Navi Radjou: Creative problem-solving in the face of extreme limits

Speaker

Navi Radjou is an innovation and leadership advisor based in Silicon Valley. Navi is a regular contributor to Harvard Business Review online. Previously, he served as Vice-President at Forrester Research in Boston and San Francisco.

Summary

Navi talks of the Hindi concept of Jugaad – clever solutions born out of adversity or doing more with less (equivalent term in English would be a ‘hack’). This is important in developing countries, where less resources force them to find cheap and simple solutions. The talk is a list of examples of this:

  • A potter in India has designed a fridge out of clay, needing no electricity.
  • A bicycle-powered mobile phone charger
  • Peru is a high-humidity area with limited fresh water. They developed a billboard to condense 90L water per day out of the air.
  • In China a telemedicine solution is building easy-to-use medical appliances that can be used by nurses or technicians. This will make rural medicine cheaper to deliver.
  • MPesa: a banking network based on phone transactions
  • MPesa energy: a solar powered minimalist electricity kit including a panel, 3 lights and a phone charger. This can be bought in microtransactions over a year, so it can be made affordable.
  • SMS powered internet: to let people connect to the internet without a wifi or mobile internet connection
  • Traffic monitoring and optimization by using cheap low resolution webcams to gauge traffic conditions.

In the developed world people are spending a lot on R&D to charge more for products: more for more. However, natural resources are running low and the products are getting so expensive that more people are being left out of the market. The West could learn to make more with less. Some are doing this: for example a yoghurt factory that is 10% the size of a usual factory, and uses more manual labour in place of expensive automation. This greatly decreases startup costs. The West is also starting to use tools like mobile banking or simpler medical appliances to deliver services at lower costs.

3 ideas to help you innovate frugally

  • Keep it simple
  • Leverage off existing services eg SMS,
  • Think horizontally – decentralised, rather than central operations / manufacturing.

My Thoughts

A lot of examples. They build up to the big 3 points at the end – how to apply the principles. Also useful to point out that R&D can’t keep being an expensive process, at the expense of squeezing more and more consumers out of the market.

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David Grady: How to save the world (or at least yourself) from bad meetings

Speaker

David Grady is an information security manager who believes that strong communication skills are
a necessity in today’s global economy. He is known for a video online about ineffective conference calls

Summary

David talks about meetings, especially large meetings with no agenda, and no clear reason why each person is there. He blames “Meeting Acceptance Syndrome” or MAS – the urge to instinctively accept a meeting invite that is sent to you. Meetings are important, but accepting mindlessly costs your most important resource: time.

He showed excerpts from his Youtube video (linked above).

People feel powerless to resist these meetings. David suggests “¡No Mas!” that instead of always accepting: if you don’t know why you were invited or what the meeting is about, you should instead reply ‘Tentative”. You can the call the organiser and offer your assistance, but get more details about how you can help. By doing this, people will hopefully start to think more before sending out an invitation – publishing an agenda or rethinking why they need to set up a meeting at all.

My Thoughts

Short and to the point, David is an entertaining speaker. His point is important, but not much to it. Worth a quick look, or for subtly forwarding around at work. You know who you are 🙂

Jason Fried: Why work doesn’t happen at work

Speaker

Jason Fried thinks deeply about collaboration, productivity and the nature of work. He’s the co-founder of 37signals, makers of Basecamp and other web-based collaboration tools, and co-author of “Rework.”

Summary

Businesses, governments and other organisations invest so much money in bringing their people together at the office, but when people really want to get something done at work, they want to do it elsewhere. They tend to either do it at home, or on their commute (plane, train, car), or at strange times – early morning, late night, weekends. This is because most people in creative professions need uninterrupted time to work, and being at work chops up your day with meetings and other requests.

 

Jason sees a connection between work and sleep. Sleep happens in phases – to get to the deepest phase you need to go through the others first. If interrupted in an early phase you need to go through them all again. The interruptions in an office are not the same as at home – at home you can choose to turn on the TV or surf the internet or go for a walk. In the office the main interruptions are managers and meetings. Managers job is to interrupt – to check what you’re doing. They also tend to call meetings to resolve issues – taking 10 people out from their train of thought to talk about work (rather than actually working). For a 1hr meeting, this is 10hrs of lost productivity from the organisation. Meetings also have a habit of causing more meetings – scaling up the damage done.

So how can enlightened managers get their employees working at the office again?

  1. ‘No talk Thursdays’ – tell people not to talk to each other for 1 afternoon per month. It is amazing how much work will get done if employees can have 4hrs uninterrupted.
  2. Move away from face-to-face communication, and towards emails / messaging. This can still be time-consuming, but at least the recipient can choose when to deal with it. They can schedule around their core work and take it at their own pace.
  3. Cancel a meeting – if you have to make a decision at a meeting, just cancel it. The decision will still get made somehow, and you’ll free up everyone’s schedule.