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I can’t Innovate! How can I?


You had read the headline right. This is a statement I heard in a discussion and the reason not to innovate was a little scarier. Innovation can only be done by a product based company and not by a service based company. If you had read my previous blogs, you would agree that I am not exaggerating while I say that I was shocked. I am definitely not a Jobs or Larry Page, so my story may not bring any change to your perception, but if you felt the topic interesting I would suggest to read further, since it is not made supernatural, not even a line.

When I started my career I was into a product development Fortune 500 company. Being a new joiner, I was told my fellow colleagues about the name and fame we get if we file a patent. I felt that the word innovation is overused everywhere. The campus was called “Innovation Campus”, they conducted sessions on Software Patents, workshops etc. Nothing changed my view about people using innovation wherever they can, starting from Presentation Decks to Celebrations. Then came a day, I met a person who filed as many as 43 patents. We were having a workshop and he was so humble and ground to earth person and he started how he started filing patents. It indeed motivated me but I was young but not wiser then. I was fascinated by technology, not domain. Neither I was interested in creating patents, nor interested in learning the domain even after getting a chance to rewrite complex algorithms used in certain scanners all alone. But then I realized why everything was associated with Innovation there, why they boosted an innovation everywhere and the answer is quiet simple. Existence!

After few days I moved to join an Electrical Giant, another Fortune 500 company. It was all about electricity, power protocols, and switches and even there I was looking only into technology part and not the domain. Moving up in the ladder, I had to bring more innovations into the product, in short I realized that my work will more be recognized if I file a patent though in my mind I never felt logical for a software guy to file a patent in electrical equipment. Fortunately by having good relationships with management due to several initiatives I got chances to attend few review meetings of these ideas presented. While being a silent spectator of each reviews I realized that none of these ideas can be termed as new or from the scratch. These ideas were there in my mind, your mind several times in the form of questions. We left those questions unanswered and those are answered by eminent and they are now called as patents.

Trust me, I was not trumpeting about these things just to show off, but just to make you aware what happens in a product based company.

Now what is Innovation to me? How can I be innovative?

Answer is quiet simple and you know it already. No one can exist without innovation. Innovation is the vital part for any company to sustain and this doesn’t differ if we are service or product based company. Now the next question, Can we be innovative or can a service company be innovative? A Service company can innovate and they need to innovate, but the most relevant question is what innovation to me is?

To me, creating anything novel is innovative and tools/automations done for the sake of it cannot be or will not be termed as an innovative products. Most importantly these innovations has a primary targets of making the numbers (CRR/Customers/etc). Innovation is beyond numbers, it is not just patents, ideas, whitepapers but a simple change in way work is called innovation.

H​ow to start with innovation?

1) Identify a problem and while identifying it do not think about a solution.

2) Identify how the people will be benefitted with a solution to the problem.

3) Is the solution already existing, if yes “Do not reinvent the wheel”

4) What is a solution?

  • Solution can process deviation you are taking to execute the project well.
  • It could be the automation you can bring in the project to speed up the activities
  • It could as simple as a merger of two different existing problem.
  • It could a solution to another problem, which can be modified minutely or reused as such for our problem.
  • Note down all the solutions to the problem, perform a choice analysis and see how this will benefit the end customer.

5) Innovation is not patent or idea which world appreciate. It would be as simple as a macro you had written in your excel to speed up the task.

To be innovative you need not have a solution in hand, but you should have a problem. I have listed down 5 steps to be innovative in your project. I hope this helps you to be productive. Ideas need not be new, it can be old one but how to make that old one better is what makes the idea worth for patents. Idea can already be available in different forms and you could merge these to make a new idea.

My Story Continues

There is a happy ending for every comedy movies. Similarly I had filed my first patent in that organization before I joined Infosys as a co-inventor. The problem was always in front of me which I never noticed and one day while coming to office, I thought about a software solution which can predict electrical failure with the application I was working with. I don’t know what level it is now, whether is approved for filing, etc but for me that was something great I did because of the paradigm change I had. I filed a patent for an issue of domain which never interested me.

Tips for Innovations:

Find a Co-Inventor:
 This works because whenever you work with some ideas, you always need someone to help you clarify your blockages.
Brainstorm: Team innovation is most effective and very productive. One of the best way to generate idea is brainstorming on random ideas.
5 Minutes, 5 Ideas: Write down as many ideas which strike through in 5 minutes, stick it in a board and then select top two out of it.
Happy Innovation!

About dhanus@dhaneshnair.com

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One comment

  1. Very good informative article…

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