The situation we are in is a golden period for innovation,” says Amitoj Singh, Senior Director and Head, Product Innovation Team at Samsung India. That’s an interesting take on innovation, especially at a time when most of the world is behind doors.
But why? “So far, most companies introduced innovations that, in some way or the other, sought to change consumer behaviour. It’s just the opposite now. People want to change. We will all need to develop products that will fit into this change,” explains Amitoj.
That is precisely why Amitoj and his team is studying the changing lifestyles of people, and is working on predicting which of these lifestyle changes will be part of “The New Normal”, going forward.
Working from home the last couple of weeks has been a very enlightening experience and Amitoj says his team’s productivity has gone up. While most people feel collaboration is the key to innovation, he says that is a paradox.
“For innovation, collaboration is important, but success comes from individual contributions & self-belief.” His team members are now getting more time to think, introspect, pursue their passions, and as a result their productivity has increased. One team members has finally got back to automotive sketching after a long gap of a year, and he keeps posting it on the team group for inspiration. Another has turned his passion for books into a YouTube channel on book reviews.
“Creative satisfaction that these individuals get from pursuing their passions drives their work, their thoughts on innovations. Work from home is giving fuel to their individuality,” says Amitoj.
After completing a PhD in Emotions & Design and Masters in Industrial Design from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi, and working at the institute’s Design Centre as an Assistant Professor for a few years, Amitoj joined Samsung to set up the Product Innovation Team at Samsung in 2010 to drive localized consumer innovations.
This team works with businesses across the company to create innovations that Samsung consumers have come to love over the years. The latest in the line of innovations is the Curd Maestro Refrigerator that was unveiled by Samsung in January this year. This is the world’s first refrigerator that makes curd.
Over these years, the biggest ammunition for this team has been consumer insights. But in the current scenario, getting consumer insights is a challenge, so they had to find an alternate route. His team is now busy getting responses from employees across the company in India and then studying it to understand effects of staying at home on people, their pain points and the impact it has on their lifestyle and attitudes.
He himself gets a lot of these insights from his big joint family – his parents and his elder brother’s family and his wife and two children, and appreciates the advantages of living in a joint family much more in such trying times.
“We practice social distancing but not emotional distancing. With so many of us at home, we aren’t missing too much of the fun,” he says.
Everyone in his family is using technology to follow their passions. His wife and daughter’s Zumba classes have now moved online, and so have his son’s drum lessons.
These days, when not working, he is rekindling his passion for sci-fi movies, and initiating his son to the fascinating world of these movies!
Three Mantras for Innovators
- Be Honest
- Fail Fast
- Think Big