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BT MindRush 2013: India, China are complicated in terms of innovation, says John Kao

Anand Adhikari     December 14, 2013
Do you know how many times the word 'innovation' was searched on Google over the past year? When innovation guru John Kao last searched for the most talked about terms in the management lexicon, it was about over a billion times.

On his first visit to India, Kao told Business Today's MindRush conclave there are around 50 countries focused on innovation as a national agenda.

Kao has advised at least 10 countries-including Chile, Finland, Australia and Canada-in the last decade.

Kao believes countries that are good in innovation tend to be smaller in size. India, China and the US are complicated because of their size. "There is no country out there as a golden example of innovation," said Kao, chairman and founder of the Institute for Large Scale Innovation.  "I would say the US is leading the pack because it allows people to take a decent amount of risk," the 63-year-old who wrote in 2007 on how America is losing its innovation edge.

Kao told the packed audience of young corporate professionals that innovation can be taught.

"Is it being taught? Not as much as I would like to," he said.

Kao said there is no standard set of things a company should do to encourage a culture of innovation. "You need stewardship. You need a more collaborative approach to handle innovation in general."

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Kao played piano between discussing the nitty-gritty of innovation. He started playing the piano at the age of five and draws inspiration from music.

He believes the role of a CEO is to be the champion of innovation in a company by providing structure and resources, and basically getting out of the way. And that's what Apple's co-founder Steve Jobs or Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg did.

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