Jugaad and Bricolage

Business Week* reports on a management fad from India, that goes by a Hindi slang word, jugaad (say joo-gaardh). It means “an improvisational style of innovation”. It’s “inexpensive invention on the fly”. It sometimes has negative connotations, like cutting corners. The idea is that it doesn’t have to be perfect or fancy; it’s just good enough to satisfy immediate needs. (Implicit in the Western fascination with this concept is the assumption that Westerners want products to satisfy more than basic needs, like to match their lifestyle, or provide admirable aesthetic design, or conform to their hip identity.)

This term reminds me of a French term famously associated with the anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss, who died in 2009 at the age of one hundred. The term was bricolage and it loosely translates into English as “tinkering” or simply making do with whatever stuff you have lying around. A tinkerer, or bricoleur in French, is someone who fixes things quickly and cheaply. Levi-Strauss famously argued that mythical thought was bricolage. (In today’s French the word has somewhat different connotations of do-it-yourself; a store like Lowe’s or Home Depot would support your bricolage.)

So jugaad is not really new at all. It’s improvisational creativity, and it’s the source of all innovation.

*Reena Jana, December 14, 2009, “From India, the latest management fad”. page 57.

5 thoughts on “Jugaad and Bricolage

  1. This post caused me to wonder: is it that Westerners products don’t look to satisfy basic needs or is it more about Maslowe’s hierarchy of needs and in the western world, for most people, basic needs are met so that lifestyle, design etc. become the level of need which needs to be satisfied?

  2. I like how you connected Bricolage and Jugaad innovations. In my view also, both are similar processes — tinkering, focusing on the solution and limited by resources.
    Some of the Jugaad innovation approaches might scale, might be strategic, might be of high quality and might be affordable and in that case, they can be affordable innovations and result in products and services that we see in the market place.
    Some other jugaad innovations might not be and they remain as unique application of creativity.

    1. I think there’s something unique about the situation in India and it’s an instructive difference in innovation. Innovation scholars in the U.S. are becoming increasingly interested in innovation in India (as one can see from this article being published in the first place!)

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