Vijay Govindarajan: Rules for Strategic Innovators

Jun 08 2009

vijay_govindarajan

“We can be weak in defeat, or we can be strengthened by it.”

Vijay Govindarajan is widely regarded as one of the world’s leading experts on strategy and innovation, one of the outstanding thought-leaders of the new generation, according to The Wall Street Journal and Business Week. Known as VG, is the Earl C. Daum 1924 Professor of International Business at the Tuck School and founding director of Tuck’s Center for Global Leadership. He is also the faculty co-director for Global Leadership 2020, Tuck’s executive education program that focuses on global management and is taught on three continents.
Govindarajan has been named to a series of lists by influential publications including: Top Ten Business School Professor in Corporate Executive Education, named by Business Week; Top Five Most Respected Executive Coach on Strategy, rated by Forbes; Outstanding Faculty, named by Business Week in its Guide to Best B-Schools; Top 50 Management Thinker, named by The London Times; Outstanding Teacher of the Year, voted by MBA students; “superstar” Management Thinker from India, named by Business Week.
The recipient of numerous awards for excellence in research, Govindarajan was inducted into the Academy of Management Journals’ Hall of Fame, and was ranked by Management International Review as one of the “Top 20 North American Superstars” for research in strategy and organization. One of his papers was recognized as one of the ten most-often cited articles in the entire 40-year history of Academy of Management Journal.
VG works with CEOs and top management teams in Global Fortune 500 firms to discuss, challenge, and escalate their thinking about strategy. He has worked with 25% of the Fortune 500 corporations including: Boeing, Coca-Cola, Colgate, Deere, FedEx, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, J.P. Morgan Chase, Johnson & Johnson, New York Times, Procter & Gamble, Sony, and Wal-Mart. He is a regular keynote speaker in CEO Forums and major conferences including the World Innovation Forum and Business Week CEO Forum.
He has published seven books, including the international best seller Ten Rules for Strategic Innovators, named by Strategy & Business the Best Strategy Book of 2006 and ranked by the Wall Street Journal as a Top Ten Recommended Read. His articles have appeared in the Academy of Management Journal, Academy of Management Review; Strategic Management Journal; Harvard Business Review; California Management Review; and MIT Sloan Management Review.
VG received his doctorate and his MBA with distinction from the Harvard Business School, where he was included in the Dean’s Honor List. He received his Chartered Accountancy degree in India where he was awarded the President’s Gold Medal for obtaining the first rank nationwide.

Organizations: the emotional infrastructure

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As VG remarks in his own web, “what we’re saying is that optimism, the ultimate intangible, has a powerful role to play in rebuilding the world economy. We still have the same factories, the same workforce, the same talent, as we had before the crisis.”
“All organizations consist of three infrastructures — physical, intellectual, and emotional.
Physical infrastructure refers to a company’s buildings, equipment, etc. Intellectual infrastructure refers to its competencies - key processes, its people, and their expertise in their particular knowledge domains. Emotions, though, are different from intellect.

I got the idea for emotional infrastructure by observing the behavior of family units. Families, after all, are founded on an emotional infrastructure. And if there is one institution that has survived over the centuries, it is the family. Therefore, my logic went, if organizations have to learn how to build an enduring institution they could learn a lot by observing how families build and sustain emotional bonds.

Here are a few observations. A company’s physical infrastructure costs money to build. It’s also transparent to the competition, and therefore easily copied.

Emotional infrastructure, on the other hand, is not transparent and therefore much more difficult to imitate. You don’t have to incur major capital outlays to build emotional infrastructure. (Does Southwest Airlines ring a bell?)

I’ve observed that families build emotional infrastructure using eight explicit factors. One of these factors is adversity. It is during times of adversity that families come together and bond emotionally. What Wipro has done during these times of adversity will build an enduring competitive advantage by strengthening the company’s emotional infrastructure.Customized Inflatables

Unfortunately, most American companies destroy emotional infrastructure through re-engineering and reducing costs through layoffs. Companies with the right innovation mindset will emerge stronger from this recession; those that don’t get it will suffer and perhaps even perish.”


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