In this column by Careers360, Dr. Uday Salunkhe, Group Director, WeSchool shares his thoughts and experience on innovative thinking and creativity as keystones in modern businesses. Read his column below:
A typical day in the life of a management student is highly likely to be one that progresses through classroom sessions along with interactions with leaders from different spaces, projects, internships, industry-connects, roundtables, brainstorming sessions, prototyping, discussions and contests. So elemental to their academic regimen, gearing them up for thought leadership and innovative thinking as they go about learning to actualize the abstract.
Scripting the most crucial phase of the young students, leading management institutes have all the power and control, to be effective hubs of innovation. Though the trend is already here, the need to scale up the efforts is imperative. However, before we turn the spotlight on innovation let’s see the why of it.
Innovative thinking and creativity are the modern day keystones
In a world heavily marked with VUCA traits of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, Innovation becomes one of the key factors which could play a decisive role in modern businesses. It is the ability to think differently and come-up with creative solutions to a given situation. It gives businesses the much needed agility, adaptability to ever changing realities and befitting responsiveness to a multitude of stimuli to stay afloat-profitably and sustainably.
Nurtured right from educational to industry level, it ensures that the students are groomed and equipped well to take on the ups and downs of constantly changing business reality. This ability to be "innovative" could be developed by training a mindset which is creative, progressive and “adaptive”.
Experiential Learning - In adherence to design a pedagogy the students should be exposed to grass-root explorations in various sectors to learn by qualitative studying - through observation, interviews and immersive ethnography. Thus, they get valuable insights into pain points. Such experiential learning enhances the perception ability to understand the finer details of the bigger picture, unlike the theoretical approach. This not only sensitizes the students but also creates empathy towards the stakeholders. And a good number of management institutes are working on similar lines effectively.
Let us take this one. Traffic in Electronic City, Bengaluru which houses almost 200 IT/ITeS companies, is notoriously nightmarish. The companies have their fleet of buses, private vehicles, state transport, 1.5 lac professionals plus the residents. Management students from Welingkar took up the challenge of cutting down this chaos. Studying the granular details, the students took the authorities concerned in confidence and spoke to the stakeholders. Guiding them were the faculty along with a team of global experts who had been specifically called in to boost the trajectory of their efforts with appropriate interventions. The efforts are still on. Electronic City Industrial Township Authority (ELCITA) along with CISCO is also a significant part of the efforts. This can happen only with management institutions taking the lead and directing the efforts, bringing together the stakeholders and experts.
Innovation labs, a regular feature of management institutes, are facilities where new ideas are born, brainstormed and mentored have a vital role to play. These are nursery to young ideas before these progress through various stages towards actualization. Academics support effective ideation by putting up appropriate forums, supporting networks and more. The recent idea contest at Welingkar, Bengaluru drew in 200 innovative ideas from over 100 colleges from the five southern states. The winning ideas, besides cash prizes worth lakhs, would also get the much needed handholding.
Meeting grounds for Ideators and Innovators and other vital stakeholders
Also, industry - incubated centres on campuses provide a platform to new ideas/ventures to be nurtured and groomed under the guidance of faculty, experts and researchers, venture capitalists, angel investors and industry leaders. Incubation centres basically handhold new ventures with all the required support system while the innovation labs work on new ideas testing their feasibility to be worked into business propositions. Venture Mentoring Cell at Welingkar has to its credit around 33 successful ventures along with the added support of Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Its mentor board has entrepreneurs, investors, and attorneys who guide the students regularly, sharing their feedback on the various aspects of the ventures, business models, and desired deliverables.
Nurture the culture
Tie-ups with engineering and technology institutes also spur innovation as each player brings to the table their core skills complementing the strengths of young innovators. We have done it regularly with institutions like MIT- US, ICSID and many more; the results have been amazing. Such cross disciplinary forums, which draw expertise and participation from across the globe have students working in eclectic teams, allowing more effective transfusion of ideas. Recently one of the IIMs has announced its tie up with IIT to start an incubation cell. Such arrangements make the ecosystem more congenial for innovators and ideators.
Also, the students while on internships with the manufacturing/service industry have the opportunity to work on industry relevant 'innovative' projects. Besides, conferences and contest offer them a platform to show case their ideas/projects in the presence of angel investors/venture capitalists to explore further support. In one such intergovernmental initiative with Sweden in renewables, the students could win over an invitation to Sweden for a closer study of the space.
It is a very common trend that management institutes work in close association with the government, industry and the society. They find representation on the industrial and government forums. This helps the three to work symbiotically, address the challenges and share the strengths. It is a virtuous circle. Goliaths of the corporate are known to have taken young Davids under their wings, mentoring their young innovations and ventures.
Undeniably academia is the hoop holding together the different stakeholders in a symbiotic unison. The entire apparatus including the faculty and infrastructure are working together round the clock to seamlessly connect different stages (and stakeholders) in the progression of an idea as it shapes up into an effective product or service. Thus boosts the number of successful innovations seeing the light of day rather than fizzling out in want of support. And herein lies the vitality of management institutes as innovation hubs.
But that said, we should keep in mind that, innovation is not limited to new products and services or a quantum leap in technology. Social innovations and attitudinal changes are equally crucial. The absence of the same will offset the gains achieved otherwise. We need social innovations that make us more civic and responsible towards our ecosystem. Perhaps more tolerant, judicious, sagacious and less consumptive in our life styles.
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