Thursday, June 29, 2017

Energizing the Innovation Chakra

The word "Chakra" is derived from the Sanskrit word for "wheel" or "turning". What really drives innovation? Is it curiosity or necessity? Or is it a striving for perfection, inherent in human nature? Are we programmed to learn more about ourselves, and also act upon that knowledge for the benefit of ourselves and of society?

In my last post, ‘Deciphering the Innovation Code’, I touched upon the cultural aspects of how we view innovation. How can we enrich the definition of innovation based on these different views of innovation from around the world?


The wheel and the bulb, as visible symbols of innovation, inadvertently create a bias in how we think about innovation. Product innovation dominates the popular perception on what constitutes innovation. There is no doubt that both these and other product innovations have had a profound impact, yet, this is only the tip of the iceberg.

Silicon Valley symbolizes technology innovation. However, many believe that its success is due more to business model innovation than to technology innovation. This is important for the many regions that look to learn from the success of Silicon Valley. As this recent HBR article points out, business model innovation does not require high capital investment in technology or massive marketing budgets. For this form of innovation, the world is definitely flat!

A recent post by Dominique Turpin, the Dean of the prestigious Swiss management school, IMD, spoke about moving organizational thinking away from the idea of ‘product innovation’ and suggested that management teams learn to play the ‘innovation piano’. This metaphor imbues “innovation” with an almost aesthetic quality, bringing in images of a well-conducted orchestra.

What is your favorite innovation metaphor? Please share your thoughts, and stay with me as I continue this journey into the true nature of innovation.

Image adapted from picture by Paul Nylander (

Deciphering the Innovation code

There is an ancient Indian parable of the ‘blind men and an elephant’, in which each one perceives the elephant differently. Just ask a room full of academics, entrepreneurs and policy makers to describe "innovation" and you will always get a different answer from each one.

Mapping the human genome took over 13 years and remains a milestone in collaborative human endeavor. A similar journey is currently underway in the field of innovation, as practitioners and thinkers from all over the world collaborate to rapidly advance our understanding of the true nature of innovation. This is the first in a series of posts as I set out on the quest to decipher the innovation code.

Business model innovation, disruptive innovation, radical innovation, social innovation, open innovation, frugal innovation and inclusive innovation and so on: there is now a veritable alphabet soup of innovation. The lines are blurred and there are many overlaps, but none of them truly describes the elephant! 

Born in clusters, hotspots, and ecosystems – new stars are added to the innovation universe everyday. Add to it the fact that we live in a hyper connected world, the speed of innovation is now increasing exponentially. Is Singularity, as predicted by futurist Ray Kurzweil closer than we think?

Innovation is the new space race. The east has been steadily gaining ground as the west struggles to sustain its advantage. At stake, is the planet we call home.

Not surprisingly, all this has led to a burgeoning industry of measuring innovation. Today, there are more innovation indicators and measures, ratings and awards than the number of elephants left on the planet!

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this innovation boom is the role of culture. Is the European view of innovation a much more ‘social’ one than the American ‘winner takes all’ approach? If Switzerland has a risk-averse culture, how then does it rank as the world’s most innovative and competitive nation?

Follow me, as I unravel the jargon and embark on a journey to discover the true nature of innovation.


Satyadeep Rajan

Satyadeep Rajan, Director, PTP

Satya leads PTP's Management Consulting practice. Satya has over 20 years of experience in creating successful businesses from idea to IPO.