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Jugaad innovation


Themes: Innovation

In his new book, Professor Prabhu argues that the West must look to India, Brazil and China for a new approach to frugal and flexible innovation

Western companies should look to the frugal and flexible approach to innovation used by countries like India, Brazil and China as they lead the way in economic growth.

Cambridge Judge Business School’s Professor Jaideep Prabhu recognises that although innovation is the major strategy for companies worldwide the current economic climate is suppressing R&D budgets and traditional highly structured innovation processes.

Professor Prabhu is a co-author of Jugaad Innovation, a book that advocates a frugal and flexible approach to innovation in the 21st century. ‘Jugaad’ is a Hindi word meaning a flexible solution created from ingenuity and cleverness.

He says that Jugaad innovation is dominant and widespread in emerging markets like India where environments are resource-scarce and unpredictable.

“We find it in China and Brazil as well as various African economies. We also see evidence of Jugaad in the early industrial period in the West and we also find there are companies now in the West interesting in bring it back into their toolkits.”

Professor Prabhu admits that Jugaad innovation is diametrically opposed to the West’s dominant and structured approach to innovation with large R&D budgets and planned approaches to innovation carried out in an insular manner whereas Jugaad is frugal, flexible and democratic.

“We start to see that in the West quite large companies and entrepreneurs are increasingly interested in Jugaad partly because they operate in emerging markets where they see it is effective but also because in the West they are facing resource constraints and unpredictability. They see this frugal, flexible approach to innovation as complimentary to a more structured approach to innovation.”

Professor Prabhu singles out GE Healthcare, which, he says, has been applying the principles of Jugaad innovation in its operations around emerging markets like India but increasingly in the west, the United States and Western Europe.

One of those principles is based on following the heart. It is about commitment and passion says Professor Prabhu who uses the late Steve Jobs of Apple as an example.

Jaideep Prabhu is Jawaharlal Nehru Professor of Indian Business & Enterprise and Director of the Centre for India & Global Business (CIGB) at Cambridge Judge Business School.

Jugaad Innovation, written by Professor Prabhu with Navi Radjou and Simone Ahuja, is scheduled for publication in May.