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Innovation Blog

Starting your Design Thinking journey? Here is a reading list I recommend
Sun, 08 Oct 2017 15:28:00 +0000

CONTEXT & PROCESS OF DESIGN THINKING:

  1. Every fresher starts with Stanford/IDEO model of Design Thinking. In my view that model is over-simplified. Real world works slightly differently. People are trying different models. Here is a collection of 10 models: https://medium.com/@elizabeth7hoffman/10-models-for-design-thinking-f6943e4ee068
2. A good curated list of links around process and tools of Design Thinking https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/article/essential-design-thinking-videos-and-methods
3. At Turian Labs we believe and practice Design Thinking a flexible framework that is built on 4 pillars of Empathic Inquiry, Abductive Reasoning, Creative Visualization & Iterative Prototyping. Regardless of their sequence, these interconnected tenets could be applied to any decisioning process. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yfImbvoyeeQ
4.You don’t need our advice on where to hunt for some global advice on the context of Design Thinking + Business. Here are two good links from Harvard Business Review  
5. Another business oriented summary from HBR, of what is Design Thinking process. Slightly different terminology but covers the essentials in business context. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z3IbHLfcyWo
6. An insightful take on Design Thinking process by a practitioner. Provides background story around the process.
7. Service Design is applied version of Design Thinking for building better services to meet the user’s and customer’s needs. If you are into services, you may like to learn the basic principles.
8. Design Research Methods & Pedagogy summary for systemic design http://designdialogues.com/design-research-methods-for-systemic-design/
9. For those who want to understand design principles beyond Design Thinking. A visual summary of the visual principles here
 10. A good video on illustrating through story-telling, how Design Thinking shifts the work culture towards innovating with users and reduces rework

DIVERSE INDUSTRY DT CASES:

  1. A comprehensive collection of case-studies and basics of Design Thinking http://thisisdesignthinking.net/
  2. Design Thinking case-study of tackling a challenge of American kids to play more to help fight childhood obesity. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0V5BwTrQOCs
  3. IBM has adopted and evolved its Design Thinking process ahead of its several competitors by combining it with Agile methodologies. Their articulation is acute and contextual. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pXtN4y3O35M&t=33s
  4. Measurement of success of Design Thinking as a corporate innovation methodology has been a topic of debate. Here is a look by Design Management Institute on this tough topic http://www.dmi.org/?page=2015DVIandOTW
  5. A good discussion around India’s massive digital identity program. How Design Thinking could have been applied to Aadhaar? https://swarajyamag.com/magazine/aadhaar-could-be-a-classic-case-study-for-design-thinking

TOOLS:

  1. Several tools used by Design Thinkers and Service-Designers, are listed here with examples. A great collection. http://www.servicedesigntools.org/
  2. A good set of Business Design tools+templates online (using Design Thinking to craft business models and user-experiences) https://www.creatlr.com/discover/
  3. Customer-Journey or User-Experience mapping tool (SaaS) and some free resources https://www.smaply.com/
  4. An affinity diagram is a tool for analyzing large amounts of data and discovering relationships which allows a design direction to be established based on the associations. https://uxdict.io/design-thinking-methods-affinity-diagrams-357bd8671ad4
  5. When it comes to age distribution, India has a population pyramid, but China’s is a pillar. Design Thinking is about making things visual. Whole of world of interesting visualization of global data here. http://www.visualcapitalist.com/

INDUSTRY REPORTS:

  1. Design in Tech, a summary report on evolving use and opportunities for design in tech industries - prepared annual by a group of authors in Silicon Valley http://www.kpcb.com/blog/design-in-tech-report-2016
  2. A Designer is the future leader or a designer is a future Uber driver. A good collection of projections for Design as a profession https://www.fastcodesign.com/90139617/9-ideas-shaping-the-future-of-design-according-to-ideo-microsoft-autodesk-mit-and-more

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Future of Design/Designers 2/2
Tue, 26 Sep 2017 15:56:00 +0000

