By: Navi Radjou, Jaideep Prabhu and Simone Ahuja, co-authors of Jugaad Innovation: Think Frugal, Be Flexible, Generate Breakthrough Growth (Jossey-Bass, 2012).
Definition of jugaad: [noun] A Hindi word meaning an innovative fix; an improvised solution born from ingenuity and resourcefulness.
When recruiting new hires, HR managers typically scan candidates’ resumes for signs of “smartness”-- as evidenced by high GPA or the eloquence of their cover letter.
"Smartness" is seen as vital to competing and winning in today’s knowledge economy.
Yet companies need more than just textbook-smart workers to innovate and succeed today.
They need to recruit new hires who are street-smart -- who can think on their feet and use their passion to improvise creative solutions for the many challenges of a hyper-competitive marketplace.
In our book, Jugaad Innovation: Think Frugal, Be Flexible, Generate Breakthrough Growth, we studied the most innovative and the fastest-growing enterprises in emerging markets such as India, China, Brazil, and Africa.
We found that these enterprises employ “street-smart” workers who boast six specific job skills.
We believe US companies must cultivate these critical competencies in their own workforce if they are to compete in today’s fast-paced and volatile global economy.
Here are the six job skills that HR managers in US firms should look for when recruiting for job competencies:
1) Resilience: Is the candidate able to seek opportunity in adversity? In an increasingly complex business environment that throws all kinds of challenges at companies, demonstrating resilience in the face of adversity and turning it to one’s advantage is a competence that US firms must urgently develop.
When recruiting, look for new hires with a proven ability to reframe the adversity they face not as a debilitating challenge (or ‘‘risk’’) but rather a unique opportunity to innovate and grow.
2) Frugality: Can the candidate do more with less? Frugal consumers and cost-effective competitors are rewriting the rules of engagement for companies -- pressing them to develop goods and services that are affordable and eco-friendly.
To compete and win in this resource-scarce environment, firms need imaginative employees who can deliver more value using fewer resources.
For instance, a candidate applying for the position of manufacturing manager must be able to find clever ways to reduce energy consumption in the factories he or she will be running.
3) Flexibility: Is the candidate able to think and act flexibly in response to unpredictable outcomes? To thrive in a highly-unpredictable environment, companies need employees who are masters of flexibility.
HR managers must check the ability of new hires to challenge conventional thinking, who can think on their feet:
- Come up with entirely new value propositions
- Experiment with various ways to achieving their goals
- Quickly respond to changing circumstances
- Improvise new solutions, and modify their plans as they go
And your new hires should be able to execute these tasks without supervision.
4) Simplicity: Can the candidate keep things simple without losing sight of complexity? Tired of complexity, consumers are pressing companies to simplify their products and services to make them more accessible.
As a result, firms must look to hire R&D engineers who can design “good enough” but user-friendly products rather than over-engineered products that are too complex to use.
Similarly, they need to hire marketing managers who are able to simplify their customer interactions to deliver a superior user experience.
5) Empathy: Does the candidate have the empathy to include marginal (and marginalized) customers? The American middle class has shrunk significantly, and lower income consumers in the US should not be ignored.
Many companies try to convince these marginalized consumers to see the value of their existing products. But these customers have unique needs -- serving their needs requires whole new products, different marketing strategies and new business models.
Companies must understand what value means to these marginalized groups or risk being overtaken by competitors who may not even be in your space.
For example, Wal-Mart offers basic financial services like check cashing to the 60 million unbanked/under-banked Americans ignored by traditional banks. If you are hiring a sales or marketing manager, be sure that they know how to serve the needs of marginalized consumers.
6) Passion: Can the candidate follow the heart rather than just the mind? As Dan Pink argues in A Whole New Mind, the left-brain’s linear, analytical, computer-like thinking -- controlled by what we call our ‘‘mind’’-- is insufficient to help us decipher, let alone navigate, our increasingly complex and ambiguous world.
The world has become too complex for the mind alone to grasp! To succeed in this ambiguous environment, companies should look to hire “gutsy” employees who follow their hearts as much as their minds.
These are empathetic candidates who have the courage and the willingness to take risks, trust their intuition, and are passionate about what they do, believing that they are pursuing a higher cause in the process.
In our book Jugaad Innovation, we show how companies such as 3M, Facebook, GE, Google, PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble, and Renault-Nissan have built innovative organizations that can thrive in today’s volatile and complex economy.
Their secret? They recruit “street-smart” employees who boast the six critical job skills above.
Read an excerpt from the book Jugaad Innovation.
Co-authors of Jugaad Innovation: Think Frugal, Be Flexible, Generate Breakthrough Growth (Jossey-Bass, 2012):
Navi Radjou is an independent innovation and leadership consultant based in Palo Alto, CA, and a fellow at Judge Business School, University of Cambridge.
Jaideep Prabhu is Jawaharlal Nehru professor of Indian business and enterprise and director of the Centre for India & Global Business at Judge Business School, University of Cambridge.
Simone Ahuja is the founder of Blood Orange, a marketing and strategy consultancy with content production capabilities headquartered in Minneapolis and Mumbai.