Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Individualism and Innovation

Very recently I read an article that explained that Indians are rather individualistic and general process principles are not well adapted to mass manufacturing. This, the author deduced, manifested in higher dominance of Indian products/services in creative space. There also appears to be a lesson in this history.

This explains to a certain extent why there are no truly national parties in India. In fact, never in the history of India has there been a single leader ruling the entire Indian subcontinent. The only exception to this rule was Indian National Congress (founded by Alan Hume counting Mahatma Gandhi, Lokmanya Tilak and Subhashchandra Bose amongst its members). After the Indian National Congress (that was gratefully buried after independance; the current congress is a version used to be called Congress I), most of the current crop of political parties are essentially agglomerations of regional parties including the BJP. At one level this is the very core of democracy and possibly the single most important reason why Indians have taken to democracy like no other nation has.

This traditional Indian mindset is most apt for start-up ventures or companies that are just finding their feet on global stage. To my mind this explains the Indian successes in IT and manufacturing (in specific cases involving commodity products). Using capital better and more creatively Indian companies have created enough wealth to buy-out global giants.


Sadly, this is also the reason why Indians have not innovated most of the new path breaking products. In industry driven by creativity, like advertising, Indian companies have not been able to sustain innovation in a people-independant manner. Path breaking innovation needs the bedrock of processes. It needs standard, non-deviating operations to release the time and free the energy required to design and bring to fruition a path breaking innovation.

To a certain extent, these changes are visible in the software industry particularly in the BPO business where process orientation is a prerequisite. The next phase of Indian corporate development will essentially revolve around the way companies are able to assemble an efficient, non-deviating operational core to free up talent and resources for great more impactful innovation.