Michael D. Moberly July 6, 2017 firstname.lastname@example.org ‘A business intangible asset blog where attention span really matters’!
Respectfully, there are perhaps some who remain unfamiliar with frugal innovation as a concept or a practice. Frugal innovation is, in many respects, the personification of utilizing intangible assets in one of their purest forms, i.e., intellectual, structural, and relationship capital.
Innovation is often portrayed through the lens of the west’s conventional entrepreneurial communities within the parameters of university-based research, biotech, incubators, venture capitalist, SBIR’s, intellectual property, phenomenal research, and multi-tasking founders and management team
Of course, some are inclined to characterize frugal innovation in various subordinate contexts as simplified, ‘on the cheap’ business building models unlikely to gain depth of traction in western dominated entrepreneurial sectors where business startup convention is dominant.
Those who hold the view that ‘frugal innovation’ is merely a descriptor for executing entrepreneurism on the cheap may not have taken time to appreciate its core principles, or perhaps are adherents to existing conventions. Similarly, it’s short-sighted to characterize frugal innovation as merely being a business (start-up) model.
Frugal innovation has largely been chronicled as designing and introducing products and/or services into circumstances in which…
• simplification, durability, and sustainability are requisites.
• minimal training and maintenance is required.
• the innovation can become fully functional by using minimal
(primarily existing) resources.
• to minimize, perhaps remedy, a current region-circumstance specific
need rapidly on behalf of the intended beneficiaries.
• the innovation itself is durable to accommodate – withstand
conditions in which it was designed to be applied.
These are certainly not the only tenants – requisites to frugal innovation. However, they do deliver rapid, if not, immediate (often humanitarian) returns, i.e., irrigation, crop – animal sustainability, ease acquisition to, generates-delivers power, promotes producing more stable-sustainable shelter and/or clothing, provides innovative – culture respectful investment capital which has been a history of very limited access to many.
Interestingly, in Schumpeter’s column (in The Economist, March 24, 2012) titled ‘Asian Innovation’ it’s noted that numerous universities are in somewhat of a ‘scramble mode’ to design and integrate courses focusing on frugal innovation. There is no evidence to suggest that ‘scramble mode’ has mitigated. This suggests the fundamentals, i.e., principles and concepts, etc., underlying frugal innovation are variously resonating in the west.
To be sure, frugal innovation represents a principled, but, in some respects, less structured path for developing and commercializing (applying) practical innovations that initially target consumers at the so-called ‘bottom of the pyramid’. Not infrequently, initial frugal innovations can be ratcheted up to attract consumers in successively higher brackets of the global pyramid.
Numerous advocates and practitioners of frugal innovation in the East, as The Economist’ article points out, imagine a time when particular Western products, upon removal of gratuitous frills, will lead to such substantial cost savings that frugal ideas will (eventually) come to dominate the innovation process. While car seat warming western consumers have clearly not arrived at that point, the interest embedded in prospective entrepreneurs to pursue alternative paths and innovations, absent many of the conventional hurdles and/or constraints, particularly those having to do with the need for securing substantial investment, are attracting some well-deserved interest.
• “Reverse Innovation” a book written by Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble, and “Jugaad Innovation” by Navi Radjou, Jaideep Prabhu and Simone Ahuja are seminal guides to frugal innovation.
• And, as a demonstration that the concept of frugal innovation is not wholly dismissed by the multi-nationals, Mr Govindarajan (Dartmouth’s Tuck Business School) is known to have advised General Electric on frugal innovation and co-authored a very worthy article with its former CEO, Jeffrey Immelt.
Frankly, I do not sense frugal innovation, conceptually or practically, will remain subordinate to business start-up conventions and wholly fade from western business (entrepreneurial) lexicon or practice. Those inclined to believe differently, while respected, are encouraged to re-think their position.