Wednesday, August 15, 2012

FRUGAL Open Innovation

Frugal Innovation is the art and science of taking out non-essentials from a product manufacturing process, from product feature list and from product maintenance lifecycle, in turn drastically reducing cost to the extent which didn’t hold much importance in pre globalised world.

Frugal Innovation for Product Innovation is what “Lean” is for production practice – which considers dedicating resources for a goal other than the one which creates value to the end customer as waste and a target for elimination.

Why is Asia at the forefront of it? The primary reason is scarcity of resources, (which has nothing to do with anything else but the fact that this part of the world was inhabited first!), and the necessity to get around the problem of scarcity.  For example the inexpensive ECG machine developed by GE, which addresses the key scarcity of continuous electricity and can even runs on a car battery. 

Case for FRUGAL Open Innovation

I am using this term ‘FRUGAL Open Innovation’ while I think aloud and eventually made this a title of this blog!

1) The thought I am working backwards from is ‘Open innovation’ and ‘Frugal Innovation’ both have shown its merits and their share of challenges in the recent past. What happens when you combine these? Does it make sense? And if it does make sense then what are we talking about?

We are talking about a conscious effort and hence adding ‘must meet’ or ‘good to have’ FRUGAL EXPECTATION in open innovation challenge definition.

2) Though frugal innovation is happening and will keep on happening, with an assumption that you would like to derive some benefits and check out the frugal possibilities for your products and services, let us continue working backwards from the thoughts we discussed so far.

Arbitrarily putting stretch goals won’t make something Frugal. The expectations and hence the objectives of frugal innovation need to come from a root of it – ‘The Need’. So the open innovation aspect of it starts even before we talk about the solution. Unless you already have a hang of what is the need, your first step should be to reach out to diverse audience of that geography and solidify the need.

It is very important to note that even if you are trying to create a product for developed world eventually, it cannot skip the step at a geography where application of that frugal product makes more sense. In fact, most probably the frugal idea won’t take birth if this step is omitted. And if it is born anyways then it still might leave some unanswered questions about its real frugalness!

For innovators from developed world, one of the challenges would be to embrace frugal thinking, but it’s just a matter of time.  

3) Note that we are still talking “The need” and haven’t moved towards the invention part of it. One last reason I feel like mentioning here is, origin of most of the successful frugal innovations were the need (or pain) felt by an individual. So as an organization you should not skip this step and there is no better way to simulate it than co-creation.

4) From here on you have two enablers to take you forward.

a) One, you can tap into the inventions which match your need. The small issue with this (and even the previous step of formulating the challenge with the help of need owners) is many of the frugal innovation authors won’t be reachable on internet. But many might. One of the good things in Asia is when you omit many, many still might remain! Nevertheless partnering with the local partners like ideaken will help.

b) Once you have got the need formulated and the frugal aspect incorporated. (Which you will need to be really sure about), you can ignore from where the solution come from. In other worlds you are back to pure open innovation and still have a frugal strain incorporated as one of the expectations.

So here is the definition of Frugal open innovation

Frugal Open Innovation

Frugal Open Innovation is a conscious effort to incorporate the expectation of taking out non-essentials in a perceived localized need, followed by an innovative solution with the help of external know how, to delight the customers with perceived but mostly with non perceived need of same or different geography.

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