How ‘Jugaad thinking’ can unlock your most innovative ideas

How ‘Jugaad thinking’ can unlock your most innovative ideas

Vehicle powered by an agricultural water pump engine.
Vehicle powered by an agricultural water pump engine.

Jugaad - A colloquial Hindi word meaning an innovative fix; an improvised solution born from ingenuity and cleverness.

When you think about innovation in India, the word ‘Jugaad’ often comes to mind. It’s a magical term, used to signify creativity in making existing things work. Or creating new things with meager resources. It stands for all those unorthodox, zany solutions to everyday problems that no one has been able to think of.

We see examples of this phenomenon almost every day in India. Transforming mopeds into mini people carriers. Churning buttermilk in washing machines. Table fans that become ceiling fans and then become desktop cooling fans. These solutions are out of the box. They are quirky. And they work.

Innovation is not an unfamiliar term in India. In fact, India’s rich legacy of inventiveness and breakthrough solutions go as far back as the stone age. The Indus Valley Civilization was instrumental in shaping the face of the modern world, especially when it comes to architecture and clothing. Brahmagupta and Aryabhatta made invaluable contributions to mathematics, including the zero. Indians were actually the pioneers of plastic surgery!

In recent times, the plucky Indian mind has been mostly busy coming up with life hacks and workarounds. Seeking opportunity in adversity. Doing more with less. Simplifying the complex. To a large extent, this is because businesses and corporations have turned innovation into a highly structured process. Whether it’s software, biotechnology, pharmaceutical or the automotive industry, everyone has a traditional, hierarchical approach to innovation. This has ensured that only a handful of people have the opportunity to put 2 and 2 together to create 22.

Which is why, at XPRIZE, we believe in giving a chance to everyone out there to innovate and bring about change. We do this with the power of incentivized competitions. We begin by identifying the biggest challenges of our time, where solutions are considered out of reach, or just plain impossible. And then we design and operate prize competitions with million dollar incentives for people to solve them. We believe that solutions can come from anyone, anywhere and that some of the greatest minds of our time remain untapped.

Over the past two decades, XPRIZE has seen remarkable success with this approach. We have facilitated rapid clean-up of our oceans. Enabled the creation of one of the world’s most energy efficient cars. And helped launch a $2 billion private space industry.

Guess how a lot of these solutions came about? With the same ‘do-it-yourself’, jugaad-style thinking.

We are now entering an era where humanity’s greatest problems will be solved by an all-pervasive, problem-solving spirit. The entrepreneurial mindset of a corporation’s employees, customers and partners - empowered by new technologies - can pretty much change the world.

In the book Jugaad Innovation, XPRIZE founder and chairman, Peter H Diamandis said “XPRIZE has proven the value of Jugaad by leveraging the bottom-up approach of ‘better, faster, cheaper’ to the point of sending a man into space for a fraction of what NASA spends.”

It’s time for all of us to start inculcating ‘Jugaad thinking’ in our lives. The world needs it.

Learn more about the Water Abundance XPRIZE and the Women’s Safety XPRIZE.

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