Designing with a Jugaad Mindset

At one time, “Jugaad”, a word in Hindi (one of India’s spoken languages), had a negative connotation of fixing something quickly with makeshift parts in order to get the job done.  The word was often associated with people who were lazy or didn’t put a lot of time or effort in their work.  For example, instead of fixing the nail holes in a wall, a person might employ Jugaad by coving the holes with a picture frame.

Yet, within a design-thinking culture, the definition and meaning of Jugaad has transformed to encompass an innovation that adapts quickly to unforeseen situations and uncertain circumstances in an intelligent way.  Within a Prototyping phase of a Design Thinking Cycle, the notion of an inexpensive, quick hack or work-around allows for innovation to occur.  Yet, the mindset of Jugaad has also resulted in not only profitable ventures but ones that reduce, recycle, and reuse materials to better the environment.

A large component within a Jugaad mindset is to dispel the myth that innovation only occurs with financial backing.  In fact, some innovations occur when money, resources, and time are scarce.  For example, the SELCO company developed solar lanterns as a cheap alternative to fuels and electricity to capture the remote, rural market.

The notion that innovation must cost money bothers me and seems contradictory to the premise of ingenuity.  I’ve also been frustrated when funds are reduced that the belief of current innovations can no longer occur.  We need to push out thinking beyond what we see and experience to be initial constraints to move ourselves to the beauty of innovation.  Check out Navi Radjou’s TedX for an in-depth look at employing a Jagaad mindset: Creative Problem-Solving in the Face of Extreme Limits

Jugaad occurs when empathetic experiences are employed.  Too often, products are created with multiple buttons, gadgets, and lights to outdo the market competition.  While consumers may flock to the “extras”, they are hardly used (think about how many buttons you really use on your TV remote).  Consider India’s adaptation of GE’s Lullaby portable infant warmer that costs 20% compared to the USA brand, because they, among other things,  eliminated the automatic feature to raise and lower the bed with a crank and lever.  It’s not about building cheap, it’s about knowing what the customer really wants and needs.

As you begin creating an innovation framework, consider these 6 Principles for Jugaad Mindset:

  1. Seek Opportunity in Adversity. Don’t shy away from obstacles or constraints; embrace them.
  2. Do More with Less. Avoid the notion that less is less; look for ways to create new ones.
  3. Think and Act Flexibly. Be careful of being stuck in a routine and latching on to ideas in which only one way works; there are no silver bullets.
  4. Keep It Simple. Watch out for trying to address every potential scenario that it creates complexity; be laser-focused on the question and solution.
  5. Include Marginal Groups. Stay clear of working with people who think like you or one group of users; gather feedback and insights from various stakeholders.
  6. Follow Your Heart. There’s a danger in forgetting the human-part of our work; trust your gut and stay true to yourself.

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