MBA IIT Kanpur organised a guest lecture by Mr. Ravi Kaushik, Country Business Director at Medtronic for a session on ‘Design Thinking: Innovating in emerging markets’.
Mr. Kaushik gave a brief idea about the difference between invention and innovation. Where invention is about creating a new solution to a problem, innovation is trying to solve the problem in a better way, by bringing together existing technology. He cited the example of Uber which is trying to solve the problem of transportation using the internet through a new business model.
He talked about the two sides to marketing – downstream and upstream. Downstream marketing is mostly associated with product promotion, public relations, and advertising. Upstream marketing, on the other hand, focuses more on the strategy and analytics behind fulfilling the customers’ needs. According to Mr. Kaushik, due to their analytical ability, more engineers can and should take up roles in upstream marketing.
Elaborating upon the meaning of design thinking, he told that to derive success in business, it is essential to combine empathy, creativity and rationality to meet user needs. The first step in this process is to understand the root of the problem. The next step is to define the problem. Once the problem definition becomes clear, one should brainstorm to get technological solutions to the problem at hand. Prototyping and rigorous testing should follow before implementing the technological solution to the market.
Mr. Kaushik shared his experience of working with General Electric in developing GELcore - an LED lighting solution created for the needs of supermarkets and its further adoption in varying applications in the global market. When confronted with the lighting problem in a supermarket, Mr Kaushik and his team instead of providing a technological solution right away, worked towards identification of the root cause of the problem and consequent development of the solution.
Mr. Kaushik talked about a product related to maternal infant care – The baby warmer, which he and his team worked on. The team observed the environment (rural, minimal primary healthcare), and interacted with people to identify the problem. They conducted ethnographic research and in-depth interviews to find the root of the problem. According to Mr Kaushik, customers buy a product to accomplish a job. Hence the focus should be more on the job rather than the product.
Based on their interaction, they identified the design needs and application needs of the baby warmer. Latest technology was mapped to the identified needs of the user and a prototype was developed. This prototype was sent to the maternity hospitals in villages to test and further modifications were incorporated in it. Modifications were made to make a globally accepted design and thus symbols were used instead of letters. Here, innovation, rather than invention came into the picture, guided by the insights provided by in-depth interviews and observation.
According to Mr. Kaushik, the business model for innovation should be a holistic one and should be based on the value proposition to the customer. The process adopted should be such that it simplifies the ambiguity of innovation.