness of staying relevant while bringing in creative value addition.

This ability calls for not only creativity, but also human ingenuity and the originality at the root of it. A robust value proposition influences, persuades and delivers an experience that is meaningful and measurable. True innovation or the competency of being able to create value addition in what we do, requires personal behavioural change. I have coined an acronym 'TOTAL' to describe these changes that a successful innovator brings about, leading to necessary individual behavioural development.

Think like an investor: When you hear a new idea, ask if it can make a significant difference. Ideas don't matter unless they are opportunities. Seeing from an IP perspective, investors would like their money to be safe and backed up by protected innovation. Hence, they are very inquisitive. They focus on big ideas that make the risk worth taking. Investors encourage challenges that are needed to achieve any breakthrough. An investor's mindset is one where one spends resources on things that will return more value than they cost and slay habits that are either inefficient or ineffective. When investors evaluate an opportunity, they ask a lot of hard questions about the business model, value proposition, go-to-market strategy, competition and risk.

Open to learn from various sources: Being innovative is championing new ideas with enthusiasm, which is generated through the keenness with which you seek to learn. This permeates the human desire, cheerfully consenting to know new things and to improve yourself. The eagerness and desire to push ahead enable one to discover new avenues. The importance of 'willingness to learn' is the ability to create. The more things you learn, the more new ideas come to your mind. The ability to innovate requires a desire to learn a lot. Therefore, innovators are flexible, quick to pick up new skills and eager to learn from anyone without any ego. They develop the ability to sieve through large amount of data and pull out relevant information that will reinforce their conviction.

Treat failure as a means and not as end: Typically, many of us are afraid of failing, at some point in time or other. This fear to stop us from doing things that can prevent us from moving towards achieving our goals is responsible for the failure. In this world of VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous), fear of failure is but a natural reaction to these conditions. A Harvard University study on the impact of fear on decision-making has found that fear creates pessimism, which leads to risk-averse behaviour. Risk aversion and, therefore, fear of failure choke creativity and progress. The advantage of overcoming such fear is the dare to differentiate. Innovation is not just about thinking outside of the box. It involves much more than that. It is being able to cope with the change, with uncertainty and failure. To promote such individual behaviours, organisations, too, have come up with creative measures. For instance, the large Indian conglomerate Tata Group gives out an annual award for the 'best failed idea'. The objective is to distinguish and reward failures as without them, successes will be impossible. The prize is simply intended to communicate how important trying and failing can be.

Actions are self-driven: In an article on creating a culture of innovation from the Google Enterprise, Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google, says, "The story of innovation has not changed. It has always been a small team of people who have a new idea, typically not understood by people around them and their executives."
Being resourceful and the ability to push themselves and others to give their best, lead them to the positive stride of 'drive'. They are motivated by their work and thirst for success. They are persistent, determined and expect to win, but can cope with failure as they see it as a learning curve. They are the judge of their work and are ready to question and evaluate themselves. They believe in getting up, getting out there and doing something, which is just like training one's muscles. The more you do it, the easier it gets.

Leverage an interdependent ecosystem: We are living in a connected world. Successful innovators never shrug to identify and connect those components that will complete the universe. They believe in the fact that innovation is a team sport; it is never a single event and, therefore, to find the best solutions, one needs to leverage the full range of expertise across their ecosystem. Many successful innovations such as Airbnb and Zipcar turned consumers into collaborators. We are increasingly experiencing that in the innovation ecosystem, intellectual property is the core to achieving overall success. While system-wide changes do not come easy, innovators develop and deploy their influence to question the status quo. In a Forbes article by Greg Satell on innovation, he mentions that Dr Angel Diaz, IBM's VP of cloud technology and architecture, once said, "We need computer scientists working with cancer scientists, with climate scientists and with experts in many other fields to tackle grand challenges and make large impacts on the world."

Increasingly, collaboration is becoming a crucial competitive advantage because of the need to combine ideas from widely disparate fields. Being innovative calls for the ability to recognise people's innate capacity to adapt and create - to innovate.

Often, people stick to old and ineffective models not only out of habit and convenience, but also because they need to work with others who employ similar models. Therefore, the need to change the habits is necessary. However, being innovative calls for change in behaviour, which is more inside out. Extrapolating this at an organisation level, managing innovation better than its competitors is one of the key objectives of a business that wishes to survive and thrive in today's economy. As Steve Jobs puts it, "Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower."

V. Mohan Srinivasan is a Principal Consultant with Centre for Behavioural Excellence - Talent Transformation, Wipro Ltd. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the view of his employer.


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