Why India needs to move beyond Jugaad

Posted By: Rise Team|Dated: February 28, 2014

Innovation is a result of an unaddressed problem.

Opposite to what one might suppose, the design process strives to find the problems in a given context. Solving the problem forms the other half of process which is less relevant but certainly more celebrated.

At the start of the design process, the designer observes the brief. He then relates it to the context. After which he finds the problem(s). He finally calls upon his pool of knowledge and experience to address these problems. Often enough, he reaches out to experts to solve specific problems. He then iterates solutions to validate in the context.

In the case of jugaad, the journey to innovation travels in the opposite direction. The user is the innovator himself. He designs the brief after he has already pinpointed the problems. He then makes do with his limited knowledge to address these problems. This leads to innovations that are certainly more appropriate for his use. Although there is no reason as to why he can’t possess the expertise of a designer, let’s go with the more frequent ‘jugaad’ case where he doesn’t.

Much like any heroic story, jugaad innovations are also widely acknowledged. No reason to not do that but I offer a few words of precaution. While its solutions are obviously admirable, the process itself isn’t.

A step-by-step comparison between a design process and jugaad reveals the risk. At the initial stages, jugaad takes a lead with a better understanding of the context and the defining of problems. This is the case because the user is the innovator himself; he understands his problems better than anybody else. On the other hand, a designer uses his observation skills to come as close as possible  to the persona of a user, ideally becoming the user himself. But this ideal case is by-default possible in the case of jugaad and almost never achievable by the designer.

However, once it comes to designing solutions, the design process takes the lead. Being better equipped, given the expertise of a designer and access to experts on the subject matter, the design process not only leads to more efficient solutions but also makes sure that the solutions are appropriate in a larger context. Jugaad in this case depends completely on knowledge and the capability of the innovator. Some passionate ones might travel that extra distance to think of smart workarounds. But to take an educated look, this can only be possible to a certain achievable limit, and is bound to fall short of a designer’s resources.

In cases when the brilliant solution itself requires lesser implementation expertise, a bigger knowledge pool might be irrelevant. But it can again be a risky proposition to generalise such cases. And that is what we would be doing if we propose jugaad as a parallel.

However, as I earlier stated, finding the correct problem(s) is crucial for an efficient solution, and the jugaad process is better equipped for this. A better way of a more inclusive process hence might be to involve the user as a designer during the initial phases of the design process. Identifying an appropriate candidate might be a hassle, but it can lead to exciting results given the juxtaposition of an experienced user and a resourceful designer in brainstorming solutions.

Jugaad by itself should only be looked at as a desperate option rather than a generalised process. Being a country well equipped with resources and aiming to be a world-class innovation hub, we might as well encourage correct processes right from the start.

Author – Sumit Dagar

The views expressed above are those of the author, and not necessarily representative of the views of the Mahindra Group.

About the Author
Sumit Dagar
Sumit comes from a design and engineering background, being a product of NID and DAIICT. His passion in design and capability in technology has been instrumental in shaping the vision and direction for all his works. He mostly plays around in exploratory, experiential and simple products with strong emphasis on emotional connect with his users through mediums of user experience and storytelling.

Sumit is founder of Kriyate where he is working on accessibility solutions for visually impaired, flagship concept amongst which is known as the Braille Phone. His works have earned him deserving recognitions including TED fellowship and Rolex Young Laureate award.

www.dagar.me / www.kriyate.com

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