The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas,” said Linus Pauling, American scientist, author and two-time winner of the Nobel Prize. A similar philosophy pervades InnoVista, the ever-growing, ever-evolving, ever-maturing celebration of innovation that has become a highlight of the Tata calender. Held on April 26 every year — in memory of the great Indian mathematician S Ramanujan, who died on that day in 1920 — InnoVista’s stock has risen with every passing year, as has the power of the ideas unleashed in this crucible of creativity.
Innovation was not always such a big deal in the Tata group. “There was a time when Tata companies neither recognised nor rewarded innovativeness,” says Sunil Sinha, chief, Group Quality Management Services. “We studied the most innovative companies in the world and realised that they all had one thing in common: they recognised and rewarded innovation. Around that time, we surveyed 2,000 people in the Tata group and found that almost 95 percent of them thought that Tata companies were not innovative.”
InnoVista: Over the years
The results of the survey were shocking. Employees unconsciously trod the beaten path because they were not inspired to be innovative. Their failure to be innovative exacted a heavy price, causing Tata companies to slide in terms of mind leadership and market prominence. This learning resulted in the launch of the InnoVista, which is now a global platform for recognising and rewarding innovation and creativity in the Tata group.
A time to grow
InnoVista started with one category (for the most successful innovations). Last year there were three categories:
Subsequently, the categories were regularly revised to reflect the changing nature of the kind of work that was to be encouraged within the group. This year, for instance, participants in The Leading Edge: Unproven Ideas category had to choose from a set of themes provided by Tata Industries. These themes related to businesses that Tata Industries was looking to promote — in areas such as health care, water management, etc — where it could later choose to finance some of the winning entries.
Over the years the participation figures for InnoVista have increased substantially — from 101 entries from 35 Tata companies in 2006 to 2,852 entries from 71 Tata companies in 2012. “The numbers prove that more people are attempting innovations and taking risks,” says Ravi Arora, vice president, Tata Quality Management Services. “We have also seen an improvement in the quality of innovations.”
This year the Tata Group Innovation Forum (TGIF), which facilitates innovation within Tata companies, organised a special coaching programme two weeks before InnoVista. External faculty members were invited to train the finalists on the best way to present their ideas to the jury.
All for one
This year’s winners received their awards from Cyrus Mistry, Deputy Chairman, Tata Sons. In his address Mr Mistry said that he would like to see more collaboration between people of different companies across sectors. Taking a cue from the suggestion, TGIF is working on introducing a category for the most successful collaborative innovation. This will require support infrastructure to be put in place and that is what the forum has set its mind on accomplishing.
InnoVista has brought about a sea change in the attitude of Tata managers vis-à-vis innovation. It has sent a strong message to Tata managers that innovation is for everyone, and not just for research and development teams. It has also enhanced the perception of the Tata group as an innovative organisation.
The greatest achievement of InnoVista, though, has been its ability to unify Tata managers everywhere in the shared pursuit of innovation and innovativeness.
This article was a part of the special section on Tata InnoVista 2012 featured in the June 2012 issue of the Tata Review. Click here to go to the other articles that were a part of this story >>