What is the future of Design and Designers? Such questions never arise when things are going great. Existential questions come up only when one is living on the edge. Design profession today, is. But then so is the case with everything else today. Tech-driven disruption is redefining fundamental boundaries of products, professions and even relationships between humans. As a designer and a futurist, here are some thoughts on the future of this profession:
1. DIGITAL-DEMOCRATISATION & NO-DESIGN
From banking to a chauffeur driven, air-conditioned taxi, to healthcare and higher-education on demand- everything is getting democratized. Entire concept of luxury being ‘super-exclusive’ is under threat due to the online sales. Larger population is participating in the new economy and giving rise to new business models which are about ‘renting’, ‘right sizing’, ‘experiencing’ and ‘personalization’ rather than about ownership, cost reduction, accumulation and mass-consumption alone. This is changing the entire business landscape — right from what kind of USPs to build in products and services, whom to target, what to say to them, where to sell, what kind of margins to keep, how to reach out and engage them further etc.
Market researcher made sense of the conventional data. Design researchers mined the hidden layers of subconscious. But with data analytics is getting powerful by day using AI, is likely to diminish the role of ‘design researcher’.
What will all this do to the designers? This is going to finish their profession. Yes, technology will enable enough tools and simplified methods to achieve stuff that was previously ‘designerly’ i.e. from Gestalt Laws to making harmonius visual compositions to pattern reading. Some thinkers envisaged new roles like 3D avatar designers, human organ designers etc. could be a passing phase in between.
2. MELTING BORDERS INTO RENAISSANCE-MAN
European Union was an initiative in the recent times to melt the physical borders between the countries. Technology is now melting the cognitive borders as well. There used to be a huge wall between B2B and B2C earlier. Professionals were different who worked in these two areas and rarely one would see people crossing over. Today, it is a done thing. Why? Because the consumer of a banking service is also a consumer of Facebook and a customer for a business intranet portal is also a consumer of Facebook. This consumer continues his/her expectations from one world of social media to second world of business. This ‘seamlessness’ of expectations is giving rise to new ‘liquid expectations’ as Accenture puts it. So, a business software cannot be treated very differently than a social media site and might even be looked at as a ‘game’ in the adventurous cases.
In the sense of melting borders, the different boundaries between product design and visual design or animation design versus furniture design, will vanish. Already the advent of UX has spawned off several new or differently named disciplines such as ‘new media design’. Multitudes more may come up. Within UX design, now a wire-framer differentiates from the UI designer. On the other hand, the digital boom is closing the gap between physical and digital. Industry is at a loss on whom all to employ to get a simple product off the ground. This diffraction will push for emergence of multi-disciplinary designer or what I call “a RENAISSANCE designer” who can smoothly sail from one end of design skill spectrum to the other.
3. THE NEW ECONOMIST: We now have several ‘economies’ doing rounds -On-demand economy, experience economy, distributed economy, sharing economy etc. It is called as an ‘economy’, because it is changing the entire behavior of society and in this process generating value. Never was a time where so many institutions broke down together. When you are ill, you go to the hospital. Now we are saying, hospital will come to you i.e. on-demand. Movie, money, elder-care to grocery — the list is quite long now for on-demand services. Earlier, you went to school or college to study. Now the college is available on your phone, literally. As if in a meta-physical realm, everything seems to be in a time-warp. New economics is more about people than about money. It is more sociology, anthropology and psychology than mathematics. This is the border where ‘design’ meets them.
This new economics there can be no better person to ‘liberally’ connect the diverse domains with the narrative of human existence, than a new age designer. The term ‘experience designer’ will evolve into a ‘systems designer/architect’ of a different kind. This would push the designers to take up jobs in governance, in career politics and in places for advocacy like UN.
4. THE ‘SLOW’-DESIGNER
Every trend has an anti-trend; the yin and the yang rising alternately. With everything fast, there is already an emergence of the ‘slow’. Craftsmanship of the yesteryears will smoothly merge into digital-era-artisanship. People who can use the digital tools deftly to craft elaborate ‘hand-made’ stuff, from food-recipes to decoratives, will be the new age designers in demand. These people will redefine mythology and traditions through the lens of modernity and will spin off concepts like ‘Uncoference’, ‘Unconvention’ and probably ‘UnDesign’ :).
Future of Design has extreme scenarios. Whenever extreme scenarios arise, one know that there is a sort of transformation underway. From a position that takes designer right till the table where decisions are made, to complete annihilation in the wave of automation, the stretch is long. In between, we would see a complete redefinition of many of the currently well-paying ‘tactical’ roles i.e. UX Designer. Designer and the Design profession, need to read the emerging patterns, this time for themselves to escape Darwin’s wrath :).

