Good Jugaad & Bad Jugaad

There has been a lot of interest in the term jugaad in the last couple of years. This term is almost synonymous to Indian Innovation.

There are also a couple of books that were released which are definitely interesting reading and hundreds of articles in business literature.

At the same time, there are is also a public sentiment about jugaad that it is something that is not desirable. So is there good jugaad and bad jugaad?

Yes, I think so. It is like good cholesterol (HDL) and bad cholesterol (LDL), terms we have gotten used to hearing from our doctors who explain them in layman’s language, but with Jugaad the audience is us Engineers. Bad cholesterol contributes to plaque formation in the arteries restricting blood circulation due to clogging. Good cholesterol scavenges bad cholesterol away from the arteries and gets it to the liver to break it down thus reducing the plaque formation. Hence the possibility of a cardiac arrest is reduced.

According to Wiki, jugaad is a colloquial Punjabi-Dogri word that can mean an innovative fix or a simple work-around, used for solutions that bend rules, or a resource that can be used as such, or a person who can solve a complicated issue within a specific context. Let me first elaborate a bit on what is so bad about this with some examples:

  • When a jugaad approach is taken only to provide a quick fix to a problem purely because there is short-term pressure.
  • When the approach is used to by-pass well documented engineering processes (bend rules) because the engineers are not willing to put extra effort to take the recommended approach because they are only keeping in mind finishing the task.
  • When this approach is taken to cut corners in the name of simplifying or using resource constraint as a pretext and in the end delivers a product far below the desired quality output.
  • Using a material just because it is available at hand which is not supposed to be used to solve an immediate issue.

One of the key issues with this approach is that the solutions provided are just for that context and that instant. In those cases, the solution is neither scale-able nor sustainable. More often than not, a jugaad fix will be a temporary relief.

What about Good Jugaad? Some examples:

  • Coming up with a simple and elegant solution which fits the context eliminating the bells and whistles".
  • Applying a solution from a different context innovatively not getting into the trap of does not apply here, because we have always done it this way.
  • Solving a specific problem with far lesser resources through a deeper understanding of the problem and context of usage with efficient teamwork.
  • Using an innovative way of solving problems with the same rigor and scrutiny for longer term applicability.

There is bad and good jugaad in our workplaces and we see them every day. Bad jugaad behavior, like LDL, will constrict the long-term capability of a workplace and eventually lead to the death of the workplace due to innovation arrest. We as managers have to act like good cholesterol in the blood stream. We have to discourage bad jugaad behavior and replace it with good jugaad behavior so that we can build long-term sustainable innovation culture within our workplaces.

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