Creating the Jugaad Habit
August 8, 2012
A few weeks ago I wrote an essay on fundamental building philosophies for startups in which I called Jugaad the essence of entrepreneurship. To refresh jugaad is a clever ingenious solution in the face of no or little resources. Some adjectives for Jugaad are persistent resourcefulness in face of adversity, flexibility in the face of risk, guts, moxy and my personal favorite pulling magic out of your a**.
Jugaad is frequently talked about at YetiZen. We talk about it internally when make strategic business decisions for YetiZen, when we are launching something new, when we doing an after-action-review and thinking about how to improve, and we look for it in founders, employees, and mentors we bring into YetiZen.
If it is the essence of entrepreneurship how come I haven’t heard about it before?
The reason is very few entrepreneurs have the courage to talk about achievement through jugaad. This is probably since both our peers and society at large don’t want to hear about our jugaad moments. Jugaad goes against the myth that success is only possible for the superior man or woman. At its core is the belief that it is the creativity that comes from normal men and women and often in the face of extreme or unpleasant circumstances and constraints. Another reason you do not hear much about jugaad is unexplained magic always makes for more mystery, a better story and in business more leverage.1
Entrepreneurship forces you to be a master of jugaad but you must cultivate the right mindset
Think about it—the journey of entrepreneurship is about creating a completely new business using your internal competencies and resources to maximize on a market opportunity. Even if you are a first mover you are always trying to achieve more, faster than other better-funded and larger competitors who have more cash to burn on the way to a solution. All of this in the face of an established way of doing things by your customers, investors, employees and everyone else around you. If that won’t force you to become a master of jugaad, nothing will.
That being said it takes most entrepreneurs a lot of trial and error before they become masters of jugaad. This is mainly because they do not adopt a jugaad mindset and instead attempt jugaad haphazardly. Here are some tips to help you cultivate a jugaad mindset.
Tips to developing a Jugaad Mindset
Developing Jugaad Mindset Tip #1:
Believe there is always a way and nothing and no one can hold you back
Creating something new involves believing that a world substantially different than the current one is possible. The jugaad mindset goes beyond this belief in a possibility to a conviction in the face of adversity that there is always a way to achieve what you want. It may be a way others didn’t know, didn’t find, or didn’t look for—whatever their reason was you don’t care and you refuse to give yourself any reasons.
You must also have the conviction that nothing and no one can hold you back, particularly in the face of naysayers, disbelief, push back and threats. In fact it is precisely when your back is against the wall and you face creative constraints that you must train yourself to get in the habit of jugaad solutions.
After all it’s those who believe they can change the world who do. Whenever you forget this watch this old Apple ad to remind you:
Developing Jugaad Mindset Tip #2:
Aim fire, aim fire, work with the imperfect info and knowledge you have
Those of you who know me know that I have a major beef with traditional education. In particular I despise the way strategy is taught in business schools—limited rules and frameworks that you then apply to prewritten business cases that are written to cleanly fit with the frameworks. Real business is not like this at all.
Real business is about critically assessing the imperfect information you have in limited time. You do not have time for analysis paralysis, long debates and the answer is rarely a clean established well-known framework. It helps to develop your critical thinking skills so that in the limited time you do have you focus on understanding the nuances of your information and with an eye to being flexible and creative in the strategies you use to achieve your goals. Critically question assumptions and be flexible, whether this means considering and trying methods you previously thought would not work or spinning the problem on its head and coming up with something completely unique. Revise based on results and new learnings along the way. What ever you do, act fast!
Developing Jugaad Mindset Tip #3:
Forget the fear of failure
The more established you are as a company and the more people know about you the harder jugaad becomes, as all of us fear publically. Ultimately to be the master of jugaad you need to try many jugaads. When you do this 80% of your jugaads will fail. Since this is inevitable, why fear it? Keep your head up and keep going.
Developing Jugaad Mindset Tip #3:
When you do fail learn
Use failure as an opportunity for learning. Critically assess why your jugaad didn’t work. Develop your own best answers for why it didn’t work and then discuss with your value network why they think it didn’t work. And then adapt—remember strategy is not about coming up with the correct answer it is about adapting towards the best answer and approach based on the current situation.
Developing Jugaad Mindset Tip #3:
Do not try to jugaad everything all of the time
One of the most common mistakes I have seen from people, after they have successfully pulled a few jugaads, is to try to jugaad everything all of the time. Not only is this unsustainable, it is also a sign of mental laziness. Rather than smartly making decisions about what opportunities impact business goals the most and focusing on jugaad solutions for those, these people are trying to jugaad everything to give their egos a false sense of mastery. Remember, jugaad that does not progress your highest priority business goals is useless and the only thing it will achieve in the long run is your eventual burn-out.
Also in building a company if you are having to jugaad for the same type of problem and similar opportunity without a substantial change in circumstances more than once you are relying on your jugaad skills to get you out of a situation you could have prevented or planned better. It is better to use jugaad initially to build competencies and assets that allow you to build leverage and attempt bigger and better business goals.
And now go jugaad your way through your workday and week. Would love to hear about the jugaads you are most proud of someday. Here is to jugaad and your success!
1One person who has done a lot of work in Silicon Valley to reduce the myths around success is Cassandra Phillips by creating and running the very popular Failcon. If you are an entrepreneur you owe it to yourself to attend at least one Failcon in your life.