Tag Archives: Strategic Design

Jogging in California

UCLA AMPGS module at UCLA was completed last week.  It feels good to walk in the UCLA campus.  It is surely one of the loveliest campuses in the World. One hears about the great breakthroughs in science and technology which happened here- TCP/IP which gave rise to the internet or detection of AIDs and so on.   UCLA faculty, students and alumni have won 13 Nobel prizes and 250 Olympic medals.

It is a good place to ask the question “What characterizes creative and innovative environments?” This is a billion dollar question which every organization in the world worth its salt is exploring,  I  will  not attempt an  answer here.  I will pen my own thoughts a bit later. Let me refer to a wonderful article I have come across on the topic.  Late Prof Sumantra Ghoshal wrote about the “smell of the place” sometime back. Ghoshal talks about a walk in spring in the forest of Fontainebleau close to Insead business school where he taught. Even if you started out for a leisurely walk, the air feels so pure, cool and energizing that you feel like jogging.  The contrasting experience is when Ghoshal goes over to Kolkata in summer. The hot and humid feeling saps energies and vitality. Organizational environments Ghoshal says have  a similar influence.

Some environments are empowering. They encourage the best in everyone. While others can be demotivating. Organizational environments in which employees are stressed by constraints and  control and are constantly reminded of contractual obligations are demotivating. On the other hand, organizations which encourage stretch and self discipline, trust their staff and support them bring out the best.  If you compare UCLA with most of Universities in India, you cannot but agree with Prof Ghoshal.

There are of course constraining and controlling organizations in the US. Are there energizing environments in hot and humid India?  Also this is good advice for high tech organizations that  need learning abilities to survive and innovation to grow. Does this hold for traditional highly structured organizations like airlines and railways?  Can Governments provide enlivening workplaces?  I would be glad to hear from you.

(For a good summary of Prof Sumantra Ghoshal’s  work please see http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/handy/ghoshal.pdf.  There are videos of  Prof Ghoshal ‘s   brief talk on this topic at the World Economic Forum on YouTube)

Getting back to AMPGS sessions, we had outstanding UCLA faculty teach for several days, which made for an intensive learning experience as always. (list of themes appears elsewhere on the AMPGS website).  We also had a very interesting visit to a design center -RKS designs Inc where the well-known product designer  Mr. Ravi Sawhney himself gave us a presentation on concepts of  strategic design, his product design philosophy and methods.  Ravi Sawhney’s early work on touch screen interfaces has been  described in the book “Predictable Magic” by Deepa Prahlad and published by Wharton Business School Press.

The class then dispersed to their own destinations in US or elsewhere. I flew north to the Silicon Valley for an immersive experience of a different kind.