Why India needs culture of innovation instead of the much-touted ‘Jugaad’?
In 2015, India ranked 88th on the Global Innovation Index (GII); last year, we ranked 57th and this year, we have graduated to occupy the 52nd spot. This progress is creditable and given prime minister Modi’s vision, it won’t be long before India gets into the top 50. The larger aim, of course, is to enter the top 10.
However, China ranks 14th. Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand rank ahead of India. Singapore ranks eighth. Tiny Israel has broken into the top 10. Sanctions-hit Iran still manages to rank 61st. The United Arab Emirates ranks 36th. Switzerland, of course, tops the rankings, followed by Sweden and the UK.
Question is have we really become a Nation that truly pursues innovation? Actually India can do lot more if we want to.
Rising 42 spaces to get into the top 10 will not be possible with just a Make In India or a Skill India. Essentially, innovation is a mindset, a vision. An innovation mindset empowers the individual and the team to search for and deliver better outcomes every day. It is about understanding your strengths and building engagement through habits and tools. An innovative mindset unlocks the potential in a contemporary workplace.
To get there, India needs to not just overhaul its systems but also its mindset. And that can happen only when innovation as a culture is injected into the DNA of our school education system.
We need to make ‘India a hub of Innovations’ and this can happen only if every school/college is compulsorily mandated to start an ‘innovation hub’. We need to develop a ‘culture of innovation’ across not just educational institutions and private organisations but more importantly, all government departments.
The jugaad approach
Traditionally in India, given the bureaucratic approach of across our day-to-day working – one where everything had to be ‘fixed’ to get done, the Indian mindset became that of a ‘fixer’ - what is now proudly flaunted as ‘jugaad’. This word implies a flexible approach to problem-solving that uses limited resources in an innovative way.
While that does show creative thinking, it cannot help India climb the ladder of the Innovation Index. The Index is a composite of 80 indicators that measure creative output, quality of institutions, investment, quality of education, patent applications and so on.
To get into the Top 10, India needs to do something different than it is currently doing. The best way to address this need-gap is to check what the successful countries are doing right as also to identify our fault lines.
Sweden, which ranks second on the GII list, encourages innovation at the school level itself. Besides being distinctly anti-authoritarian, Swedish schools encourage creativity. Also, the arts have long been used to motivate and inspire children and young people and to provide a breeding ground for innovation.
Israel is an interesting case in point. It ranks 10th in this year’s index. According to recent research conducted by PISA (Program for International Student Assessment), Israel is in the bottom 40 per cent in mathematics and science. Yet it has the highest density of startups per capita in the world and is ranked No. 2 in innovation, according to the World Economic Forum’s competitiveness report.
How is a country so successful in technological entrepreneurship, which demands extensive knowledge in mathematics, science, finance and business, so far behind in math and science education?
The answer lies in the Israeli culture that is highly tolerant of out-of-the-box thinking, even in its educational institutions. Being open to new ideas is a great start, but children are taught how to come up with new ideas by leveraging their knowledge, and then how to push these ideas forward.
This approach goes beyond cyber or coding. It is applicable to all aspects of life. It’s about putting oneself in a position where finding a solution is challenging and thought-provoking. The core of the program’s success and popularity is based on the idea that true learning comes when one seeks knowledge for oneself.
India needs to adopt the Israeli mindset towards education. We need to allow free questioning by students and allow open discussions. Forcing students to think creatively and make them proactive towards developing solutions. We need to dismantle the traditional social hierarchy that throttles ideas and their articulation at the
lower rungs of society, and not just step up allocation for R&D in the public and private sectors.
In fact, recently former President Pranab Mukherjee had said that the Indian education system needs to be “re-oriented” to enable students to become “risk takers and innovators”. “In every sphere of our lives, the influence of science and technology is becoming so pervasive that human existence is simply inconsiderable in its absence,” he said.
Ideally the New Education Policy should lay the path of developing innovation right from primary education to degree colleges and create awareness about intellectual property rights (IPRs). The government must invest in creating awareness amongst our SMEs/MSMEs and Startups about the benefits of registering IPRs, also in upgrading the whole administrative and legal machinery deployed to register Indian IPRs.
The legal infrastructure needs concerning IPRs needs a serious engagement from all concerned, only then can we boast of a great young population which emerges from a robust education system that lays emphasis on innovation and creative thinking, rather than just rote learning. Going beyond ‘jugaad’ to true ‘innovation’ is a long journey – and we ought to have started in 1991 when we embarked upon the path of globalization.