From Failing Out Of An MBA Program To Becoming One Of The Worlds Top Innovation Thinkers

“Putting limits on resources removes limits on resourcefulness.” – Navi Radjou

Navi Radjou is an innovation and leadership thinker based in Silicon Valley. Drawing on his Indian upbringing, he was the first (with his co-authors) to capture the phenomenon of jugaad—a Hindi word for improvised solutions born out of ingenuity in resource-constrained settings. His first book, a global bestseller of the same name, Jugaad Innovation (100,000 copies sold worldwide), shows how companies and entrepreneurs can unleash and harness the grassroots ingenuity of employees, customers, and partners to co-create simple but effective solutions that deliver greater socio-economic and ecological value at a lower cost.

Throughout the two decades of his career—spanning the public sector to market research and then as an academic and author—Navi’s ideas have been shaped by his eclectic cultural background including his Indian roots, his French education, and his current Silicon Valley milieu.

Navi’s most recent book, published by The Economist in 2015, is Frugal Innovation: How To Do More With Less (with a foreword by Paul Polman, CEO, Unilever), shows how companies can innovate faster, better, and more sustainably in today’s customer-driven digital economy shaped by climate change. It won the CMI Management Book of the Year 2016 Award. Navi is also co-author of From Smart To Wise, a book on next generation leadership that CEO coach Marshall Goldsmith calls “fascinating” and PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi views as “a practical guide for accelerating your own wise leadership development.”

Navi’s next book, Conscious Society (due in 2018), will show how all of us can consciously direct human evolution towards a better future — and steer away from a self-destructive course — by co-creating inclusive and sustainable communities that value quality of life over quantity in life.

In 2013 Navi received the prestigious Thinkers50 Innovation Award—given to a management thinker who is reshaping the way we think about and practice innovation and is ranked as one of the 50 most influential persons shaping innovation in France. His TED talk on frugal innovation has garnered over 1.5 million video views.

Navi is the curator of WAVE: How Collective Ingenuity Is Changing The World—a major exhibition on grassroots innovation and entrepreneurship produced by BNP Paribas that has traveled to major cities around the world—including Paris, San Francisco, Istanbul, Mumbai—since 2014.

Until 2011, he served as Executive Director of the Centre for India & Global Business at Judge Business School, University of Cambridge, where he is currently a fellow. Previously, he was a longtime VP/analyst at Forrester Research in Boston and San Francisco and advised senior executives worldwide on breakthrough growth strategies. Navi has consulted with leading international organizations—including E&Y, GM, Fujitsu, IBM, Microsoft, P&G, SAP, and TCS.
He serves on the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on Innovation & Entrepreneurship.

His work has been featured on NPR, BBC, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Economist, and Financial Times. He regularly writes in Harvard Business Review, MIT Sloan Management Review, and strategy+business. Navi has addressed audiences across the world in venues like the World Economic Forum, Council on Foreign Relations, Harvard, and MIT.

Born and raised in India, Navi holds dual French-American citizenship. He studied at Ecole Centrale Paris and the Yale School of Management. He lives in Palo Alto, California.

2:50 Frugal Innovation

7:00 The McGyver Instinct

10:20 Artificial Constraints & 2G Tuesdays

12:30 Commitment

15:40 Creative Constraints & Challenges

18:45 Whats The Closest You’ve Ever Gotten To Quitting?

21:45 Failing Out An MBA At Yale

25:18 How Did You Recover?

30:00 Finding A Visa

32:00 Reframing Failure and Finding Purpose

35:00 Connecting The Dots & Looking Back

42:00 Most Recent Failures

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Bonus Content

As you may already know, every guest on our show completes and submits a “Resume of Failures”. You can find Navi’s here.



Beyond every major success, you’ll find countless missed attempts, oversights and mistakes.  What matters most, is how YOU choose to respond to it!

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“In order to succeed you must fail, so that you know what not to do the next time.” ~Anthony D’Angelo
“My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.” ~Abraham Lincoln
“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” ~Henry Ford
“You can’t have any successes unless you can accept failure.” ~George Cukor
“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” ~Albert Einstein
“I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is a step forward.” ~Thomas A. Edison
“The majority of men meet with failure because of their lack of persistence in creating new plans to take the place of those which fail.” ~Napoleon Hill
“I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.” ~Michael Jordan
“There are two kinds of people in this world: those who want to get things done, and those who don’t want to make mistakes.” ~John Maxwell
“Failure is instructive. The person who really thinks learns quite as much from his failures as from his successes.” ~John Dewey
“Life’s real failure is when you do not realize how close you were to success when you gave up.” ~Anonymous
“The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one.” ~Elbert Hubbard
“The only time you mustn’t fail is the last time you try.” ~Charles F. Kettering
“You always pass failure on your way to success.” ~Mickey Rooney
“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” ~Winston Churchill
“I failed my way to success.” ~Thomas Edison
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” ~Thomas Edison
~“The better a man is, the more mistakes he will make, for the more new things he will try.” ~Peter Drucker
“The only real failure in life is one not learned from.” ~Anthony J. D’Angelo
“My reputation grows with every failure.” ~George Bernard Shaw
“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” ~Thomas A. Edison
“Failure doesn’t mean you are a failure… it just means you haven’t succeeded yet.” ~Robert Schuller