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Scaling must be a focused discipline within the innovation journey: Nisheeth Srivastava, CTIO, Capgemini India

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In a disrupted, fast-changing world, businesses are betting big on innovation and many are locked in a race to harness new technologies. What businesses find difficult is to achieve scale thereby hampering the ability of organizations to fully leverage the huge potential of emerging technologies and to respond effectively to business disruptions and opportunities. The Capgemini Research Institute’s Report – “Scaling Innovation – What’s the Big Idea?” explores why most innovations fail to scale and what could be done to achieve the scale. Nisheeth Srivastava, Chief Technology and Innovation Officer- India at Capgemini , shares his perspective on the key learnings from this research report, and highlights how the approach towards innovation has changed during the Covid 19 crisis

In the recent report by Capgemini, ‘What’s the Big Idea? Why most innovations fail to scale and what to do about it’, what are some of the key highlights and learnings?
The key takeaway from this report is that innovation experiments in lab, however prolific, risk failure unless scaling itself is a focused discipline within the innovation journey, and in the hands of business functions that operate in the real world, because they are better equipped to anticipate, assess and surmount any obstacles to its larger commercial or societal adoption. Idea generation and incubation is a necessary but fractional component of the larger ecosystem adoption process, and consensus management between multiple stakeholders with divergent orientations is a key requirement to bring realism to ideas in terms of localization, pace and timing of execution. The report emphasizes on the need for a vibrant, cross-trained bridging function between idea generation and product implementation units, one that’s embedded within the business function.

India’s leading educational institutions (such as the IITs) have always been at the forefront of leading tech innovations. Unfortunately, many of these institutions have failed to scale their innovations. What is your perspective on this, and how can India’s leading institutions address this issue?
Scaling innovation is a cross-disciplinary activity, and technology innovation is just one piece of the overall puzzle. IITs need to develop perspectives across various forms of business and design innovations too which are essential elements to scaling innovation. Hiring accomplished business leaders as faculty is the first step, these are hands-on practitioners who understand market dynamics and how lab innovations can be adapted for implementation in the real world. Deepening Industry-Academia connect is also helping proliferate that culture, and Capgemini is playing its part there as well. For instance, we’re engaging IITs and other top technology and design institutions for Intelligent Industry innovations as well as for next-gen business model innovations, powered by emerging technologies like Robotics, AI/ ML and Blockchain.

From a private sector point of view, how should they scale innovation? Can you share with us some examples (globally or in India) of companies who have successfully scaled innovation?
Scaling demands leadership consensus on the feasibility and viability of the idea, strong collaboration between idea generators and scalers, and a mature innovation governance function with an agile and empowered response mechanism to obstacle management. Most importantly, it needs an entrepreneurial spirit in the business functions that can foster curiosity in the team and embrace failures with as much aplomb as they ride the surf of market dynamics.

For example, Colgate-Palmolive implemented scaled AI-based innovation to leverage its database of over 80,000 oral care formulas, combined with the recent market trends, to drastically reduce the time to develop and market a new formulation. Using predictive analytics, the company reduced the number of experimental recipes from 896 to 23 and cut time to market a new toothpaste from several years to six months, an incredible commercial advantage in a crowded market.

How has the Covid 19 crisis changed the approach towards innovation?
COVID-19 has accelerated innovation in a range of sectors by forcing companies to improvise and take a fresh look at how they approach innovating at scale. Firms have responded rapidly to the crisis by collapsing bureaucracy and silos, streamlining processes, increasing strategic risk tolerance, and empowering front-line leaders. Work from Home model for even the most crucial business and sensitive operational functions has not just shattered many myths around the perceived need for collocation, but also accelerated the pace of adoption of the gig economy fostering a unified global workforce. All these attributes are helping create a refreshed enterprise that understands the need to scale innovations for continued future relevance.

Firms are becoming more data-driven, agile and collaborative, and increasingly appear to have a renewed sense of societal purpose. By loosening some of the rigidity in the system, this unprecedented event appears to be leaving behind a more innovative and socially attuned enterprise in its wake.

What are some of the immediate opportunities for scaling innovation using technology? Please give some examples

Opportunities are plentiful across all severely disrupted sectors, but I would focus particularly on those in food and healthcare as immediate interventions. Global grocery supply-chain networks are undergoing a massive transformation, fueling massive innovations from agri-tech to warehousing and distribution using technology at scale, with Data at the heart of it all. Concentration risks are being re-assessed across the value-chain, leading to resurgence of commercially viable near-shore thrust to many local economies.

Regulatory frameworks are accommodating more agility in Healthcare, and Pharmaceutical companies have been able to launch vaccine trials in a matter of weeks or months rather than years. For example, the Norwegian Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) has funded multiple innovations from biotech firms, pharmaceutical companies, and university labs to support a COVID-19 vaccine, deploying sustainable, collaborative research platforms that has accelerated the scaling journey of epidemiological and other innovations on an ongoing basis.


If you have an interesting article / experience / case study to share, please get in touch with us at [email protected]

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