The ‘augmented’ reality of a legend
Tue, 26 Sep 2017 15:53:00 +0000

Apple had already made a case for ‘good design is good business’ several years back. Gratitude! But with every launch of a new product from Apple now, world is getting divided into two- those who believe Apple is still a ‘buy’ and those who don’t care. Interesting stuff is unfolding. Here is my take on recent unveiling of #iPhoneX and the Series 3 watch ‘cellular’. I have not used these products so far, but I do use other Apple products:
a. Great Storytelling: First things first- you look at the launch film from Apple, in the voice of its chief designer — Jonathan Ive, you know that in the art of storytelling through technology-product styling-manufacturing finesse- and of course, the brand mantra, Apple is still the king. No one zooms into the lyrical-visual-details of a manufactured product as they do, with pride.
b. No Design Thinking?: As the world is talking of making everyone a disruptive innovation thinker through Design Thinking — Apple has missed the bus. Knowingly? Probably in the fork of ‘Design Thinking v/s Design Doing’, they just chose the latter (to stay differentiated from commoditized DT). But it has not worked. The ‘new’, is not convincingly so.
c. The New Analyst — The Designer: In this new age, market ‘analysts’ are talking of the phone features, from the ‘Users’ perspective. Shouldn’t there be some take from the designers? The whole world is talking about the onset of ‘Experience Economy’, UX (User-Experience design) has become a new sought after role in the design fraternity. Where are their voices? This signals a whole new opportunity for designers to be sitting in those chairs as market analysts (for consumer product companies?)
d. Missing the icon: When the whole world pressed a button, ‘the touch’ was revolutionary and desirable. Removing the head-phone jack from the phone was divided between ‘bold’ and ‘whimsical’. Now removing ‘home’ icon/button from the screen should probably not even find mention in a product launch by a company of the stature of Apple. It does, because the much awaited innovation from the new 5 billion USD campus now rests on these little additions!!
e. Front-end of Tech is in the East: The legendary Apple watch goes cellular now. Innovation? Indians are buying Chinese made, metal cased, SIM enabled watches for less than USD 20 (fathom several hundreds of dollars for the series 3, with whatever finesse and ‘complete -ecosystem’ you can). And these have been around for at least a few years. Front end of the consumer tech is shifting to the East. Perfection is still the pitch with the West. But in the age of VUCA, should we care of perfection?
f. Tech v/s Feature: Facial recognition, Augmented reality, Artificial intelligence etc. are not ‘Features’. They are ‘technologies’ that will keep evolving and becoming better for several decades. One visit to Bangalore and and every IT company worth its shareholders money, is claiming expertise in these areas. There must be some leeway open to the future possibilities then to bind them into ‘a’ feature.
Picture for illustration purpose (the new iPhoneX)

Should you switch career to Design (/Design Thinking)?
Tue, 26 Sep 2017 15:49:00 +0000

