Building a bottom-up innovation culture


    India has not seen any significant product innovations in the last few centuries. The current education system, socialistic background, inadequate awareness on intellectual property and the current economic boom driven by services-oriented industries are some of the constraints against creating a product innovation driven growth in India.

    An organization created in Silicon Valley would have the innovation DNA footprint ingrained in it not only due to companies’ founders but also due to the employees who come from similar backgrounds. In India or China, the onus is on the founders of the organization to create a culture that fosters innovation. Here are some steps the management teams of India product start-ups or MNC R&D centers should institutionalize in the organization:

    • Span of influence: Continuously and consistently communicate to the engineers that titles or levels don’t define the span of influence for someone in the organization and how initiatives and actions can help them increase the span of influence across the organization.

    • Healthy brawls: Teams should be encouraged to have healthy brawls on points of view and ideas and continuously question the assumptions.

    • Customer contacts: Measure the number of times each engineer speaks to the customer and create customer engagement rewards to the engineering team.

    • Responsibility: Encourage decision making at the lower levels of the engineering organization and hold people accountable for their decisions.

    • Discourage the pressure to create conformity and uniformity in the organization. Encourage individual and team identities.

    It’s hard work and requires significant time from the management team. But it is important to instill "innovation genes" into the organization’s DNA early in its evolution.


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