First, you have to fully understand that Gustavo Grobocopatel and his family, living in Argentina, started with nothing, really. He had neither enormous land holdings, abundant capital, legions of workers, extensive access to venture capitalists, caches of winning lottery tickets nor undiscovered reservoirs of gold or oil in his backyard. All he really had was a dream.

Gustavo Grobocopatel’s story is told in strategy+business by Navi Radjou, Jaideep Prabhu, and Simone Ahuja – three authors who created the s+b article in the November 19, 2012, issue by adapting part of their recent book. If you have not read Jugaad Innovation: Think Frugal, Be Flexible, Generate Breakthrough Growth (Jossey-Bass, 2012), put it on your list of good holiday books to enjoy.

Grobocopatel (as you night have guessed) became a huge success story. I’ll jump to the career crescendo as described in the article: “Grobocopatel’s company, Los Grobo, which the entrepreneur founded in 1984, has evolved rapidly from a vertically integrated family business to an asset-light company. In 2010, it became the second-largest grain producer in Latin America, farming more than 300,000 hectares, trading 3 million tons of grain per year, and generating US$750 million in revenue — all without owning land or a single tractor or harvester.”

How he did that is, according to the authors, by using a “Jugaad” approach. Again, from the article: “Jugaad is a colloquial Hindi word that roughly translates as ‘an innovative fix for your business; an improvised solution born from ingenuity and cleverness’. It is based on six operating principles: seek opportunity in adversity, do more with less, think and act flexibly, keep everything about the business simple, tap the margins of society for employees and customers, and follow your heart.” The authors also note that the concept seems to be much stronger in emerging markets; the authors’ mission seems to be, in part, convincing Western companies and entrepreneurs of the merits of Jugaad.

communicationI like what they have to say. Their article and book discusses how a resilient mindset can transform scarcity into opportunity by combining limited resources with inventiveness. They also are wise to urge that companies incorporate Jugaad into their formal R&D processes. They are not saying that Jugaad should supplant the approaches to innovation already in place, but they do point out the limitations of such formal ways of thinking about the future.

In my own experience with nextsensing, I repeatedly have seen the value of “thinking differently”, which is the main value of considering Jugaad in your own life and work, Not only can ingenuity and cleverness be transferred from east-to-west but so can entire product-service innovations that were originally created in scarcity environments. The developed world will never be fully developed all by itself.

With an increasing access to, and exchange with, novel and distinct cultures, the opportunities for future success are limited only by our collective abilities to think differently.