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Innovation & discovery skills for 'innovention' managers

Trial and error for creativity is given. The very first question that comes up - Is the Business innovative?

Innovation & discovery

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  14 Feb 2021 5:15 AM GMT

Dr B K Mukhopadhyay

(The author is a Professor of Management and Economics, formerly at IIBM (RBI) Guwahati. He can be contacted at

Dr. Boidurjo Rick Mukhopadhyay

(The author, international award-winning development and management economist, formerly a Gold Medalist in Economics at Gauhati University)

"For the things we have to learnbefore we can do them, we learn by doing them."

—Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics

"I hope I remember everything," said Toni. "You won't," said Trapp.

"That's how you learn. But after you make the same mistake one, or two, or five times, you'll eventually get it. And then you'll make new mistakes."

—Louis Sachar, The Card turner: A Novel about a King, a Queen, and a Joker

Trial and error for creativity is given. The very first question that comes up - Is the Business innovative? If innovation is your business then risk is your business. Very often, however, in common parlance, innovation and creativity are perceived to be very close.

Harvard Professor Theodore Levitt points out, the difference between innovation and creativity is the difference between thinking about getting in the world, and getting things done. Creativity thinks up new things, but being innovative does new things.

Of course, creativity leads the way inasmuch as the same speaks of a mental process involving the generation of new ideas or concepts or new associations between existing ideas or concepts. It is better not forgotten that the product of creative thinking has both originality & appropriateness. The product of creative thinking has both originality & appropriateness.

The age of 'innovention'

Tinkering around the conventional (tested, tried, and safe!) process and policies cannot take the economy to the new heights. 21st Century business has been more complex, competitive and skill oriented where speed, stability and continuous innovations are there. Especially, the developing block has to compete with the biggies in the international market where nobody spares the other. It has been the case of survival – keeping the head over water and swim across! Innovation (whether is about marketing, product development, or strategy) is what helps companies to 'stay ahead' as opposed to 'catching up' with the industry leader.

It is also not always about business innovation or new product or service development, innovation has many faces. Identifying the need to change and innovation comes first, before a quantum leap is made. The first task is to locate what went wrong with previous programmes for which lots of money was spent with little result. The historical pull factor has not received due weightage.

In these days of innovention [innovation plus invention], some value-additions are a must so that the next level of activities will improve the skill-level. As the matter stands now - innovation focuses the business on its critical essentials - making things easier in the operation of the business – if not it is not innovation, but complication. Being innovative helps business identify itself and establish its individuality. This skill, once developed within the business and people, could positively lead to constantly asking how the same can be bettered!

Innovation calls for development of new values through solutions that meet new requirements, inarticulate needs, or old customer and market needs in value adding new ways in products, service or process. It relates to the very mindset - the art of finding profitable solutions to problems.

The Art of learning (by doing!)

Evidently, "Experiential learning is participative—for example, either making or doing," rightly explained by Erin Driver-Linn of Harvard University. "What do we need to understand, as a learner, which is conceptual? And what do we need to understand by experiencing things in a different way?"

William Faulkner of Virginia University once again, "At one time I thought the most important thing was talent. I think now that — the young man or the young woman must possess or teach himself, train himself, in infinite patience, which is to try and to try and to try until it comes right. He must train himself in ruthless intolerance. That is, to throw away anything that is false no matter how much he might love that page or that paragraph. The most important thing is insight, that is ... curiosity to wonder, to mull, and to muse why it is that man does what he does. And if you have that, then I don't think the talent makes much difference, whether you've got that or not".

Managing talents and the right selection followed by allocation of relevant resources are attributes that a good institution needs to have. The core skills required by individuals who wants to thrive in an innovative business environment or organization comes down to the following - creativity, problem-solving and continuous improvement skills, developing attitudes and behaviours that are needed to frame and solve problems, and generate new ideas on a continual basis. Additionally, risk-assessment and risk-taking skills, the mindset to manage these well has to be solidified over time. How well the skill upgradation and the right use of it goes heavily depends on effective planning and implementation.

A set of research from Harvard Business School shows that the most creative executives have falls under 'discovery skills': 1) Associating, 2) Questioning, 3) Observing, 4) Experimenting, and 5) Networking.

For businesses who would like to upgrade employee skills and also effectively retain them, the need exists for - coordination of skill development activities; mapping of existing skills and their certification; expansion of youth entrepreneurship education and capacity through forging strong partnership between educational institutions, business and other community organizations and set national standards for it; doing market research and devising training curriculum in important sectors; industry-institute linkage; bringing PPP [Public Private Partnership] element in this activity-partnership with the industry who need the skilled manpower; making broad policies for all other Ministries/Departments with regard to market requirements and skill development; to frame policies for soft skill; academic equivalence of skill sets.

Cut to credits

The mission has to be to add value to others through unique and innovative training opportunities, providing professional development programmes backed by continuous research so as to assist and encourage growth and develop leaders in the industry. This is a continuous and spontaneous process indeed.

The immediate need is there to bolster the skill level and that is not possible if we do not come out of the inefficient, primitive, change-laggard approach! Trainers are to be selected first in a very impartial manner. Since many organizations work across national borders, a well-designed cross-cultural training has become a common occurrence. In addition, many employees are based in several different countries at the same time; organizational success requires that all employees understand cultural and diversity issues.

Successful organizations need effective leaders. With the aging of the workforce and imminent retirement of the Baby Boomers, U.S. organizations are experiencing a shortage of skilled leaders and a significant need for leadership training. Skilled leadership affects the entire workforce; numerous studies indicate that one of the key reasons that employees leave jobs is because they are uncomfortable with the working environment created by their direct supervisor.

Successful organizations need effective, parental, and democratic leaders at this juncture.

Leadership training could reduce turnover at all levels in an organization, the focus remains on learning and managing adaptability, interpersonal people skills, self-awareness, developing and maintaining a sense of purpose, timely and effective decisiveness, collaborative skills. The basic aim of training and development programmes is to help the organization to achieve its mission and goals by improving individual and, ultimately, organizational performance.

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