India’s Jugaad Philosophy – Why I am not a big fan of it

In the last few years a lot attention has been given to the word ‘jugaad’. So much attention that I have seen it being mentioned by authors of reputable news sites, blogs, etc. Some guys even wrote a book on it (no, I haven’t read it). But really, it makes you think that this newly discovered ‘jugaad’ must be some sort of a magic spell to set things straight when in tight situations, right?

Before I go ahead and give you a download on why I am not a big fan of it, lets define ‘jugaad’ first. For that lets look to Wikipedia

“Jugaad is a colloquial Hindi word that can mean an innovative fix or a simple work-around,[1] sometimes pejoratively used for solutions that bend rules, or a resource that can be used as such, or a person who can solve a complicated issue. It is used as much to describe enterprising street mechanics as for political fixers. This meaning is often used to signify creativity to make existing things work or to create new things with meagre resources.”

Sounds sexy, doesn’t it? Maybe even makes us Indians proud for our ability to work in tight situations.

Firstly (and here’s where I get flames from some of you), innovation within meager means is not an exclusive Indian phenomenon… it’s the same world over. Everything audacious had to start with meager means at some point because most people really didn’t support such ideas. But anyway, that’s not important. The second point is however.

Secondly, jugaad is a quick fix in the name of innovation. Jugaad is at times (I would argue most of the time) a product of lack of planning. I have never seen a project implementation plan with a section dedicated to jugaads. They happen when there are leaks, mostly out of desperation or no choice. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying quick fixes are bad. In fact, at times, its the quick fix that helps us deliver the last mile.

So, what’s bothering me? Hmmm… let me see if I can explain that. If I were to say “quick fix” = “innovation”, would you frown? I wager most of you would. Even if quick fix is innovative? I guessed so. The difference between jugaad and innovation is its life span and impact on overall quality in the long term. Innovation is strategic, jugaad is tactical. Innovation is part of a fixed plan… jugaad is the fix in the plan. Innovation is long term, jugaad is short term.

Finally, you also need to consider the long term impact of short term solutions. Universe has a way of balancing these things. Easy fixes to problems disappear as quickly as they come. Jugaad is a transaction where you maybe buying time by paying with quality. Trust me, you don’t want to be in that place.

So the next time you think of jugaad, think long term and think quality and then focus on the solution. That’s when you will have… “jugnovation” 🙂


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