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Dimensions of Innovation

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood

In the age of the digital consumer, almost all industries face the pressure of having to innovate constantly. To do something radically different. One always has to stay a step ahead of consumers, anticipate their needs and have the foresight to develop the next big thing. That’s tough. And while new age technology has made it easier to connect with these consumers, enterprises cannot rely only on that tech for business success. It’s always the thought that counts more; tech can only act as an enabler to propel that idea further.

Most enterprises, thus, need to focus on organisational innovation to succeed. Everyone wants to disrupt and think ‘out of the box.’ But what about looking a little differently at the ideas brimming inside the box? C-suite executives and business leaders often find themselves grappling with these questions related to innovation. What they need to realize, and drive within the organization, is this: disruption does not happen in silos, it requires teamwork and collaboration. This also means that they need to break free of traditional constructs, all the way from the top.

That’s the hardest bit. Work environments and organisational culture is intangible, and difficult to get right. Not to forget the fact that enterprises need to evolve dynamically, and at scale. Consistency and standardization may work today, but won’t make the cut in the long term. It also comes down to the structure and stringency of the enterprise. You need to know when to disrupt and let go of complex hierarchies and internal processes, when they start holding you back.

Business leaders are often the best facilitators of disruption in the enterprise, and that’s a huge responsibility to undertake. There are multiple tools available, though, to help. Lego Serious Play, an open source community based model is an excellent tool to facilitate innovation. It allows teams to explore different dimensions of innovation while challenging traditional views.

By allowing members to represent their stories and ideas in 3-D, it sets clear aspirations and goals for them as they go through the process of constructionism. Studies have also proven that constructionism engages them physically, mentally and emotionally, making sure they dream big, but are able to produce tangible manifestations of their imagination at the end of the exercise. The process also uses metaphors extensively, and promises 100% respect to the idea and 100% openness about accepting the idea, but only if 100% participation is maintained. Fair enough, I think.

This is a true example of how intrinsic design is becoming for successful innovations, and how powerful visual storytelling can be. The moment you begin to think visually, you begin to understand the world better, because visual storytelling allows radical experimentation. And it’s not just the designer’s job to make things look good anymore, we’re way past that stage. Innovation is becoming more design focused than backed by engineering, and it’s not just me saying this. The Airbnbs, Ubers and Legos of the world speak for themselves.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

-Anupam Kulkarni is the Co-Founder and CEO of iauro Systems, Pune

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