“Drive-on” Innovation: An Automatic transmission model

I have been driving a car only after I arrived in the USA and started working here. Driving a car requires complex levels of concentration on several tasks simultaneously. When I announced in my company’s internal blogging platform about clearing the road test and getting my driver’s license, this is what I wrote:

When I was taking the driving lessons for practice before the road test, the missus asked me about how I was finding it all. I said there are too many things that we need to keep watching – we have to maintain the lane discipline, we have to maintain the speed and follow the posted speed limits, we have to signal properly before turning, we have to do the blind spot checking, we have to watch for signals by the other vehicles, etc, etc..

Missus gave me a hard look and said “You sound exactly like Kamalhaasan in a scene from the Tamil film Pammal K Sambandam.” You know, the scene in which he is acting as Lord Shiva for a movie shoot, and the director scolds him for not saying the dialogue properly, and he replies, “The snake on the neck is rolling and I have to control that, the cow is pulling away, I have to press this bladder to make sure River Ganges comes out through my head gear, in the middle of this how do I remember the dialogue and say it too?”

It is not surprise that I thank God for little mercies such as automatic transmission which frees up the driver from the additional task of having to shift the gear manually.

Vehicles conforming to US government standards have the transmission modes ordered as P-R-N-D, usually from top to bottom, or in some cases, left to right. They represent the following transmission modes:

P – Park

R – Reverse

N – Neutral

D – Drive


(The 2 and 1 are second-gear and first-gear transmissions modes, which I will ignore in this discussion, as they are part of the overall D mode representing all forward-gear trains.)

As I was watching the modes when I was driving around, a thought struck me, as thoughts are prone to: If we consider Innovation as a journey, and each of us have our own vehicles that we use to reach our goals and destinations in that journey, what would be the various  transmission modes that we would be using in our vehicles? 

Here I present, the Automatic Transmission model for “Drive-On” Innovation:

P: Pilot

In the Park mode of transmission, the output shaft is mechanically locked, thereby restricting the vehicle from moving in any direction, although the vehicle’s non-driven roadwheels may still rotate freely.

The Pilot mode of innovation works along similar lines. In this mode, there is no actual movement in any particular direction with respect to the proposed innovation or idea. (In other words, it is neither accepted nor rejected outright.) We are testing the applicability and effectiveness of the innovation by putting it through a pilot (usually of a small size, but adequate enough to show clear results that can be extrapolated for the broader situation).

R: Re-use

In the Reverse mode, the reverse gear is engaged with the transmission, giving the ability for the vehicle to drive backwards.

The Re-use mode of innovation works according to the same principle. In this mode, instead of developing new solutions for the same problems over and over again (“reinventing the wheel” to use a travel/vehicle related analogy!!) we re-use the innovations that have been already developed by other sections of the organization (this is in specific organizational context.) This mode forces us to look backwards internally to evaluate the existing options, re-use whatever is available and applicable, before moving forward with new ideas.

N: Nurture

In Neutral mode of transmission, all gear trains are disengaged within the transmission, effectively disconnecting the transmission from the driven roadwheels, so the vehicle is able to move freely under its own weight and gain momentum without the motive force from the engine.

In the Nurture mode, we allow the new ideas and concepts brought to the table to be developed and nurtured into clearly defined business outcomes featuring innovative solutions. In this mode, we encourage the team members to think along different directions and bring more clarity to their ideas, others ideas, etc.

D: Demonstrate

In the Drive mode of transmission, the full range of available forward gear trains are engaged with the transmission, and therefore allows the vehicle to move forward and accelerate through its range of gears.

In the Demonstrate mode of innovation, we are in a position to deliver the innovation to the stakeholders, typically clients, and demonstrate the benefits and value to them. (Please note that we have already run a pilot, obtained the results, used the results and other inputs to nurture the idea so that it is fully developed into a feasible and beneficial solution). The demonstrate mode will allow us to receive feedback to make minor adjustments (if any) and accelerate towards full implementation.


Please share your comments and feedback on the proposed model of automatic transmission modes to help you drive along the innovation journey.

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2 Responses to “Drive-on” Innovation: An Automatic transmission model

  1. Hi Meenaks ! ( I am an ex cogni employee and CH1 fan – papyrus loquacity (169154))
    I am so so so happy that I have come across this blog of yours 🙂
    Wonderful post ..excellent analogy !
    I have been pursuing MBA at Welingkars in Business Design where the course focus is mainly on innovation .
    Past one year we have learning techniques on innovation and we have been doing several projects on innovation..using the IDEO techniques n all..
    Your blog has come at the right point of time for me !Thanks
    The analogy was quite appealing and i could totally relate to each n every point !
    In future i would love to be a part of such team
    Just in case you wanted to know…..

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