After I recently wrote on some insights and sort of FAQ for aspiring undergrad students into Design (and their parents, as for the Indian context), there were a lot of queries by people are at cross-roads in their career. Infact these queries have been trickling steadily for some time, from the people two years in job to those who spent a decade or more in ‘other’ professions. They have heard of ‘design’ or ‘design thinking’ and are clearly attracted by the ‘creativity quotient’ attached to it, compared to the ‘drab routine’(I have a different POV here) they might be stuck to. What is it like, to shift your career to Design one day? What does it take? What is the ROI? He is my take below, though it focuses more on a) people in their early part of the career b) Indian context.
I did it, many years ago, when it wasn’t cool to shift over at all, let alone shifting to an unheard-of profession. I shifted from engineering to design. I shifted from a well-paying corporate job in an automobile company to entrepreneurship. Even within design stream, I shifted from Product Design to Visual Design and later to Design research and Strategy. And currently drifting towards Business Design and Futurology. Shifting, now looks pretty natural to me. And there is a philosophical angle to it, but I would stick to hard-facts for now.
Modern design education and profession, is nearly a century old story in the world. For India also it is around for more than half a century but it is only now, there is a mass curiosity around this. Design schools are springing up everywhere; Design Thinking is becoming a must-do course on Coursera; literally every soft-skill trainer of yester years is now claims to be Design Thinking trainer; new memes are doing rounds in the corporate circle saying ‘empathy is the new strategy’; Indian organizations, especially IT companies are training their work force en-masse into this new found skill ever since Vishal Sikka, the CEO of Infosys made a loud noise around this exciting concept. And yes, I could muster a courage to create a brand new company dedicated to Design Thinking & Business Innovation (Turian Labs) in 2015, after a roller-coaster ride as an entrepreneur at a full-service design company I cofounded earlier (Onio). Turian Labs is doing well and I do look forward to every Monday :).
Here are a few questions that I encounter from working professionals:
1. Which stream? Product Design (or several others like this), Interaction Design or Strategic Design Management?
Some institutes (my context for this article is ‘India’) offer post-graduate degree in design to students coming from non-design fields like engineering and architecture. Switch is easier if you have any of these two undergraduate degrees. Strategic Design Management (NID offers this) or Design Studies (as NIFT calls this course) or Business Design (as WeSchool in Mumbai calls this) are some courses that bridge the gap between designers and management. A degree in Product Design will get you a job into the core-design team of a company, where you understand business needs, draw, visualise and prototype products. Compared to that a degree in SDM, Design Studies or Business Design will get you a job as a Product Manager, Innovation Manager, Brand Manager or a Design Research Manager in a company. So essentially one needs to decide whether ‘skill of doing’ or skill of ‘thinking and managing the process’ is closer to him/her. Interaction Design or UX Design is a futuristic but currently hyped and bastardised field. It is futuristic because with the onset of IoT and automation era, a lot of sense making would need to be done in making the human interaction with these devises. Currently, largely the work available (that I know of) is limited to making UI for apps barring a few exceptions. Industry has so much of dearth of this skill that anyone with a title ‘designer’ is being hired for the job — a computer engineer from an unknown engineering-college working on front-end-coding for an app to a trained Graphic Designer working on User Research for a complex B2C application. Everyone is being paid well (so far, till the cookie crumbles). But to assess the ground situation, I heard this from a business owner in a conference I was addressing, “So many designers swear by Apple’s UX and UI, all of them have great stories to quote and tell from TED videos, they all have good degrees with them, then why can’t I get a decent product UI done here?”.
