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Book Review: Innovative Mindset

The author acknowledges that a crooked mind can be, as seen in 9/11 and 26/11 events, creative and destructive at the same time. In case of cities like Bangalore, the information technology growth has come with the deterioration of the city’s health.

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Many of us would have heard the story of how NASA spent millions to develop a pen whereas the Russian astronauts used a pencil. Is it really true? Well, it turns out to be a myth. Apparently, NASA paid $129 per pencil before realising that the broken pencil tips could be potentially harmful. Subsequently, NASA and Russia both ordered anti-gravity pens developed by Fischer Pen Company each pen costing $2.39 — much cheaper than the pencil. Kiran Karnik presents this story in his book Crooked Minds: Creating an Innovative Society to illustrate the power of disruptive technology.

Karnik’s career spans a wide range — from space programme to educational TV to Nasscom Presidency to National Innovation Council. This is reflected in the book where examples are taken from all walks of life. However, spotting and highlighting innovations in day-to-day life is not the primary objective of the author. The bigger driver, as Karnik mentions, is to present the ecosystem view of innovation. It is this focus on the soil and not the seed that makes the book even more interesting.

One such element that makes the soil richer is the investor community. The book presents the story of the Indian Angel Network (IAN), the first angel investor group set up in India in 2006, which helps early-stage entrepreneurs scale their business. The IAN network spans six cities in India and has one chapter in London and has a run rate of Rs 100 crore of investment per year. These ventures are selected from 5,000 entrepreneurs who reach out to IAN annually. Moreover, it helps entrepreneurs in accessing global markets, developing their teams, building their visibility and raising the next round of funding.

Another element of the innovation ecosystem highlighted in the book is the regional innovation hub. One such example is Startup Village in Kochi, Kerala. It is a result of a public-private partnership among Government of India, Technopark — an IT park set up by State of Kerala — and MobME Wireless, a private technology company.

Startup Village provides physical space, infrastructure and access to technology partners, investors and mentors. It conducts boot camps in engineering colleges and holds several workshops on themes such as robotics, aerospace, Android and iOS development. A community gathering is held on the third Saturday to showcase the latest products. By 2016, 800 startups have been set up in the Village out of which, 276 are student startups. Karnik hopes that initiatives such as IAN and Startup Village would help India build a more conducive environment for innovation.

Apart from presenting various ecosystem elements, Karnik points out various challenges in fostering innovative mindsets such as fear of failure, lack of diversity and the standardised filters in our education system. In the last few decades, India has seen the mushrooming of single-discipline universities — for example, in IT, law, fashion design, humanities, medicine, management, etc. Karnik highlights that such universities will not be able to provide an interdisciplinary perspective helpful for innovation.

The author acknowledges that a crooked mind can be, as seen in 9/11 and 26/11 events, creative and destructive at the same time. In case of cities like Bangalore, the information technology growth has come with the deterioration of the city’s health. So, as we are crafting an innovative society — as the author suggests — how do we increase the awareness of the crooked mind of the destruction of its creations? The book is silent on this dimension.

Overall, Crooked Minds is very readable, full of examples and anchored in the wisdom accumulated by the author over half a century. I am sure students of innovation would find it useful.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


Vinay Dabholkar

Dabholkar is President, Catalign Innovation Consulting

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