How Aspirations Create Ideas and Generate Revenues
During the dot-boom of the late 1990s, it was not uncommon for a student at a top business school to hatch what he or she thought would be the next great innovation, line up funding, and drop out of school to build that dream start-up. The problem was that many of these businesses never succeeded - and top business schools like Harvard, Columbia, and Stanford did not allow the students to return after their dot-coms went bust. Of course, some of those business school drop-outs now lead the largest and most successful social media and search engine corporations on earth.
But why did so many students during that era take the enormous risk of leaving a prestigious business school that was incredibly difficult to gain admission to, in the first place, in order to build their own enterprises? Looking back, ample funding in the form of venture capital and private equity fueled this phenomenon. But so did the fact that dot-commers were known for creating new types of business models, new kinds of businesses even that revolved around downright fun and open workplaces. It was all about finding a problem worth solving and going right ahead and solving it. To many of these business school students, getting an MBA and then a job at a traditional, siloed, 100-year-old conglomerate was a dismal prospect.
These days, with the global economy as turbulent and unpredictable as ever, you'd be hard pressed to find students who would readily drop out of a top MBA program in order to follow their dreams. But lucky for them, many global corporations have changed the way they do business and connect to the marketplace. Allow me to share with you an interesting facet of our very own company. Perhaps by now you've heard of the way we innovate. We call it Zero Distance. Infosys is experiencing a grassroots movement within our 180,000-strong global corporation. Young MBAs who join Infosys aren't afraid of asking questions, finding problems and going all out to solving these.
Zero Distance is about three core aspirations: to be closer to our clients' end users, to technology, and to creating value for our clients' business. If we all aspire to accomplish this, chances are we will succeed in making Infosys a nimbler and more responsive digital enterprise that's truly close to all our clients. Zero Distance not only encourages our employees to aspire; the philosophy endorses it as vital to creating an organization in which everyone has a stake in finding and solving problems...in making something meaningful...in making real progress. With Zero Distance, I think we discovered that we'll never need to rely on "innovation departments" because a lot of what we do is executed by committing ourselves - each of us and our teams - to being more in tune with our clients and finding ways to identify and solve their most pressing problems.
I was recently telling a colleague about a story I'd read about the early days of a now-famous Silicon Valley company. The man who recounted the story was there for a job interview and witnessed one of the company's founders bouncing around the office on a children's toy balloon. The interviewee, dressed in his best suit and carrying copies of his resume, wasn't sure what to make of the off-beat scene. Long story short: He was offered and accepted a position at the company. Although he has never bounced around the office like the company's founder did, he understands why it was so important to be able to do so. In fact, the colleague to whom I relayed the story summed it up perfectly: The toy balloon is a symbol of that company's ability to embrace new ways of thinking and acting in the spirit of that thinking - however bold and unconventional that might be.
Such new thinking - the questioning of status quo - often results in a closer connection to clients. This is at the very heart of Zero Distance and how it helps us deliver results that allow our clients to see totally new and untapped opportunities. And, of course, gives every Infoscion a compelling reason to wake up and go change the world ...even if just a little bit ...each day.