Lessons of war | Opinions | ChannelWorld.in


Lessons of war

By Vijay Ramachandran on Mar 26, 2012
Vijay Ramachandran About the author

Vijay Ramachandran

Vijay Ramachandran is the Editor-in-Chief of ChannelWorld. Contact him at vijay_ramachandran@idgindia.com

Innovation is a much abused word. And, when the going gets tough out comes the mantra — innovate. It’s funny how recession rhymes with innovation, so much so that a Google search for the twin terms will yield a staggering 30 million results. I’ll confess that took me by surprise.

Most organizations know instinctively that when dealing with tough times, one needs to change strategy and look to do different things in order to survive and prosper.

What also amazed me more, was that a bulk of the articles that I came across were the ‘don’t-stop-innovating-just-because-money’s-short’ kind. I buy that that navigating the hows of innovation may still mystify companies but the whys can hardly be in question.

As far as I can tell, adversity and not prosperity breeds the best form of innovation.

Take World War II, for instance. The effects of the war had far-reaching implications for most of the world. Over 60 million lives were lost, millions of refugees were left homeless, the European and British economies collapsed, and most of Europe’s industrial infrastructure was destroyed. were rationed.

Still, in a situation that can only be described as dire, the Allies and Axis powers pulled off many technological miracles. Both sides were short on everything — money for sure, but low timelines were typical (after all the option was being run over). Yet, in six years of conflict, the crucible of war spewed out radar, sonar, microwaves, antibiotics, jet engines, computers, alternative fuels, and I’m not even bringing up weaponry.

Let me tell you the story of synthetic rubber. By mid-1942 Japan controlled all of the Far East and China, and with them nearly all of the world’s supply of natural rubber.

The Allies were desperate for rubber. Without it tires, boots, planes, and almost any thing that their armies required wasn’t possible. So, the United States launched a major effort to figure out new ways to make synthetic rubber. A large team of chemists from many institutions worked almost non-stop till they succeeded in synthesizing a co-polymer of butadiene and styrene, that was dubbed GRS (Government Rubber Styrene). By 1944, over 50 factories in the US were churning out GRS by the ton — more than twice that of the world’s natural rubber production before the beginning of the war.

What I find more fascinating than even the specific innovations that a world at war create, are the lessons that the process holds for us. Each breakthrough product or process required a certain combination of things to achieve. To begin with, an environment favoring experimentation that not only expected but also rewarded failure. Secondly, tight timelines from R&D to deployment, thus requiring quick innovation,  rapid prototyping and continuous improvement. Third, efficiently co-ordinating information, ideas and people with apt levels of security and sharing to improve collaboration.

So how can we apply these lessons to our businesses? I believe at its essence lies an attitude and belief that all hurdles can and will be overcome. Next, setting extremely tight deadlines, since lost time cannot be replaced. Being first to market is more important than perfection—anything can always be improved. And, finally, getting cross-functional groups working for a shared purpose (there’s nothing like a bit of friendly competition to push rapid innovation).

Innovation within businesses is fraught with difficulty. True, game-changing innovation brings with it the risk of catastrophic failure. How many companies are willing to take the plunge, then?

For answers, just look at the four organizations that feature in our cover story this month (Page 28). Each took a decidedly different path to change their fortunes, one that was in keeping with their unique business imperatives

There are lessons in them for all of us.

Latest Opinions

  • The anti-Beatitudes: Calling Apple a religion

    Put on your special underwear and get ready to cut a goat! No, not because our Apple religion calls us to those practices but because arguing Apple is a religion just drives a Macalope do some crazy stuff.

    The Macalope
  • Cameramakers missed the Wi-Fi bandwagon on the road to obsolescence

    The day of the standalone digital camera has passed for all but professional photographers and those who aren't paid for their work but have particular needs a phone's built-in camera can't meet. Smartphones won by making photos easy to share online.

    Glenn Fleishman
  • When it comes to Apple products, how thin is too thin?

    One of the characters in Neal Stephenson's novel Snow Crash uses knives with edges a single atom thick, so sharp they can cut through anything. I think about those knives every time Apple announced a newer, thinner MacBook or iPad or iPhone.

    Jason Snell
  • Yahoo: One Giant Step—Sideways?

    Authentication is the biggest issue that enterprises have to face in a connected world because all systems have flaws.

    Balaji Narasimhan
  • Weird science: The Apple Watch may already be killing you!

    You should see the Macalope's biceps right now. He's totally ripped from all the tables he had to flip because of this piece in the New York Times by Nick Bilton.

    The Macalope

Try These 5 Undiscovered Google Drive Tricks

Google Drive and its attendant apps offer a wealth of tools to help you be more productive. Try these five for the biggest boost.

What Does the Collaborative Economy Mean for Information Security?

Most employers allow their staff reasonable use of office products such as telephones, copy machines, coffee and the like. For the most part, employees won't be using the copy machines to compete with Kinko's or a company car to compete with black car limousine services. Well, at least not until now.

