Developing a culture of resourcefulness
Although Covid-19 has reshuffled the deck, it’s also an opportunity to think differently about how to solve problems and answer questions. Faced with events that we can’t predict, your resourcefulness and ingenuity will be pivotal to unearthing solutions that are creative, inexpensive, and quick to implement. This is also the essence of jugaad,1 as championed by Navi Radjou.
Create an environment that promotes ingenuity
When confronting difficult issues, it’s your job to fight against your team’s it’s-not-my-problem syndrome.
• Be clear: your co-workers will be more reluctant to intervene when there’s a problem if they are uncertain about the company’s mission, values, and priorities. Make sure that everybody is absolutely clear about them and understands their own role in the organization.
• Emphasize the idea of responsibility: some employees may imagine that a third party will take the reins if a problem arises, discharging them of all responsibility. But everyone should know that problem-solving is an integral part of their job.
• Fight herd mentality: some people may be afraid that they will be met with disapproval if they intervene, report problems, or suggest improvements. Make sure that dysfunctional behaviors do not become normalized by inviting everyone to express themselves freely.
Make constraints clear, then step back
Teams that have never had to work within constraints may have a tendency toward unthinking conformism. Environments with scant resources, on the other hand, encourage teams to come up with agile solutions.
• State the constraints clearly: this is important for understanding the operational challenges. Talk about the limited resources openly as a way of inviting your teams to be more resourceful.
• Delegate the responsibility for solutions: eliminate any room for doubt about your expectations, but let your teams experiment with solutions to achieve the desired objectives.
• Limit the resources available: take inspiration from the start-up culture, which is based on finite resources (both financial and human). Encourage your teams to get their hands dirty and break down the barriers between different tasks.
Energize collective intelligence
Knowing how to share your problems and talk openly about them will help harness the intelligence in your company:
• Break open communication silos: at Google in 2002, co-founder Larry Page posted a problem in the office kitchen for all to see; over the weekend a group of engineers solved the problem, and the solution transformed the company.
- The Indian term jugaad can be translated as “ingenuity” or “System D”; see “Frugal innovation: turn limits into opportunities”, Business Digest no. 226, May 2012.
Excerpt from Business Digest N°307, June 2020