Invention with commercial value is innovation

Seshadri Ramkumar, Professor, Texas Tech University, USA

A discussion on the Thanksgiving day with Nikesh Anand Rajagopalan, director of solutions at Sunnyvale, California-based  HCL America provided a clear understanding about innovation.  Innovation is a required corporate strategy these days. Nikesh Rajagopalan who has a graduate management degree from the prestigious Indian Institute of Management, Bengaluru, India, has been managing innovations for multinationals in the printing device sector to medical field.

“Ideas alone are not innovation,” stated Rajagopalan. Inventions should find applications, be useful to the society and should make economic sense, added Rajagopalan—a sage advice indeed. To a valid question from this scribe on how to innovate, Rajagopalan gave a textbook reply. This can be handled in two ways: 1) Provide a cost-effective solution for an existing gap and 2) Access an non-obvious gap and provide valid panacea. Citing the strategy of IBM to go and look for a need, that made personal computers a reality, he stated that this is a push strategy, which worked as the functionality and price point worked out. He cautioned that the push strategy may be risky but when a much needed solution could be provided, market will be strong.

How can we innovate? Innovation should be part of vision, but it should be practiced. It is helpful to follow certain methodologies. Reverse technology is a useful, citing the example of home delivery concept that is becoming a successful alternative to physical shopping. He practices what he preaches and has installed shower at his residence instead of sprinklers to water plants to have an efficient water system, which is cost effective. Innovation can be achieved by utilizing resources to the maximum extent possible, which is known as “Segmentation.”

Creating an innovation culture incorporates is important. People need to feel they are innovators, stated Rajagopalan. He and his team have developed a concept called “Invention Disclosure a Day.” Along with innovation, branding is needed to make the innovation successful.  Agreeing people are important, corporate culture should motivate them and innovation has to be a work in progress and practiced, summed up Nikesh Rajagopalan. Invention that creates value is innovation.