Tech Chat

Collaborating To Outcome Based World: Priyadarshi Mohapatra, Avaya

Priyadarshi Mohapatra, Managing Director, India and SAARC, Avaya, on how IT is transitioning from a keep-the-lights-on role to one that enables customers to deliver results.

The Dawn of the Digital Age: Akhilesh Tuteja, KPMG

The development of digital infrastructure will be a key growth driver for technology and solution providers. 

Paradigm Shift from End-Users to User-First : Parag Arora,Citrix

Parag Arora, Area Vice President and India Head, India Sub-continent, Citrix, says new technologies will force organizations to take a user-first approach in 2015.

Mobile and Cloud Are Gamechangers of the Future: Karan Bajwa, Microsoft

Karan Bajwa, Managing Director, Microsoft India, says, in  2015, organizations will adopt a mobile-first and cloud-first strategy to get ahead of competition.

A Network for the Internet of Everything : Dinesh Malkani,Cisco

Dinesh Malkani, President, India and SAARC, Cisco, talks about IoT and the significant technology transitions in the networking world.

Moving to the Third Platform: Jaideep Mehta, IDC

Cloud and mobility are the two technologies that will fuel the rapid adoption of the third platform in India.

Envisaging a Holistic Security Strategy For 2015: Sanjay Rohatgi,Symantec

Sanjay Rohatgi, President–Sales, Symantec India, says the company has a set of holistic solutions in place to secure organizations from security threats. 

Beating the Bad Guys: Sivarama Krishnan, PwC

Organizations will need to turn inwards to establish robust information security strategies.

Building Capabilities for a Digital Tomorrow: Alok Ohrie,Dell

Alok Ohrie, President and Managing Director, Dell India, on the company’s investments to build end-to-end solutions and delivery capabilities for a digital world.


CEO Comebacks: For Better or for Worse?

We bring to you six global CEOs who made the idea work, or not.

Datacenters in the Weirdest Places

A peek into some of the most unusual datacenter locations in the world. Here are 13 datacenters that are built in unusual locations like mines, ships, trucks and even a nuclear collidor. Taking about common wisdom, eh?

12 LinkedIn Mistakes IT Pros Make

LinkedIn is the go-to place for IT pros to market themselves, connect with co-workers, find former colleagues, and meet-up with like-minded folks. Take a few minutes now to make sure your profile showcases your accomplishments, and skills. Here are some common mistakes to avoid.

ChannelWorld Survey: State of the Market 2014

Partners poll their sentiments, expectations, pain points, and challenges for the coming year.

6 Leaders Who Headed for an Abrupt Exit

The abrupt exit of top leaders of Indian and global tech companies this year, with many of them citing ambiguous reasons, surprised the technology world.


Kamtron Systems

Transitioning towards a service-oriented company will boost our growth, believes Kavita Singhal, director, Kamtron Systems.

TIM Infratech

Delivering ‘best of breed’ technologies to enterprises is key to success, says Monish Chhabria, MD, TIM Infratech

Mudra Electronics

A vendor-agnostic strategy helped us sustain business, says Bharat Shetty, CMD, Mudra Electronics.

Systematix Technologies

Our USP is a customer-friendly approach backed by services, says Akhilesh Khandelwal, Director, Systematix Technologies.

CorporateServe Solutions

Our ability to turnaround complex ERP projects in record time is what gets us customer referral, says Vinay Vohra, Founder & CEO, CorporateServe Solutions.

KernelSphere Technologies

We are emerging as an end-to-end systems integrator, says Vinod Kumar, MD, KernelSphere Technologies.

Uniware Systems

We constantly validate emerging technologies for first-mover advantage, says Vergis K.R., CEO, Uniware Systems.

Astek Networking & Solutions

An innovative approach helps us stay successful, says Ashish Agarwal, CEO, Astek Networking & Solutions.

CSM Technologies

Our approach is backed by innovation and simplicity, says Priyadarshi Nanu Pany, CEO, CSM Technologies.


Partnering for Profitability

Atul H. Gosar, Director, Network Techlab, shares how the company’s association with EMC has provided it with a competitive edge and a wide customer base, leading to increased profitability.

Sponsored Content

Promising Pipeline

Venkat Murthy, Prime Mover, 22by7 Solutions, shares how EMC brings in competitive edge by enabling technology, GTM and lead generation, helping 22by7 acquire new customers and retain old ones.

Sponsored Content

Powerful Performance

Deepak Jadhav, Director, VDA Infosolutions, says initiatives by EMC around training and certification have helped the company’s staff improve its performance and enhance customer experience.

Sponsored Content

Performance Booster

Rajiv Kumar, CEO, Proactive Data Systems, says that the solution provider’s association with EMC has helped expand its customer base and added value to existing offerings.

Sponsored Content

Pursuit of Profitability

Santosh Agrawal, CEO, Esconet Technologies, shares insights on how the systems integrator’s association with EMC has spelled sustained success over the years.

Sponsored Content

Non-Performance is Not an Option

Nitin Aggarwal, Director, Trifin Technologies, shares insights on how the association with EMC has helped the system integrator stand out and empowered its personnel to deliver consistent performance.

Sponsored Content


Signup for our newsletter and get regular updates.