2. Should I get some experience working as an intern or something, in a company like yours, before taking up a formal design education?
Or similar
Can I get switch to this domain without studying these 2 year-long courses? Is there a way?
Apprenticeship is an eternally valid concept. It gives you a quick hang of the place and field. I have been accepting such interns for quite a while now. Design companies around the world are quite friendly places compared to most other corporate clubs. My company employs people across domains- from ethnographers, MBAs to designers and engineers. People have interned with us, shaped up their experience and most importantly enriched their ‘vocabulary’ to enter this field formally. While such internship does NOT guarantee an admission to a design institute but it does provide the lay or the land as a profession. Many people directly apply to American universities for post-graduation in Innovation Management, Strategic Design Management or similar courses where I end up providing recommendations (and mostly it works!). So, while it is NOT mandatory to have a practical experience in the field to switch-over, it does give you a break from current routine, help you synthesize thoughts better and make you’re ‘learning ready’ for design.
Answer to the connected question is YES, one can get into the domain of innovation consulting and innovation management through self-study, a bit of practical exposure as mentioned above. Design Thinking has opened the doors wide-open to broader professions and professionals to come and join the party.
3. Will I be able to pay back my student loan easily if I take a costly course in Design abroad?
Post-grad courses are of 1 year duration (like several courses in Domus Academy) and regular 2 year duration (like most American universities). Recently, one such candidate told me that she will be spending nearly USD 48,000 per year (AFTER she has been awarded 50% tuition fee waiver) at IIT Chicago. This amounts to a whopping Rs. 60 lakhs in two years. A loan of even 40–50 lakhs for 10 years payment period will generate a minimum EMI (repayment instalment) of Rs. 70–80,000 a month (as an average, though several factors decide this EMI). This means that a minimum salary expected after this education would be a package of Rs. 15 lakhs upwards. Now, this is a salary that an IT professional tends to gets in India after 7–10 years in the field. Lately, UX design jobs have been offering such entry level salaries. Even some no IT companies are offering such salaries to fresh graduates (in design profession, usually ‘graduates’ and ‘post-graduates’ are not treat differently. Be ready for a shock where both have the same salary). So overall calculation seems a financially a bit awry to me unless one can get a better deal on fee from these colleges abroad. Aalto University in Finland, I am told is much lighter on pocket compared to American and other European Universities. Going abroad, surely provides a different perspective of things and generates a life-long network, but then it is not a blank-cheque situation while seeking a job.
4. Is it worth it?
Great news is that get into any stream you can, Design is a great ecosystem to be in anyways. For me, Design education offered a completely different perspective to looking at things after my first degree in engineering at one of the IITs. All I can say is that no moment is ‘boring’ moment once you are coloured by the power of Design way of thinking. To exemplify, just waiting for a bus can be an engaging moment — experiencing peoples’ activities, stereotypes and analysing personae; looking at material of construction for the bus stop, studying design language and semiotics; analysing the advertisements around through sharpness of messaging, puns used, fonts and apt typography, treatment of the photographs; reading the pattern how buses arrive (they always seem to arrive in multiples, after a long gap, why?) and correlating this to nuclear or astrophysics phenomena in nature …the list is endless. This is quite an information overload that can frustrate some people and make other shiver in ecstasy with the priceless knowledge thrown around. Overall profession thrives on one lifelong skill and virtue — a sense of childlike inquiry, ability to question, read patterns in things and find newer, better meanings. If not anything, join this profession for this.
Graphic used above-representational image/ copyrights with the owner

