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  • Writer's pictureAlaina Samal

Innovation Across Continents

Today I interviewed my husband, Suraj Samal. Mr. Samal was born in an underprivileged part of East India, which lacked things we consider basic, such as clean water, education, and healthcare. Mr. Samal's parents, realizing their children would have no chance to thrive in the village, left and ended up living in a total of seven states as he obtained his primary and secondary education. In India, each state is like a different country, with different educational testing standards and regional language, so this constant movement was a major challenge for Mr. Samal but ended up benefiting him by allowing him to experience different cultures, struggles, and standards of living. After his secondary education, Mr. Samal went to the Indian Institute of Engineering Science and Technology and received his bachelor's in electrical engineering. He worked at the top steel manufacturer, Tata Steel, for a little over five years, then came to Michigan State University and got his master's in business. Mr. Samal is currently a purchasing manager at Procter and Gamble.

Interview transcript:

Interviewer: Alaina Samal

Interviewee: Suraj Samal

Date: November 1, 2021

Alaina Samal: "What is your definition of innovation?"

Suraj Samal: "Innovation could be a product or a service that improves a consumers day to day life."

AS: "What processes lead to innovation?"

SS: "The first process that leads to innovation is identifying what is missing such as pain points or problem statements that the user is facing in their day-to-day life. This could be an old age person trying to cook food or getting it delivered in a safe manner, or it could be going from point A to point B without impacting the environment, or it could be a technology that helps you stay connected to your family. Then being realistic about how to solve these problems."

AS: "What attitudes lead to innovation?"

SS: "An attitude that leads to innovation is taking failure as experience, not as a setback."

AS: "What routines lead to innovation?"

SS: "A routine that leads to innovation is questioning the way things are done, not just following the social norm. Instead question how it could be done better. If it seems unusual, then question it and think outside of the box. People lose that approach over time. They also need curiosity and optimism."

AS: "What are potential issues or problems with innovation?"

SS: "One person can not do an innovation, one person could have a vision but he needs a team of people to believe in that vision and work toward that goal to lead to innovation. Another problem is funding or capital because innovation needs investment so getting that investment and team member's commitment and believing in that product and working towards that same goal is a challenge. Also believing in your own idea as people question it is a challenge, like how EVs [electric vehicles] were supposed to be stupid now that's not true. People said computers are just meant for offices now everyone has a computing device. Airbnb people said who is going to let people stay in their house, now Airbnb has more rooms than any hotel chain in the world. Those people went in different directions than normal people, in directions that society said was wrong and doesn't make sense, but that's what change is all about."

AS: "What is a “dream” project that they would like to work on? or have worked on


SS: "A dream project of mine is accessing as many people on earth as possible and helping them on the front of education by providing that education in a way that is free, like how information is free over google, that leads to some form of job or opportunity for those people. So in developing a product platform such as an app or website, it would need the technology to develop the product and scale it and at the same time, it requires the correct information. It could be like a Wikipedia page or anything that has the right precise information where the user is not struggling to find information in an ocean. Another dream project is pharmaceuticals for healthcare. health care is not accessible for a lot of people, it's different all across the world. So making drugs affordable or making it so anyone can reach a doctor at early stages rather than at a stage where they don't have an option and require surgery. So making it easier just how people use social media for posting photos they could do that about their health as well. Also making it cost-effective and cheaper so anyone can afford it without breaking their bank."

[end interview]

Connection to Sticky Innovation class content:

Many of Mr. Samals views on innovation align with the Field Guide to Human Centered Design including learning from failure, optimism, building a team, and funding.

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