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Three Tips for Innovators: Move Nimbly, Open Wisely and Fail Gracefully

May 17, 2012, 12:00 AM
Train

What's the Big Idea?

Vijay Vaitheeswaran surveys the landscape of the global economy and sees "wicked problems," to borrow a phrase from the subtitle of his bestselling new book, Need, Speed and Greed: How the New Rules of Innovation Can Transform Businesses, Propel Nations to Greatness and Tame the World’s Most Wicked Problems. He sees a global middle class that is being squeezed and left out of the benefits and opportunities that breakthrough technologies have created. He sees an educational system that is seriously outdated and divorced from the real needs of 21st century knowledge workers.

And yet, Vaitheeswaran is an optimist. Yes, it is true that our current disruptive age is more dangerous and riskier, Vaitheeswaran argues you can find "enormous opportunities for profit--you must move nimbly, open wisely and fail gracefully." This is not just advice for big players. Vaitheeswaran's formula is designed for the little guys, the upstarts, to compete. So what does he mean by "Move Nimbly, Open Wisely and Fail Gracefully"

Watch the video here:

Vaitheeswaran's formula for upstarts like you is as follows:

Move Nimbly
Due to a confluence of trends, such as "frugal engineering models in emerging markets, lower barriers to entry, and new technologies converging," Vaitheeswaran argues it is much easier for "upstarts like you" to take on the giants, who are being forced to compete with China. Products that come to market nowadays last half as long as they used to, so move nimbly.

Be Open
"You need to connect with the smartest people in the world," Vaitheeswaran says. Of course, the smartest people in the world don't work for your small business. So that means you need to go out and network.

Fail Gracefully
Vaitheeswaran says the most profound lesson he has to share is also "the hardest one to bring into your culture" since you are naturally inclined to want to win. No one sets out to start a business hoping to fail, particularly not entrepreneurs with Type A personalities. Vaitheeswaran argues you need to confront failure with a fearless mindset. Fail gracefully, fail fast, and own that failure. That's how you will learn from failure, "the most difficult but most important lesson of all."

What's the Significance?

The impact of globalization has given a child in Africa the same access to information that the President of the United States had at his fingertips 40 years ago. It may sound counter-intuitive, but Vaitheeswaran argues that right now might be the best time to be a member of the so-called "bottom billion" in the world, because the very poor now have the tools to create wealth for themselves, and ultimately the opportunity to disrupt the established elites of the developed world. This concept of reverse-innovation, is a powerful trend that we're seeing throughout the developing world. Poor countries are exporting ideas often born out of necessity to rich countries. 

So what lessons can be learned from reverse-innovation. It takes us back to the three lessons Vaitheeswaran presented. Move Nimbly. Be Open. Fail Gracefully. This is the mindset that all entrepreneurs need to take to succeed in today's  disruptive age. That is how the emerging global middle class can take feast on the rewards of globalization that may seem frustratingly inaccessible to them now. 
 

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