FUTURE OF DESIGN IN INDIA — 1/2
Tue, 26 Sep 2017 15:45:00 +0000

I just attended a debriefing meeting organized by ADI (Association for Designers in India) on the future plans of the India Design Council and there were important pointers on how the Indian design fraternity works and thinks. India Design Council is a body that the Indian government formed to evangelize and ‘regulate’ design practices in India. It has been around for nearly a decade, but largely unheard of ! India Design Mark is one of the tangible initiatives taken up by this council and every year.
Points discussed in the meeting sounded rather all too familiar e.g. How to regulate the education quality of mushrooming new design colleges (Is India facing acute shortage of ‘good’ faculty in design)? How to form a chartered society of designers like chartered society of engineers? How to make Design more relevant in the industry? Then there was a lot of discussion around supporting craft and the craftsmen in India, around ‘tangible’ design — ‘good design’, ‘better finish’, ‘better products’ etc. And there the usual suspects like — the government should listen to designers.
In my opinion, the discussion seemed cut-off from the large-scale changes taking place in the global business universe.
For two decades, I have been hearing the same rant in global forums on design, by designers — “We make great stuff. We are great thinkers. We can change the world. But business/government does not give us a s***”. Few years back I attended and spoke at the World Design Congress in San Francisco. There were speakers from the third generation of designer families. It was the same rant even there. Late professor M P Ranjan from National Institute of Design in India, one of the most articulate proponent of design in business and governance, wrote volumes on how design sensibilities must find a place in everyday life. But to no avail. Things happen; when the timing is right.
‘Design is a strategic move and not just a tactical add on’, has been one constant undertone of the profession. Businesses have been used to taking the design strategy for free and pay only for the tangibles since ages. But then the grand unveiling of ‘Design Thinking’ happened and it was a game-changer (to a point!). After years of struggle of running a conventional design company, I realized that time has arrived where design ‘doing’ must be separated from design ‘thinking’ and ‘Turian Labs’, a fresh research and strategy consulting brand was born. Things have improved drastically and since then, our competitors are no longer only limited to design companies but business strategy companies. Our contact point has shifted to business leaders and policy makers rather than R&D heads or chief designers. We are consulting and training hundreds of executives, entrepreneurs and senior management across business sectors into this new-found art of Design Thinking.
This forking of the design profession into ‘Design Thinking’ and ‘Design Doing’ is a phase that is going to last for at least a decade (in my view) before ‘holistic creation’ takes over again and the two paths fuse together, as the classist would argue. But before that, we stand witness to great changes in technology that is shaping our lives today. And it is not going to be the same ever. We are passing through a VUCA reality. Businesses — from banking, healthcare, media and IT services are facing a severe setback of the impending future due to automation, sharing economy, smart revolution and on-demand services.
Organizations are struggling to make sense of the new reality. A simple example — will car-dealerships be relevant tomorrow when people would rather rent than own a car? Or what will be the role of a TV channel or a media house in the age of mushrooming online video content?
Education is another sector which is shifting from the core. All knowledge is all available for free online. In a recent conversation with an educator of textile design, he said that his profession is almost getting extinct. If you have a nice-looking pattern as a picture on internet, all it needs is a machine that will convert it into a fabric. Every entrepreneur can become a textile designer now but vice-versa is difficult. All these young textile designers coming out of design colleges have a bleak future if they stick to the core field (they will have to switch to alternative careers like merchandising etc.). It is a digital revolution in progress.
So these changes are causing the great forking of design profession. But legacy institutions are either largely ignorant of this or rather trapped in the archaic details to take any note. Torch-bearer institutions like NID/IIT or Indian Design Council should step forward and create a future forward white-paper on design education. Bodies like ADI can look forward to creating a white paper on emerging contours of the profession of design, which is now spilling out into the management. The great forking, combined with disruptive changes in the job profiles (where 50% of design jobs will vanish in next 5-years due to technology, including current form of UX design) will result in restructuring of education drastically. Here are more pointers that IDC can think of taking up in favor of the imminent future of design:
1. First and foremost — Create/solicit pedagogy of Indian Design thought/thinking. It is presently scattered all over. Time has come to NAME it and differentiate it from the western pedagogy. One does not have to stick to FRUGAL INNOVATION or DESIGN THINKING. Facilitate co-creation workshops across the country with the practioners, educators and experts to extract the new name and pedagogy. Aggressively promote it worldwide. Focus on claiming this mind-space of the world around it. It is a large mandate and will probably take time to settle in.
2. Include professionals who are not designers but have been practicing design/design thinking for long as a part of the committee. Broaden the mandate for inclusion/inclusivity.
3. Once frozen, document and help propagating as a standard methodology in government departments undertaking innovation.
4. Create a yearly white-paper on Design Education in India. Endorse whitepaper on future of Design profession which ADI (Association of Designers in India) may take up
5. Create directions for faculty development programs, which can be taken-up by individual institutions. Channelize exchange with other such programs across the world.
6. Build baseline set for Design Thinking curriculum at school level. Hundreds of schools are now looking at internalizing this.
7. Build a baseline set for Design Thinking and Innovation courses in MBA programmes.
8. Mandate a tiny-showcase of Indian Design thought and make it available for all Indian trade-commissions abroad
9. Build a digital show-case of Indian design cases. And yes, that does not mean just physical products or services. It can also be about experiences? Can there also be the success stories from IT sector, services etc.
10. Policy advocacy with the PMO for Design-in-India pitch
11. Help Indian cities get a Design Capital tag through smart city program.
Several design companies have been shut or have been acquired in the recent past. Design is becoming more and more intrinsic to any organization, stretching all the way to change-management. Design Thinking and Digital technologies together have opened the floodgates for design professionals and they are likely to change the contours of the entire profession forever. This is the time to apply sensing to the entire upheaval and move the cursor beyond the conventional meanings and applications. Else the profession will move on and follow the Darwinian path, much like the rise of IT sector, irrespective of institutions!

