Importance of mental models in Innovation

My own discussion at Barcamp was centered around Innovation in large IT services firms such as TCS. A bulk of the audience had exposure to IT Services but almost no one believed that there was any innovation in the large IT Services firms.

It was a free flowing discussion where I wanted to hear as much from the audience as to leave them with something worthwhile. We spent a lot of time talking about how mental models inhibit or foster innovation.

We asked ourselves questions like what exactly is IT Services? Are the lines as dictated by conventional wisdom really hard lines on the ground or mere simplifying mental assumptions that need to be questioned from time to time? Does innovation start by challenging conventional wisdom?

I firmly believe that one has to continually probe at the received wisdom of the day to really see what new can be done. At the same time, one has to respect the received wisdom because its established for a good reason. Let’s take an example: Google is an example of business service enabled by strong IT. Is there something to be learnt for IT Services companies? At the first blush no, because the ad-driven revenue model is far out from current business. Not core competence as some would say. But does the basic concept of providing service to one party using strong IT and collecting money from a third depending upon the quality of service extendable to IT Services? At TCS, the answer has been yes!

Case in point: MCA21 project of government of India where TCS is directly responible for provision of service to customers and collects money from the government. The money collected depends upon the quality of service just as the ad revenue depends upon click through in Google’s model. And this is not the first time this was done. A precusrsor to this with a slightly different model was APonline which provides citizen services on behalf of Govt of AP. APOnline is 80% owned by TCS.

Bottomline: Conventional wisdom challenged but in a more realistic way which is closer to the core business. No hard and fast rules but the best way is to try and learn.

One Reply to “Importance of mental models in Innovation”

  1. Its nice to know such entrepreneurial, experimental stuff are being done in our large IT Services companies. Look forward to more such posts from you.

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