Magazine

Innovation


The Wisdom of No Crowds

Rising Indian companies and their creative strategies are making a mark on the world, but is there such a thing as "Indian-style" innovation? Identifying the distinctive strengths of South Asian companies is the focus of the new Centre of Excellence for Leadership, Innovation & Change at the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad. The Centre will research and consult on how the region's companies create products, and it will teach students the new Indian management theories.

The Centre's executive director, Prasad Kaipa, says Indian innovation tactics are focused on "individual learning and creativity and very small research-and-development budgets." In the U.S., he says, teamwork and large R&D budgets are the norm. Indian tech giants Wipro (WIT) and Infosys (INFY), he points out, spend less than 1% of revenues on R&D. Kaipa hopes other emerging markets, and multinational companies, can learn from the low-cost Indian ways of doing business.

A Showcase for Fresh Concepts and New Technology

This spring, visiting New York's Museum of Modern Art could help corporations discover fresh product-development talent. Curator Paola Antonelli has assembled 200 projects by international designers and firms in "Design and the Elastic Mind," on view through May 12. Antonelli's point is that designers of Web sites and consumer electronics are the global economy's "translators" of experimental technologies, ranging from software code to earth-friendly plastics, into marketable goods and services. The show includes displays on nanotechnology, data visualization (interactive graphs of statistics such as Web site traffic), and low-cost computers for developing nations. At the World Economic Forum in Davos in late January, Antonelli gave a preview of the MoMA exhibition to CEOs.

A Volvo with a Lot More Attitude

Volvo's boxy cars rarely turn heads, but the Ford (F)-owned company always counted on loyal customers concerned with safety. But as competitors from Honda (HMC) to Hyundai caught up, even claiming higher crash-test ratings, Volvo sales dropped 8.3% last year. At the Geneva Auto Show in mid-March, Volvo unveiled the XC60, a sturdy cross between an SUV and a station wagon that will sell for around $30,000. To lure buyers, Volvo crafted a sculpted look that's sportier than the company's current, larger SUV, the XC90. And the XC60 emphasizes safety features, such as bolder headlights. Designers wanted the rugged XC60s to be recognizable as a Volvo from twice the normal distance of 300 feet, so they added a larger insignia.


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