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Updated: January 20, 2014 21:47 IST

How to defy the gravity mindset

R. Devarajan
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Orbit Shifting: The dynamics of ideas that create history by Rajiv Narang and Devika Devaiah.
The Hindu
Orbit Shifting: The dynamics of ideas that create history by Rajiv Narang and Devika Devaiah.

It was at the watershed of the two centuries — the dawn of the millennium — that business organisations across the globe felt the pulse of a new environment, thanks to the advent of globalisation, which had landed on the scene like a ton of bricks. It was a far cry from the world of regulated economy that was characteristic of the earlier era. The international markets turned much more mercurial and volatile. It was then that companies realized that the only way to beat the competition and win the rat race was by radical innovation.

Innovation is a key driver of corporate transformation, which can take many forms — from new processes and products in the existing business, to an altogether different line of business. The ultimate test for a company that aspires to be at the forefront of international competition is to master and manage the challenge of innovation.

It is not possible to countenance a high and upcoming standard of living merely by long-in-the-tooth factors of production. Every now and then, organisations confront situations that warrant radical changes, which call for out-of-the-box thinking. Innovation brings about new, avant-garde avenues of manufacturing and marketing to meet the ever-changing and kaleidoscopic demands of the consumer.

Creativity is the consequence of self-induced passion, patience, and perseverance. The corporate climate is an enabling influence and significant contributor in this context. Sometimes the fear of failure forbids employees from attempting innovation — nothing ventured, nothing gained. Employees need to be counselled and convinced that failures are stepping stones for success.

There is a strong link between language and employee involvement in innovation. The way managers use language to encapsulate a new idea will determine its acceptance and life cycle. Over a period of time, companies evolve their own sets of phrases and expressions. Employees experience better bonhomie and homogeneity when they converse in their own corporate lingua franca.

The title of the book under review – Orbit-shifting Innovation – is the key to its central theme. The nomenclature ‘orbit-shifting’ owes its origin to space technology. All that it implies is that the changeover is complete and cataclysmic — from one plane of operation into another plane of operation in toto.

Orbit-shifting happens when an innovator, imbued with the desire and determination to introduce radical and revolutionary changes, transforms an organisation so completely that it is not even a shadow of what it was before. Orbit-shifting creates, and does not follow, history.

Orbit-shifting is a pioneering and path-breaking phenomenon in management. It breaks the bonds of ‘gravity’, and brings about iconoclastic changes in the organisation. It enables an organisation to reinvent itself and move fast forward towards progress and prosperity.

The book is divided into four sections. The first section is a historical perspective. It is a portrayal of several earth-shattering innovations “across countries and cultures….delving into product, process, business model, and social innovation.”

The second section explains how to encounter and eliminate the “mindset gravity”, which deters and detains the instinct of innovation. It goes further to explain how to break through barriers, how to burn bridges, so that the orbit-shifting journey moves only in the forward direction, and does not retrace the route at any cost.

One other issue addressed in this section is the “mental models” that tend to trap people within their comfort zone. People are confident with things that they are already aware of and prefer to steer clear of the strange and the unknown. They would rather stay inside the familiar territory and not cross the “lakshman rekha”.

The third section is all about winning over the sceptic and the ubiquitous doubting Thomas present in every organisation. Quite often, what is an exciting and irresistible idea is axed by doubt. This section proceeds to explain how to navigate through the fog of obstacles; take along every stakeholder; enrol the “gatekeepers” and the bystanders in the movement; enlist cross-functional experts; and finally, ensure that the implementers operate with their heart and soul in the project.

The last section contains two chapters. The first deals with the orbit-shifting journey. It explains how orbit-shifting is different from the conventional stage-by-stage improvements.

The second chapter highlights the DNA of the orbit-shifter. The orbit-shifter is more concerned with the size and magnitude of the challenge; and how difficult and daunting is the task on hand. He is not bothered about how many persons report to him, nor his place in the organisation chart. Adventure seems to be his way of life. Routine or the daily grind is not his cup of tea.

The book has been written in an easy and racy style. It is specifically addressed to the managerial audience trading in the street, and toiling in the shop floor. “It is based on insights drawn from twenty-two years of work and research with organisations in making orbit-shifting happen.” It is not a textbook for the management school. It is a handbook for the professional manager.

There are practical examples galore to illustrate and amplify the postulates being advocated. Important points have been placed inside boxes, in bold print, in order to capture attention and reinforce the principles. The book is a must-read for the people in management who want to accomplish things and reach the summit before anyone else does.

ORBIT SHIFTING INNOVATION — The Dynamics of Ideas that Create History

Rajiv Narang, Devika Devaiah;

Random House Publishers India Pvt. Ltd.,

Windsor IT Park, 7th Floor, Tower-B, A-1, Sector 125, Noida-201301.

Rs. 499.

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