Nanovation

Innovation that changes the world

Dain Dunston

1. An Impossible Dream in the Service of a Cause

“The human mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original shape.”

Oliver Wendell Holmes

Nanovation is inflamed by the daring pursuit of a big, big challenge, a dream that seems, literally, impossible. Inflamed, because it lights a fire that won’t die down, an itch that won’t go away. Daring, because it invites scorn, obstruction and very public failure. Impossible, because if it were easy, someone else would have done it. Unless you are willing to tackle seemingly impossible problems that scare others to death, you’ll never develop the capacity for Nanovation.

The Nano was a big dream, but the fact that it rose out of the Tata Group shouldn’t be surprising given its history. Undeterred by lack of precedent or experience, the Tata’s have a reputation for choosing bold and daring problems to solve. For over a century, from Jamsetji to J.R.D. to Ratan, the Tata’s propensity to ask, “What if…?” and “Why not?” has dramatically contributed to the development of India.

“Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water, or do you want a chance to change the world?”

Steve Jobs to John Scully,
on inviting him to become a short lived CEO of Apple

Nanovation isn’t about finding a double digit increase in market share. It’s not about maximizing short-term profits or raising the stock price or any of the normal business metrics most people look for. Those things are great, but they don’t lead to Nanovation. Nanovation comes from doing something you believe will change the world.

Today, emerging countries account for 90 percent of the world’s annual 1.2 million road fatalities. India is a country of 1.1 billion people. Less than five percent of that billion who use the roads in India ride in cars. The rest are on foot, motorbikes, scooters, rickshaws (three-wheel taxis), or bicycle-pulled carts. It is estimated that nearly 350 people die each day in road accidents—that’s 125,000 people a year! Two-thirds of Thailand’s 13,000 annual traffic deaths, 40 percent of Indonesia’s traffic deaths, a third of Sri Lanka’s and an even higher fraction of Vietnam’s 12,000 annual traffic fatalities are drivers or child passengers on small scooters and motorbikes.

What if, by making the transition from a less safe form of transportation to the Nano, you could cut those fatalities by just 10%? That’s 120,000 lives! What if just 10% of the people in India who would get injured in road accidents don’t? That’s another million people. Add to this the people out of work, jobs lost, the cost of caring for the disabled and the impact is huge. Team Nano would tell you that this is what they are fighting for.

Building the Nano meant wiping the slate clean and throwing out everything the auto industry believed to be true about cost structures, design and development, and distribution. In doing so, Team Nano learned that the passion to solve a huge, complex problem sets the stage for extraordinary innovation.

When a dream is this far-reaching, you know it addresses a problem that is consequential and momentous. When the dream is this inspiring it has the potential to truly differentiate your business in a sea of sameness. When a dream is this profound people come out of the woodwork with fire in the belly to play a role in fulfilling it. When a dream is this BIG, it has the power to unleash a tidal wave of imagination, creativity, and ingenuity.