Who can send 16 general managers from General Electric to a toyshop to hunt for the next big business idea? The answer is Dev Patnaik, the founder of Jump.
Dev teaches companies to think out of the box, or literally jump out of it. His list of clients also includes Nike, 3M, Harley Davidson, AOL and Hewlett-Packard.
His firm, the California-based Jump Associates, employs 50 people. "We grow only when we find the right people. We look for people with multi-dimensional skills, says a management graduate who also plays the drums.
Patnaik's parents had moved to USA from India and Patnaik came back to India when he was 22 for four years to work for Forbes Marshall in Pune.
Today, as the founder CEO of Jump Associates, Patnaik specialises in answering ambiguous questions that companies sometimes ask.
"A company may be doing three things very well and would ask what is the fourth thing that we must do? Or when the car market gets saturated and every family owns a second car, what should a car manufacturer look at?" explains Patnaik.
The GE experience was all about making GE's general managers new connections. "After a week of learning about their own business these guys were working with us on finding the next big business idea. We virtually forced them to visit a toy store and they came back with a toy plane on a platform. The big idea was to provide GE's aircraft engine service platform to wherever the plane might fly to. Much like the toy plane with a support platform attached to it," says Patnaik.
Then again working for Wranglers, Patnaik's team took the company executive's out to Montana to see how real modern-day cowboys operate. "Cowboys of today no longer ride horses. They have these bike-turned four-wheeler contraptions. The team learned a lot and also saw cowboys wearing non-Wrangler jeans. They learned about new cuts and styles that local jeans makers in Montana had introduced. The team of executives was in tears thinking how they have been making products for these people all their lives without ever seeing them in real," says Patnaik.
Patnaik is now in India, seeking business, but also as he points out - "To lean about innovations that Indian companies and businesses are doing. When there is growth there is also a lot of innovation. I am here to offer my services, but also to learn."
And will he recruit in India? "Yes I will. But may be not from the IITs, maybe I will find a school dropout who was too good to go through the structured educational system.