User-Driven Innovation, India Edition
| Peter Klein |
[E]very now and again one encounters an article in the American business press about jugaad, the uniquely Indian capacity to join broken things, and make them work, using country fixes. In on-going debates about innovation in India, it seems inevitable that one returns to the ‘ingenious fixes’ of those days, to ask how that talent and human inventiveness can be better harnessed towards the future.
The classic theory of innovation is provided in economic terms by Joseph Schumpeter, who listed several different kinds of changes that could be brought about through entrepreneurial action. These included the discovery and creation of new markets, the development of new methods of production and transportation, as well as new forms of industrial organization, and — this is critical — new kinds of consumer goods and the new experiences of value that they afford. It is striking to me that even though the country-mechanics and other jugaad specialists of India are capable of achieving none of these aims, they are still held up as somehow occupying a place or showing a kind of direction for innovation, that is not otherwise visible to us. It is as if we know, somehow, that all the abstract jargon of business thinking and economic reasoning has its place, but that it cannot replace that hands-on messing about with tools and things that artisans, craftspeople, and repairmen share. Jugaad seems to serve as a figure for design-thinking and problem-solving in the real world, capabilities which are scarce to the point of being unknown and unheard in many corners of Indian industry and public life.
Navi Radjou, Jaideep Prabhu, and Simone Ahuja, writing last year in HBR, call jugaad “the art of creative improvisation,” the Indian version of the long-standing tradition of user-driven innovation associated with Cyrus McCormick, the Danish windmill industry, and open-source software.