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An innovation dialogue: The School of Design and Innovation


I had a vibrant #innovation dialogue with students from the School of Innovation and Design, visiting Bangalore with their faculty Shamit Shrivastav, at the Cafe at Saanchi on the 1st of December. We spoke about 1) thinking leading design rather than thinking following design 2) rooting your design in a purpose that is larger than your skills: whether India or the planet 3) being curious 4) being innovators rather than followers. It’s wonderful to see a generation full of energy and curiosity.

Shamit and I worked together on deep innovation implementation while at Mahindra. It is interesting that he made the career move from the corporate world to academics, and he tells me that it is deeply satisfying. Working with active, energetic minds to create the leaders and designers of tomorrow, ought to be. Hence, this dialogue came to be, with their visit to Bangalore.

Thinking leads Design

The location, Cafe at Saanchi was chosen with care. Although built only 3 years ago, it carries an old world Bangalore charm, that surprised the Mumbai-kars who think of Bangalore as a badly planned city full of traffic snarls. We used the location as a lead in to discuss how most design is ‘follower’ design, without a thought of place or purpose. And hence, we suffer from a poverty of ideas rather than a poverty of resources. The takeaway was that thinking ought to lead design, rather than thinking following design. (As critical a takeaway that the team had during the break: Irani Tea, Amaretto Torte and Carrot Cake; yummy food at the Cafe at Saanchi, for food for the tummy is as important as food for thought!)

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Purposeful Design

We discussed how having meaningful purpose can result in breakthroughs and also create money. While everyone is familiar with names like Elon Musk, they have never heard of Govindappa Venkatswamy, or Dr. V, who created Aravind Eye Hospital to eliminate needless blindness in India. We also talked about Amrut Whiskey, that has taken brand India global, and in doing so, broken the deep rooted belief that India cannot deliver on world class brands. The youngsters were very curious of their strategy, and so of course we dived into how Amrut made it happen. I used the opportunity to discuss the romance around innovation and the reality of actually making the breakthrough happen.

I introduced Akshaya Patra’s gravity kitchen as a global breakthrough in design. It again highlighted that when the purpose is urgent and true, the breakthrough will come. I emphasised that regardless of the area of work, it is critical to ask yourself to deliver to the best of your ability, to think and deliver world class. For only then, will each of them actually become the best in the world. And it will not happen only by getting a degree from the best colleges in the world, but rather by breaking the mould to challenge current global approaches and to actually get down to creating the best.

And hence: the final message: Be innovators and not followers.

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