Should you let the Lions sleep?

While at NIFT, a major part of my job became pushing files with lingo such as post facto, ex post facto, pro bono, status quo and the sorts. (Why a “fashion” institute is still stuck with an ancient method of record maintenance is still a puzzle to me.)

The word status quo came towards me from many directions.

“Don’t challenge the status quo” came again from the HR in a private jewellery company, as I experimented with changes in the branding plan. That actually pushed me a step further towards the door.

“Let the lions sleep” advised another colleague in another firm.

But there have been some lessons which I share.

Innovation vs order

If you are in a job, you have two options. One is that you try to change things for the better and the other is that you try to maintain the “status quo” and work within that constraint.

After working in mostly jewellery companies, I realized that innovation comes not just from products, but also from process; and also from systems. System innovation sounds quite technical, but as I see it, it could be as simple as instructing your back end to do a certain task, or a single person incharge to do a single thing more (or less).

Productivity vs change

While you endeavor to change things around, there maybe resistance to change. Changes in work process without senior most management push, is an uphill task. Many areas that actually need changes are grey areas often between different departments. An ideal scenario would be to identify leaders from each department and enroll them as change agents for the larger innovation. This however also leads to those resisting change to react adversely.

What you think vs group think

When coming up with ideas, innovative thinkers may come up with ideas which appear to be so crazy, so mad, so eccentric that the larger mass of thought might not be able to accommodate it. New ideas are risky, because they have not been tried out before. Getting people apart from yourself out of their comfort zones and  fixed routine might be a huge challenge if you really do believe in the worth of your idea. But if it doesn’t work, its your neck on the line and that is the single biggest deterrent to individuals, our non acceptance of failure.

The conventional employee would let the “lions sleep” and the innovator? What would the innovator do? Would you let the Lions sleep?

How we “Make in India”

Nothing Happens unless something Moves.

Albert Einstein.

Last autumn, I got the opportunity to take a “Makers” workshop for a bunch of management students. They considered it as “craft” exercise. The aspect of making was new to some of them.

We started with the material most familiar to them and many people across the world and that is Paper.

For the next Makers Workshop we introduced Plastic and this time the group was clearer with their understanding of how to use a material

The next trimester, we introduced a Hackathon competition and the brief was to use basic material such as ice cream sticks and rubber bands to create something that demonstrates the conversion of potential energy into movement.

mit_nasik_02

Our group of students was now prepared as they tackled this subject in a limited time within our “Makers Space”. The selected few from these got the chance to explore innovation in a multidisciplinary group at an MIT event at Nasik.

mit_nasik_01

Envisioning MiSiDiCi

Recently an acquaintance was nominated among st finalists from across the globe for his Innovative Idea at the Smart City Expo held recently. He informed us with delight on his return, that India had been given an honorary prize for the work done in the sphere of Smart Cities development.

“The World is taking notice even when back at home we have criticism!” was something what was discussed.

While it is a no brainer for any ordinary urban educated citizen of India  (guilty author) to create a list of cons and criticisms, what if the government had used the Design Thinking approach to simplify, clarify and expand its vision such as the one below?

Make in India:

Could it be envisioned as?

When you visit your regular shop/buying place, most things that you need, like and are useful are made in India.

Digital India:

Citizens are able to make informed decisions, work together, collaborate and share ideas through an unseen network which comes to them rather intuitively and without added cost with respect to their privacy. Responses during emergency situations and life and death moments are seamless and efficient.

Skill India:

Two kinds of skills will be developed simultaneously, the one that ensure jobs and more importantly the ones that create jobs, without added burden or costs of skill development.

Clean India:

When you walk out from your home to work in the morning, the streets are clean, the air is pure and fresh and no encroachments are hindering your path. You are healthy and feel good about your environment. You don’t feel hesitant to drink water from the community tap, because like everything around, that is also pure and clean.

One request: Needed a place where we (All stakeholder: Billion plus citizens) can share views and talk to each other, apart from the social net. Billion People= Billion plus ideas= Fast Track Improvement = Happy Country!

Smarty Pants

If you were ask in India what is the current buzzword, supported by marketing efforts of course, you would get Make in India, Digital India, Smart Cities among some more floating on the social net.

All of a sudden we are considering being “Smart”. Silently we whisper to each other “What is meant by Smart”? Is what is meant “Smart” by them the “Smart” we understand? (Do we really?) We then look up to the architects of the word and ask , “What is Smart?”.

The self appointed architects reply with a mock shock,

“You don’t know?… “See.”

They point towards a country and its city demonstrating some glass, shiny metals and a lot of automation technology.

“Oh!” We look amazed at the trains that go on hyper speed and the doors that open and shut automatically, sensors that send information ahead to someone and someone or something who supposedly makes life simpler in this maze of productivity with people like working ants going about their jobs.

“We can do that?!” we look on mesmerized, silently wonder how many potholes we have avoided that day and how much water to expect in the municipality tap. This smart city appears to look like heaven.

“We can accomplish that?”, We ask again in disbelief!

Nods the architect. “A few trillions here and there, but it is possible.”

“Where are the Trillions coming from?” we ask still in disbelief.

“FDI mostly. Fourteen countries have shown interest.”

We whistle in further disbelief.

“Wow! Fourteen countries will tell us how to live smartly.” Impressed at the achievement. We close the latest edition of Shiv Puraan. Old Sops of life. Lets embrace the new.

“Who..”, we ask further, “..would be living in these smart cities?”

