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Believing-in-Innovation-The-'mantra'-for-the-changing-world
Sarv Saravanan
Senior Vice President & Managing Director-EMC Corporation
Wednesday, January 4, 2012
Today, there is a significant focus on the topic of innovation. While it may sound like an oxymoron, when we say "process of innovation", since innovation is driven more by intuition, the process of innovation in any organization starts with the realization that the world is changing. The change may be effected by demography changes, change in customer preferences, technological shifts, competitive landscapes and other disruptions.

Once this is understood, the internal change towards organic innovation is often impaired by the mindset rather than any technical problems. Change is resisted because of the unknown, lack of risk appetite, denials about the imperatives of the needs to change and most often the resistance is not rooted with any rational reason. We should not be afraid of failing. What we should be worried about is "not trying". Change is a drawn out process and does not happen overnight. It starts with infusing new thinking and it is important to keep pushing the envelope at every level.

Innovation is not outside the regular daily activities that we do and is very much a part of the job we do and it happens because people share thoughts and ideas. Collaboration is central to how we do things - curiosity, inquisitiveness and relevance underline innovation.

In my view there are typically three types of innovation – Incremental, Adjacent and Breakthrough or Disruptive innovation. Not everything we do needs to be a breakthrough innovation. There is plenty of value we could create, through exploring adjacencies, with the clear understanding of what the company’s vision is. Incremental innovation within products that we are working on will help us increase value to customers and the organization on an ongoing basis. Disruptive innovations are often not technological; they are often business model changers, like the Sony play station vs. Nintendo example. It is imperative that organizations understand the business benefits of innovation and the leadership of organizations should embark on programs that enable it. The outcome of these innovation programs and their impact and relevance to the market should be measured. The starting point of these programs is to create an idea pipeline, experiment and translate these ideas into products or solutions and eventually create a Go-To-Market (GTM) strategy to create and capture value.

We in India are situated right in the middle of an interesting opportunity space – "the emerging markets", which provides an ideal platform for us to innovate. Despite the characteristics and costs being fundamentally different from the markets most western companies have grown with, the emerging markets are expected to be high growth markets in the next 5-10 years. The opportunity for organizations here is to use the technologies and capabilities to reinvent the offerings and disrupt the model instead of being the one disrupted.

In India and other emerging economies, IT spend is the highest in Government & Public sector and there are problems like citizen identification, service dispensation, education and healthcare, which need to be resolved. Let us take the example of Healthcare in India. An average Indian has to travel long distances to gain specialty consultation and this costs a lot of money. Also, preventive healthcare is not predominantly present in our country. Today, 17% of our economy is agriculture based; however 70% of our population is depended on agriculture and this leads to a massive productivity issue. If India’s economy has to grow at the rate it is growing now for the next decade, a sizable portion of farm workers have to be converted to blue collar workers and this requires new models of delivering education in the country. For this, we will need to put infrastructure requirements in place and follow defined education programs. We will not be able to create qualified instructors in time with the current brick and mortar approaches.

We need technology led approaches to solve these problems and sustain the economic growth in India. In technology parlance, we see these opportunities as massive big data, security, privacy, content, case management, cloud and collaboration problems. It is not just about doing it better from a technology stand point. It is also about doing it in a simpler, cheaper, more accessible and more affordable manner. These technology led innovation will help bridge the gaps faster, scale education and lead to social changes, which will benefit the society at large.

As a conclusion, I would like to quote what Warren Bennis said "Innovation — any new idea—by definition will not be accepted at first. It takes repeated attempts, endless demonstrations, and monotonous rehearsals before innovation can be accepted and internalized by an organization. This requires courageous patience."

The author is Senior Vice President & Managing Director EMC Corporation

EMC Corporation (NYSE:EMC) is a leading provider of storage hardware solutions that promote data recovery and improve cloud computing. At a market capital of nearly $44 billion, EMC builds information infrastructures and virtual infrastructures to help people and businesses around world unleash the power of their digital information. EMC offerings in backup and recovery, enterprise content management, unified storage, big data, enterprise storage, data federation, archiving, security, and deduplication help customers move to the next generation of information management and enable them to offer IT-as-a-Service as part of their journey to cloud computing.
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