DO YOU WORK FOR A ‘RULE-SCHOOL’ ORGANISATION?
Tue, 26 Sep 2017 15:44:00 +0000

Every organization starts with a vision, carry the creative energies and joy of work in the beginning. People are happy. As things expand organization become ‘stiff’ or inflexible to carry on the spirit of creativity, passion and innovation. People are well paid but stifle inside and cannot pin-point what is ailing the system. Negative energies spread. One can take a patchwork of consultants or new buzzword philosophies to get things back in order but problem appears to be out of grasp. Several legacy brands, organizations and even societies at large, suffer from this. I call it a ‘Rule-School’ phenomenon. Why and how does it happen? Here is a case, illustrated using a school student’s story I came across recently.
A high-school student in India, learns about a science fair where student projects are to be displayed and gets down to making a ‘smart obstacle detection system’ for the blind, using his elementary knowledge of electronics.
95% of students around him are not interested in this project as it would take away the time for studies, especially when all of them are preparing for back-breaking, highly-competitive engineering admission test (JEE) for getting into IITs (premier institute for engineering in India).
Teachers approve the synopsis and enroll him but give a wavering, non-committal support through the project.
The student conducts research around the topic, meets blind people to get some insights, works day and night with zeal for two months, at times keeping aside regular studies.
And then one day he hears that his participation has been CANCELLED by the school as they think the ‘project does not appear worth sending to the fair’.
Reasons given by the teachers :
1. “The principal rejected it”.
2. “Your project is not GLAMOUROUS enough. Last year we had seen BIGGER project models on display”.
3. “We had told you earlier to improve, you didn’t listen. You were just busy with electronics”.
Aggrieved parents want to contact the principal who refuses to meet and sends teachers to meet. When confronted, why a child should not be allowed to at least present the model in the fair and be judged there, rather than by the school, teachers say “we have gone as per the school policy. The judges met and decided that this model is not worth sending to the fair”.
“But the child is heart-broken. He has been at it since many months and worked day and night.”
“He should learn how to face the failure”.
“But he has not failed, he has tried something and even succeeded in finding newer problems like locating the stick for the blind. He made a CLAP sensor module to locate it. What about it”?
“Well, we have gone through everything. And the decision has been taken.”
“Shouldn’t you be rather promoting a child, consumed by the desire to do something new with whatever knowledge he had, rather than pulling him down by talking about ‘glamour’, ‘bigger size of model’ ‘previous year’s pattern’ and ‘we told you so’?”
Silence!!
Here are some known characters in the story which repeat in every organization.
The Rule School: There are many organizations where rule book is the ultimate weapon of mass-destruction of creative thinking. Moment a newbie raises its head with an innovative idea, the rule-book weapon is swung into action to strike it dead.
The Stiff-Neck-Principal: The leader of the organization who is too busy with the chores and unable to see the seeds of innovation, non-linearity and . Successful leader should really be the one who frees himself/herself for nurturing these seeds of change, rather than hiding into the dead-rhythm.
The Save-My-Job teacher: Mid-level managers, who are bound by the wily/lethargic leader/system and cannot take independent judgement in favour of change. Sometimes they do see the logic of the new, but status-quo is too comfortable to let go. Rule-book is their favorite tool to stay clear.
The Creative-Misfit-Student: The innovators and creative thinkers within the organization who are still uncorrupted by the status-quo, who get excited by new ideas, but finds no apparent support in the system; not even by the boss. Inner flame of creativity keeps them going regardless. They end up quitting the ‘Rule-School’ anyways and lead the life of freedom. They are the future of our society. Find them.
The Aware Help-Us Parents: The investors, clients, consultants who can see that growth of the organization is suffering due to the systemic lethargy. They can see the inept principal not doing enough but can do a little apart from pulling the kid out of this school.
Sleepy-School-Management: Board room dictat: Tactical matters are to be handled at junior levels; the board or the school management is supposed to take care of vision and policies. They refuse to even take notice of these ‘small incidents’ that are important indicators of state of affairs. A principal or the managing director are but a manifestation of the will and mandate of the board. Unless they change the thought-line, nothing really will change. Easy to blame, difficult to catch and modify. But the seed does lie with an individual up there. Up the hierarchy it this seed is called a WILL or VISION, downwards it becomes REBEL or REVOLT or sometimes EJECT(unfortunately).
Every organization, over a period turn into a ‘Rule School’. As the organization expands, it needs a structure to keep things in order. Founder’s free spirit needs layers of rules so that things retain the original energy of exploration and creation. Founder leaves the everyday running of the organization to the ‘managers’ who interpret the rule-book as the sacrosanct order of things rather than a reflection of dynamic order and keep on losing the creative-fuel, till the competition or a startup (and an upstart), runs them over. Design Thinking is increasing being seen to break the jinx of Rule-Book and empower everyone in the organization to question.
If you are a leader who wants to change a few things but always face the Rule-School phrase of “here things happen only this way”, then do check out Design Thinking. If you need help further, Turian Labs can help you out :).

More pages on bardinsight.blogspot.com

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