There are two schools of thought for innovation.
The old school of thought believes that an idea itself must be so compelling that the entity
knows that it HAS to back it. The new school of thought likes ideas, but insists on returns, low
risk and predictability that can be assured.
What really does this predictability mean? Interestingly, its not only about the bottom line but
a multitude of factors that has a role to play.
For example, a leading player in the tyre market of India was struggling to get one of its
factories to be sustainable. The factory was the result of an idea – to capture a greater share
of a customers wallet space. How? By providing him with an option of a retreaded tyre when
his first tyre wore out. Given that this was a common practice by transporters a business
model with a state of the art factory sounded like a great idea. Super. The factory was made,
land got, the equipment shipped, the people recruited, everything was geared to perfection,
save one hitch, the tyres supply was missing.
For some reason it the great idea wasn’t working, at all. Stated reason- supply choke, there
are inadequate tyres in the market.
On a deep dive the nuggets of reasons began to emerge.
The company was selling a second hand tyre, from a new tyre dealers outlet. The dealer as a
matter of prestige did not want to be associated with a good that traditionally belonged to the
‘kabbadi’ wala cadre. It was a matter of pride. To please the company the dealers never said
no, they took the tyres and shipped it to the back. Net impact- Tyres sent, tyres not shown.
The factory in turn, was very delighted with the brand markings and colours that they imposed
on the packed almost new second hand tyre. The mark represented a guarantee that the tyre
would perform. To provide this guarantee, it was essential that the tyres accepted into the
factory were the very best available. Net impact- from the glut of tyres available in the
market, the factory only accepted selected few, from hundreds of tyres, single digits were
The customers in turn, where very clear. They wanted their own tyres to be retreaded and
returned to them, ideally with a pick up and drop facility. Getting their own good back gave
them a sense of surety. They knew the product, what it was capable of, and what it could
undertake. The ‘guarantee’ that they needed was only that the work was properly done.
So lining up the nuggets, the question itself seemed to undergo a change.
Was the intention to salvage the factory?
Was the intention really to cater to customers need and increase bottom line?
A solution for the former, was a force fit. A solution for the latter was wholistic, sustainable
and even better created an entire new branding option. Simply put, it envisaged the company
launching a new brand in the second hand market, providing a one stop solution to all the
second hand needs of the customers, and provide second hand solutions to the second hand
market, instead of first hand options to the second hand market.
In principle it sounded perfect. In discussions the novel idea fell flat. No not because it wasn’t
profitable – that it was. No wasn’t because there was no need for it- that there was. It was
vetoed, because the company could not see itself performing the tasks of a kaddadi wala;
their brand value could not be diluted that way.
The assurance that this team was seeking was not provided for. The assurance that a
new brand would not harm the existing goodwill they had strived to create.
Fear is a great motivator, if deployed well. If not, it can be the biggest restraint to impede a
project. In this case, the team was so scared of igniting the wrath of the senior management,
that the idea died its death then and there.
This example was a simple way of showcasing – Assurance seeking behavior. It appears in
countless forms arising from belief that its impossible, too complex, needs too huge a
mission, its not in my capacity.A challenge daunts most by its mere presence.
If that’s true, and has been seen demonstrated in action, the need of the hour maybe to
deconstruct a challenge in a manner where is easily digested by the latter. The big aspiration
seems to be failing in its duty to fuels action. Maybe then, for action to be generated one
needs some other ignition key to be turned.
The solution may be simple. Talk to them in a language they understand. Show them the
potential of an idea in numbers, in possible revenues, in cost. Translate an aspiration to a
model- it allows the company to chew challenges in a language of comfort. Of assurances