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BW Businessworld

Pick Of The Week: Innovative Parable

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In 2012, Vijay Govin­da­rajan and Chris Tri­­mble wrote the bestseller, Reverse Innovation. They have joined hands once again to share insights on corporate in­novation through a para­ble. How Stella Saved the Farm is the story of a farm in deep trouble. It has an all-animal cast. Here you meet Marcus, an ageing stallion who has been running the Windsor farm for over two decades. He chooses Deirdre (his daughter and a mother of two) as the next CEO over Harold the Bull who has been his No. 2. Marcus’s logic: “Bull will run the business exactly as I do. That’s not what the farm needs... it becomes more obvious that efficiency is no longer enough for the farm to be viable.”

And the new CEO is pushed to be innovative on new revenue streams when the core business of the farm, in spite of its enviable efficiency, is threatening its very survival. Deirdre decides to hold a “big idea hunt for the future of the farm” and picks Stella’s (the most unsheepish sheep!) suggestion to produce alpaca wool for execution. This means they hire alpacas from Latin America, rear them along with the sheep in the farm, reorganise the existing wool yarn factory to handle the highly luxurious alpaca wool, figure out the way to market it to the Spanish-speaking market of small lot buyers. All this in the backdrop of stiff resistance from Deirdre’s second in line that feels “the core business is more important” and the new business is taking the focus away from “making the core business faster, stronger and more efficient”. Sounds familiar! Finally, Deirdre manages to “build a new business while sustaining excellence in the existing one — simultaneously”. A rare feat in the real world.

Humorous, clever and simple, the book brings to light many issues related to nurturing innovation in corporations under competitive pressures. I have picked up valuable insights relating to the role of a CEO in defining evaluation criteria for innovation programmes, team composition, process reorganisation to support new businesses and building collaboration between core and new business teams. The book spares one from needing to fathom complex theories to get insights. I suggest teams engaged in corporate innovation should read it and hold discussions to draw parallels between the parable and their workplace reality. 

Reddy is the CEO of Maveric Systems

(This story was published in BW | Businessworld Issue Dated 15-07-2013)