Global Leadership Summit :: Vijay Govindarajan – Innovation

Vijay Govindarajan

Ranked #3 on Thinkers 50, an elite list of global business minds published bi-annually
Educated in India, he held faculty positions at top business schools: Harvard University, INSEAD, Indian Institute of Management and Tuck School of Business
Named as one of the Top Ten Business School Professors in the World, Business Week; Top Five Most Respected Executive Coaches on Strategy, Forbes; Rising Super Stars, The Economist
A prolific business author, his books include The Other Side of Innovation and Reverse Innovation



  • Interview with Vijay
  • Question: You have a belief that says that ongoing operations are at odds with innovation. Why is this the case?
  • Answer: Strategy is not about celebration the past, or the present, but it’s about leadership in the future. The world keeps changing in the future. If you want to be a leader in the future, then you have to adapt to change.
  • Box 1: Manage the present
  • Box 2: Selectively forget the past
  • Box 3: Create the future
  • Competition for the future is all about innovation.
  • How do you create the future while managing the present?
  • Question: Why is it so difficult to do innovation?
  • Answer: If you want to beat the center of gravity, you have to change the business model.
  • We need to do experiments today to transform what we have.
  • Question: Aren’t these two things at odds, the present and future. What do we do?
  • Answer: Dominant logic is the kind of people and organization you have. Left unchecked, the dominant logic controls you.
  • The central leadership challenge, how do you preserve dominant logic while at the same time overcoming it?
  • Innovation is not just ideas. It’s not just creativity. Innovation is commercializing creativity.
  • The bulk of the challenge lies in the execution.
  • Innovation = ideas + leader + team + plan
  • For innovation execution we have to constitute a team and a plan, which is fundamentally different than the way we manage the present.
  • Making innovation happen is not just the responsibility of one person. Really innovation leaders have to be humble. They have to actually work with the performance engine.
  • The role of leaders is not to subvert, but to harness the great capabilities of the core engine.
  • Innovation is the opposite of efficiency. It’s all about flexibility.
  • This is like the New York Times paper going into digital. They are fundamentally different business models.
  • New York Times digital is not a newspaper company on a digital platform. A newspaper is a newspaper.
  • You have to create a distinct team separate from the performance engine who can innovate.
  • Your dedicated innovation team has to be linked to the performance engine.
  • This is going to create conflict when you create this new innovation team.
  • You have to have shared staff between the innovation team and the performance engine.
  • Who is paying for all of this innovation at this point?
  • The cash is coming from the performance engine.
  • Even though innovation is losing money today, it is extremely important to creating the future.
  • Future is now. It’s not about what an organization does in the future. It’s about now.
  • What are some biases in selecting this dedicated innovation team?
  • This team is created for a different purpose.
  • Be courageous to recruit people from the outside, because you’re breaking the sacred cows.
  • Be bold in how you select people, and what kind of processes you have.
  • Sometimes teams run into something called ‘organizational memory’. What is that?
  • The team should not be isolated from your core business. So it’s going to interact with your organization. Conflicts aren’t bad in your organization, provided you know how to manage them.
  • There’s a myth that innovation is unmanageable chaos. So how do you plan it?
  • I talk about zero-based planning.
  • The planning is really connected to what the real challenge is in the current business.
  • The future is always in response to weak signals, because box 3 is a bet on the future.
  • The job in the future is to learn to resolve assumptions.
  • In the future spend a little, learn alot, because you have alot of assumptions to resolve.
  • How do you measure success for the future team?
  • The future is an experiment, so you cannot evaluate the future. This doesn’t mean that you let the innovation team off the hook.
  • The evaluation should be an evaluation based on the ability to learn.
  • Evaluate the future on their ability to conduct low-cost experiments.
  • What is reverse innovation and how can it impact our organizations?
  • Reverse innovation is about innovating in a poor country and sending the product to rich countries.
  • We need to fundamentally change the definition of innovation.
  • Innovation is about value for many. Not value for money. So you have to do more with less.
  • We have to think about innovation as doing alot more, for alot less, for alot of people.
  • The number 1 problem in America today is income inequality.
  • Why did you decide to teach?
  • I realized early on that India has very many problems and very few resources.
  • I’m from India. The only way India can solve it’s problems is through innovation.
  • I can only do so much, but if I can teach, then I can empower so many other people.
  • The essence of America is humility. We are a country built on humility. Accepting the globalization of ideas from any part of the world.

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