It was around a discussion on cross-domain knowledge that I realized that there was no better place to look for instances of these than in India. India is a hotbed for innovation using cross-domain knowledge, most of which gets pushed under the umbrella of jugaad, a concept we find is commonly misinterpreted & misunderstood.
At Vivékin, we’ve understood jugaad to be a form of innovation, which while fabulously inventive and immensely beneficial to the immediate community of the concerned innovator, very often tends to be restrictive due to its inability to scale up and last long. In other words, jugaad is a short-term solution to a long-term problem. What makes jugaad truly an innovation is when it lends itself to being a scalable long-term solution to a problem.
Instances of innovation using the application of lateral thinking and cross-domain knowledge in India are many. The living bridges of Meghalaya, a tradition that was started sometime in ancient India, where bridges are built by coaxing the young roots of trees (planted on the riverbank) into formation – a practice that spans several decades; the MittiCool, an electricity-free refrigerator invented by a small time entrepreneur, Manuskhbhai Prajapati, by applying the cooling principle of the clay pot in which drinking water is stored in the hot summer months; a water mill that generates electricity, designed by Siddappa, a farmer in Karnataka, using a giant wheel, plastic basins and a dynamo.
Instances elsewhere in the world – the windmill built by William Kamkwamba of Malawi, Africa, a 14 year old school dropout at the time, using spare parts from a tractor and bicycle to generate electricity for his family; or in the corporate context, the car-parts incubator (for new born babies) designed by a nonprofit firm in Massachussets, USA, “Design that Matters”, using the same technology used in cars to allow people in third world and developing countries to be able to easily repair them.
Some of the instances above could be classified as jugaad, like the makeshift water mill by farmer Siddappa, and the windmill by William Kamkwamba, but most of the others are true innovations resulting from the application of lateral thinking and long-term vision.