Tata, Innovation and Ideation


Most of us will have heard about the low cost car that is set to revolutionize travel in India. Many of us will have heard of its innovative model of distribution throughout the country. But not many of us have linked the innovation by Tata to ideation.

But it is.

An executive of an Indian conglomerate credited a corporate culture that encourages innovation with the creation of the world’s cheapest everyday car, a fuel-efficient, $2,500 four-seater that the company plans to export to Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia.

Sunil Sinha, an executive in Tata Quality Management Services, told a Harvard audience Tuesday (Oct. 12) that the car was the result of an unlikely — but public — promise that the company’s leader made in 2003, setting to work a team of engineers charged with rethinking how cars could be designed and made. The result, which went on sale last year, is the Tata Nano, a tiny, two-cylinder model that gets 55 miles per gallon and meets all of India’s vehicle emissions and regulatory requirements.

So where does ideation fit in? Sinha described a culture of innovation at Tata that includes employee-awards programs for both successful and unsuccessful ideas. What’s important, Sinha said, is that employees feel comfortable in bringing forward ideas, even ones that don’t pan out, and that they feel they work in a place that values fresh thinking.

The innovation culture has produced several notable products, he said. One is a water purification system that costs just $20 and produces enough water to keep a family of four supplied for more than a year.

Read the full article here. If I find a video of the talk, I will post it.

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Filed under Globalization, ideation

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