In an age where technology becomes obsolete within months, and information is available at one’s fingertips within minutes, innovation seems to be the most important priority for organisations in any field, be it the corporate world, the social sector, in education, or in medicine. “India has tremendous opportunities to innovate,” says Dr Muneer, director, Medici Institute of India. Muneer, along with Frans Johansson, CEO, The Medici group, are of the opinion that India, with its high degree of diversity across states, cultures, and communities, can tap into these resources and become a hotbed of innovation.
Johansson is also the author of The Medici Effect, a book that explains how randomness, and the cross-pollination of ideas from various different fields come together to give “the best chance of developing ground-breaking ideas”. He emphasises how “using diverse perspectives” has a “particular potency” to spark growth, and innovation. It is this idea that led to the founding of the Medici Institute, currently a joint venture of sorts between the New York-based The Medici group, a specialty strategic consulting firm, and the India-based Customerlab, a company that focuses on helping organisations enhance productivity and profitability. Muneer is its chief executive officer and managing director.
Founded in 2012, the Medici Institute is currently a not-for-profit organisation, and has conducted sessions on its principles of innovation for the Aditya Birla group, as well as Concern India. The Medici Institute has established the Medici Innovation Hall of Fame, which recognises organisations that have established innovative processes, and foster a culture of innovation within the company. In January of this year, four companies were inducted into the Medici Hall of Fame, chosen through a process that involves assessing each firm’s performance in five main areas: innovation strategy, ideation creativity and management, innovation portfolio management, execution excellence, and innovation culture and organisation. Apeejay Stya & Svran group, ICICI Bank, Tata Consultancy Services, and WNS Global Services were selected. However, this honour is valid for one year only; the Medici Institute plans to review all inductees ever year, to gauge consistency and improvement in their processes.
Muneer explains how The Medici group, which is present in the United States, Australia, and Sweden, plans to open a subsidiary in India within the next year, which will function as a for-profit organisation, and consult for corporate clients. The Medici Institute will then focus on working with the social sector.
“You can never figure out what you need to do to be successful,” says Johansson. “The world is too unpredictable.” In light of this, The Medici group helps clients “take smaller bets” or execute multiple “potential breakthrough ideas”, which are subsequently assessed for effectiveness based on their results. Innovation, according to Johansson, is about “pushing forward with constrained resources”; an idea that resonates with India’s form of ‘jugaad’ innovation. “The idea of jugaad in a positive way was very appealing in India as developing countries have so many uncertainties, which will defeat the structured approach of most innovation frameworks,” says Muneer, explaining that Customerlab examined several theories of innovation and found Johansson’s to be the best fit within the Indian context. Muneer, along with Johansson, opines that India, in spite of its rich diversity, has vast quantities of resources and human capital that remain untapped. “In our work with companies of all types on strategy execution and balanced scorecards, we have seen companies focussing more and more on short- and medium-term goals and not so much on long-term objectives such as product development and innovation,” he observes. “This is necessary to balance the drivers for long-term shareholder value, the very reason for companies to exist. This prompted us to think how we can help clients innovate more,” he says, identifying the gap within the Indian corporate arena that the Medici Institute and The Medici group hope to fill.