“Good design is obvious. Great design is transparent.”

Joe Sparano

Those who don’t know the company well might be tempted to say that with the Nano, Tata Motors got lucky—once. As we have shown, that just isn’t true. One only has to look at products such as Indica, Ace (and now its smaller transportation variant, Magic Iris), as well as its commercial vehicles to see that Nano is not a “one-off” kind of innovation. Rather, it is the latest among a string of examples of incremental engineering steps that lead to breakthrough products. That’s what makes Tata Motors an innovative company; not just a company that innovates.

Nanovation is everyone’s business.

Nanovators believe that ordinary people are capable of doing extraordinary things. They operate on the assumption that problem solvers, creative idea generators and change agents can and should be found anywhere in an organization. This is why they are comfortable encouraging people at all levels to step up and let their voices be heard. The more people who step up, the more ideas will be generated.

Create a Yes-Fast Culture

If you can create a culture that says YES to people speaking up, YES to people pursuing their passions, YES to people on the front-line (the true experts) not being quarantined from senior executives, YES to obliterating the barriers that keep people from serving their customers, and YES to blowing the doors off bureaucratic bloat and making decisions fast, the best and brightest will beat a path to your door.

How do you know when innovation has become a way of life in your organization? There are plenty of signs: if restlessness is tolerated, curiosity is encouraged, passion is inspired, creativity is expected, and people are always talking about what’s next, then you’re on your way.

Even now, Ratan Tata is asking people throughout the Tata Group, “What’s the next Nano?”

Making innovation a way of life is a lot of work, and it doesn’t come easy. Ask anyone within the Tata Group; they will tell you they are far from having arrived. After all, building a culture of innovation means that you’re always reinventing, redesigning and redirecting your entire organization.