I recently had the opportunity to speak to Dr. Srinivas Rao, the Operating Partner at Phoenix Venture Partners. Over his long career, he has occupied several senior management positions in corporate and has mentored several start-ups.
For Dr Rao, innovation is more than just an approach to problem-solving, it is part of the DNA of all human beings. It is not just business process, but the fundamental desire within each of us to improve current situation. We just need to mindfully experience the world, reflect on it, learn from it, and grow.
The first step toward innovation is to mindfully notice one’s work. It is only when we are continually aware of problems — and their potential solutions — can we grow continually. Dr. Rao compares this mindful awareness to a spiritual feeling. While awareness equals mindfulness, mindlessness or mere repetition provides no insights to improvement. What one requires is mindful reflection.
Learning from one’s mistakes and continuous improvement can lead to a quantum jump, which becomes the ‘aha’ moment of innovation. The ‘Aha’ moment is an awakening that comes through recognition of problems towards an improvement of processes for greater outcomes. To identify this opportunity, one needs both, awareness and reflection, which in turn lead to an awakening — the ‘Aha’ moment!
Dr Rao provides a framework for mindful project planning for start-ups: 1. Mindful thinking; 2. Mindful processing; 3. Mindful execution. Imbibing this discipline can help entrepreneurs cultivate innovation, harness that energy, and make it a sustainable process. The thumb rule of mindfulness is to be aware of what is asked of you, put those principles into practice, aided by flawless execution at all levels of performance.
His advice to new founders would be to understand what problem the project is solving and tweak the product accordingly. Finding the perfect product-market fit is like finding diamonds in the rough and cleaning, polishing, and embellishing the product, based on active feedback. To learn, absorb, and put things into practice is to constantly keep innovating to improve.
About the interviewer: The podcast host, Vidyangi Patil, is a coach and co-author of The Solution Book.