“Smart citizens.” They answer. “Smartly qualified with smart education”.

We applaud!

“How..” we ask, “Would you find these smart citizens?”

The architects now loose patience at this inevitable question and blurt.

“You have too many questions! You are not Gift-ed. You are certainly not smart and don’t qualify to stay in a smart city!”

Disappointed, we start looking at the map and looking for the other non smart cities to live in.

“Don’t worry,” the architects console, “We may be working towards an inclusive society where even the lower income group can be accommodated.”

We breathe a sigh of relief. When we go to discuss this at our daily pavement dwellers meeting over a boiling broth of today’s Dal, most have the same question:

“Will the pavements be really clean? They won’t trouble us every six months for pavement leveling?”.

“We don’t know about clean, but they promise they will be smart.”

“Smart?” asks the pavement mother, cradling one kid on her lap and another suckling on her breast.

We go on to explain what is meant by “Smart”.

“See….” we point towards that country with that city gleaming in the night.

The pavement dwellers rub their eyes in disbelief.

( to be continued.)

Design. Lost in translation?

A few days back I visited a blog which had the conscious effort of being “made”. While the intent of the developer was clear, which was to create a design community, one particular fastidious designer had commented below why the blog wasn’t serving its purpose. While the creator of the blog was positive in taking the criticism, I’m sure too many of such comments would not have served as discouragement and criticism. By the way, this blog was Indian and that context is important.

In India, there are many factions of design community.

There are those who practice pure “design”, which means everything that is done, should be evaluated on basis of some ten point agenda that they seem to have worked out in tandem. They live by their rule and methodology; creating something that only this community can understand. It has absolutely no relation with the general mass understanding of design, if there may even be so, in India. I’d had once “shamelessly” called it the “Bauhaus” effect, which somehow felt offensive to the professor who was preaching design to our group. I couldn’t help it. Circle, triangle and simplifications of that nature, are rather alien to the evolved Indian sensibilities. We left using such symbols in the 3000 BC. Identification: they are still arguing “form vs function” debates in classrooms.

The Aesthetic or trend keepers

“It has to be Art deco”, screamed the designer, “That is the trend.”

This designer would read the latest trend reports on twitter through a built in trend identifying sensor, attend the important colour (international) conferences and maybe sleep with a few pantone colour chips under the pillow. Ok, I’m exaggerating, but it would be close to that. This faction of designers (In India) would embrace the international trends (and classics) and try to vigorously add doses of the same into the Indian market. Whether the “little black dress” has any relevance in Indian society would be lost in the translation to rapidly imitate the sensibility of foreign glossies. (I’ve been guilty of this for years too!)

The Realists

Then there is the group of realists or pragmatics. Their only agenda is cost control. Would it be cheaper to produce if the ornamentation would be done away with? Or would it be cheaper to produce if the ornamentation was there? Would it be cheaper to product if we employed a designer? Or would it be cheaper if we did away with the design process? You get what I mean…?

The Eco warrior

Eco warriors represent that class of Indian designers who have been molded to think that to design anything non biodegradable is a waste of their time on earth. Most of us are eco sensitive, but the difference is the manner in which anything that is created is deliberated as being threat to nature. This is a section, we could actually do with some more . Identification: They are generally dressed in khadi from FabIndia and paper is their favorite medium.

The Businessman-Marketeer

Here is the faction which has captivated their audience by offering “design” through a big marketing trick. Just like the over used word “innovation”, they would use “design” or “designer” as a differentiator, non-withstanding the fact that they hardly employ a design sensibility nor a designer, or their pure design methodology that the purists were so proud of.They use the term “design” or “innovation” without understanding or believing in it because it brings good business. Identification: Glossy misleading advertisements claiming design, not corroborating with the product in hand. Widespread.

Next time you buy or use something, try to evaluate what could the designer have in the mind.Then, maybe you can decide if the product you are using has been designed well or it is echoing any of the thoughts above. Maybe some, maybe all. What about the product, which just sits there silently, helping you about without making “statements”? Maybe that is the ultimately made product and kudos to its designer.

The new Apple IPhone and India?

The Wanderer

Apple’s new iphone. Will it make a difference in India compared to other competing brands? The colours seem fresh and new; but for Apple. Fashion history has seen that bright colours like neon are generally short lived trends which last for a couple of years in the classic “fad” phenomena. They peak during their popularity period and then rapidly decline. Remember acid tones, which gained popularity a decade back? Once the fad reached the streets, it quickly exited along with bell sleeves and platform heels. While acid tones have a neutral association, apart from the fact that they look hideous on the majority colour complexions in India, neons don’t have plenty of good associations either. To the typical Indian mind, they are generally associated with bars and night clubs, which is not a very classy association for a premium product. While a niche audience may be willing to experiment with…

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My first Interaction with Nokia Research

The Wanderer

The news of the Microsoft and Nokia deal has been all over since yesterday amid skepticism and perhaps even criticism. Odds seem heavily stacked against the prospect.  Nokia which had been the market leader in cellphones in India for many years, had recently been replaced by Samsung on the top spot. But inspite of that, Nokia still has one of the best brand recall in the country upto the interiors of India.

Some years back, when Nokia was still placed as the global leader in cellphone space, I had the good fortune of meeting researchers from their labs. As I was then heading the Accessories department in Delhi NIFT, my immediate thought was to get our students learning fashion accessories to be involved  a short project that NOKIA labs was then conducting in India. So while the rest of NIFT was on summer vacation, a group of our…

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