You hear many thought leaders tell you that you should innovate all the time or disruptors will kill your business and you'll be on the street unemployed. OK, maybe things are not quite that dramatic. Still, as a leader, there are legitimate times to innovate and you need a simple way.
Chocko Valliappa, CEO of Vee Technologies and Vice Chairman of Sona College of Technology, has made a career of innovation. His company was so intent on being innovative they created their own accredited university to train qualified employees who can think differently.
Valliappa, a member of the Young Presidents' Organization in India, sat down for an interview on my podcast YPO 10 Minute Tips From the Top and shared his simple and effective approach that allows anyone to innovate simply.
1. Be in the same mindset of the customers.
Plenty of people come up with really unique ideas that are not very practical or desirable. Innovation leads nowhere if no one wants the new result. Valliappa insists you should start by figuring out what gets your customers excited and interested. That approach shaped the focus and vision for Sona College. Valliappa and company work with clients to determine the kind of employees desired, then build custom curriculums to satisfy the need. "They come, not only academy-trained, but also custom-tinkered for a client," he noted.
2. Reinvent yourself.
Valliappa is constantly looking at the gaps to figure out what he can create to solve new problems. Rather than being satisfied with his successes, he is always studying new businesses, a new design of technology or a new area to launch a new venture. (He does so every 18 months.) Among his most recent projects is developing a patient app for hospitals similar to how airlines have developed. Valliappa revealed that such a system would be easy to implement in hospitals, but no one has done it yet. He is also working on a clock business - it's where art meets time. "I find it energizing," he stated regarding his enthusiasm for finding new ways to re-invent himself.
3. Look to the younger generation.
Those who look only within themselves for innovative ideas are doomed to failure. The greatest ideas are likely outside your normal sphere of influence. Valliappa actually found a great idea in his very own living room during a discussion with one of his sons. Valliappa, annoyed that his son was constantly playing video games, told the boy to go study. His son responded that he had already charted his path to be a video game entrepreneur. Realizing the current generation's passion for gaming, Valliappa realizing his young staff had an average age of 20. It occurred to him that Gaming was a significant part of their lives. So Valliappa removed his conventional training programs and adopted a "gamification" approach to train new employees. The end result was 100% learning and a system that compressed training by half.
Each week on his podcast, Kevin has conversations with members of the Young Presidents' Organization, the world's premiere peer-to-peer organization for chief executives, eligible at age 45 or younger.