Crisp Reading Notes on Latest Technology Trends and Basics

Archive for the ‘Creativity and Innovation’ Category

Notes from the Innovation RoundTable at TIE in 2000

Taken notes from TiE Round Table –
I have placed the Gist of the Question/Answer session here

Large service companies in India are not egines of innovations.
– Too metrics driven, Insufficient discretion used
– Innovative members build infrastructure, not often seen as contributing to bottom line
– Companies need diversities in terms of people who do not think alike, speak alike.
Even in the Silicon Valley, engines of innovations are spun out of large companies like Cisco, and spun back in.

Innovations in local markets
– Financial models in local markets is a problem
– Eg :- Electricity – How do you make farmers pay for it
– If rural India is used to getting things for free, so be it
– Somebody else in the ecosystem may want to pay for this.
– Eg :- Google

We do not lack in innovation
– Most finance in India is debt-based
– Also, marketing is a problem

Innovation comes only when education system changes.
– Both parents and students look at education as a passport for the next job.
– How do we introduce the love for Engineering?

When an innovation gets the desired visibility, the money comes chasing.
– Scaling up is an issue.
– Mentoring is an issue

Theory – Culturally, we are not hands-on.
Lack of role-models

– IIT Kanpur dean says –
Researchers working on problems isolated from that of the customer.

Replicating the Silicon Valley in the rest of US – Not possible.
Seems to be a “State of the mind. Failure is not seen as a failure, adds to experience”.
People are not risk-averse. Willing to take risks.

Seed capital is not available easily in India
– Capabilities of assessing is not there.
– Investors also do what they best understand – balancing the books.
– US – Angel and Seed investors are successful engineers of the past

Niche company in a niche area. How to scale?

Companies have a very short life-span.
Can the innovation labs, and universties do better, since they have longer lifespans.
– Avoids high investments by companies.

Should a product at an innovative company have one product for daily food? And one for the innovation.
– Never do that
– Manage your risks.
– Eg :- Mobile markets in India have managed competition.

Is there a mismatch between the skillsets/aspirations of the people of India, and the local market demand situation?

Innovation evolution in foreign markets needs local presence to understand local customer needs.
– There are companies that take the innovations from here to other parts of the world.


What is Creativity in Engineering

Let us try to define what Creativity means in an inherently systematic and analytical field.

Areas of Showing Creativity

Creativity in Structuring

is the ability to combine two or more concepts, artifacts or approaches, and combine them in ways that is different from the conventional approach in the industry.

Creativity in Application

is the ability to apply a concept used in a different industry, process, or context, and apply it in the current context.

Who is Creative

Is Creativity innate, or is it Acquired

  • Everybody is Creative, and show this at some point in time
  • Some are more creative than others. It is innate
  • People can control how they apply their Creativity, for better results.

Professions Emphasizing Creativity

  • Some professions encourage Creativity more than others.These include – Music, Art, Higher Mathematics, Quantum Physics.
  • So, these professions contain more Creative than others.

Individual Techniques to Improve Creativity

Anti-Conventional Thinking is one of the best techniques that improves Creative thinking.

  • This approach encourages you to do something unconventional, and observe the results.
  • This may be something as simple as saying “Hey There” instead of “Good Morning”, or Using a Movie instead of a Power-Point.

Engineering Creativity in Organizations

Organizational Techniques to Improve Creativity

Several organization practice techniques to improve their Creativity. These include –

  • Brainstorming Sessions – Where several employees get together and talk about specific problem and its solutions
  • Idea Generation Workshops – Where lots of ideas are generated on a particular focus area. 
  • CrowdSourcing – A large number of teams solve a similar problem, and the best solutions are picked.

Conventional Thinking in Organizations

Each of the above techniques has the danger of generating lots of ideas, only a few of which generate incremental innovations.

To be highly innovative requires a high amount of unconventional thinking.

Anti-Conventional Thinking

This is achieved by a technique called “Anti-Conventional Thinking”, that encourages and values Unconventional Thinking, rather than Conventional.

This achieves fewer ideas than the Traditional Technique above, but each technique is more effective.

The techniques here are

  • Problem Statement – Phrase the problem in a way that encourages Unconventional Thinking.  For example –
Conventional What new features might we add to product X?
Creative In what totally new and unexpected ways could we deliver value to our customers
  • Filter Conventional Solutions – For unconventional solutions to emerge, one needs to filter out the conventional solutions.
  • Debate and Defend – An unconventional solution builds support only if it is debated and defended by the proposer, or any other team member. Requiring such a discussion also forces the people to think more about the solution.


Another key aspect to improving Creativity is Refinement. Creativity may happen at several stages during “Problem Solving”.

When the primary problem is solved, other sub-problems may remain, which need to be solved further.

References on Anti-Conventional Thinking

Engineering – Creativity, Innovation, Education put in perspective


  • Creativity is the ability to look at artifacts and systems, and come up with new systems or identify useful gaps within the existing systems.


  • Innovation is the ability to build the great product or System, once the Creative people have identified the right system
  • Creativity + Innovation = Product
  • Product      + Usage               = Economic Growth

Engineering Education

  • Being educated is the ability to understand the theories of the field, the inner workings, and how to tune the system to meet certain goals ( Example – Mobile Engineers would be considered educated on Cell-Phones )
  • Education  + Follow-through = Innovation

Hence Engineering Education is very necessary for the growth of the society

Product Literacy

  • Product Literacy is the ability to understand people in a field, or use a system or product in a productive way ( Example – Most people in India are Cell-Phone literate )
  • Product Literacy improvement is necessary for the Usage of Products and Services, and is hence a direct contributor to Economic Growth

Summary –

So what do we improve for Economic Growth

  • Improve Creativity
  • Improve Education
  • Improve Follow-through
  • Improve Literacy

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