We Are Fairy Godmothers of the Modern World, with Deepa Prahalad

Deepa Prahalad is an author and an innovation consultant. She has worked with startups. She’s worked with large multinationals and co-authored the book, Predictable Magic: Unleash The Power of Design Strategy To Transform Your Business, which was selected by Fast Company as one of the best design books of the year. She’s written for the Harvard Business Review, strategy and business; Business Week and was elected member of the International Academy of Management and is ranked number 34 on the inaugural Thinkers50 India list. I love Thinkers50, it’s an amazing resource. Google it and you’ll see what I mean. Just some of the best thinkers in the world are associated with that organization and she was recently selected by leadership guru, Marshall Goldsmith, into his 100 Coaches Program from over 16,000 global applicants.

Rarefied air for sure. Deepa speaks on innovation and design strategy and mentors social entrepreneurs, and I might add social for-profit entrepreneurs and one of the organizations we talk about is ModRoof, an innovative sustainable roofing company in India. She has a BA in Economics and Political Science from the University of Michigan and an MBA from The Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.

Here are the learning points you’re going to get from listening to this conversation. Design is more than aesthetics. Most people think of design – as around the physical aspects of a product, but it’s more than that, it’s emotion. Then we talked about a story of how logistics can be impacted by looking at multiple disciplines. For example, we talk about a worldwide charity that delivers mosquito nets. They have a complete supply chain to delivers mosquito nets to populations that need to protect against malaria. Well, how is that similar to the US supply chain from a wood manufacturer, for example.

Asking those type of questions to develop similarities between problem solving. It’s no longer enough to own your own corporate story. Customers have to help you tell the story. They have to tell the about your wins. The power of open-ended questions to build momentum around ideas and how it’s not necessarily the idea, but the questions around the idea, where you build the momentum. I love this part that Deepa talks about. Information is no longer privileged, which is obvious, but next you are at the 10-yard line the imperative is to execute. If you’ve got access to the information and it’s not privileged, now it’s about execution.

Deepa talks about this other really great concept called the ‘needs versus aspirations’. If we’re taking care of the needs, we’ve lifted a lot of folks out of poverty, billion out of poverty, but what are their aspirations? What are their aspirations moving forward as they climb the economic ladder? Asking that question and creating something takes optimism, versus when you need something. Deepa breaks that distinction down during the interview.

We talked about the hero’s journey and the importance of emotion and the story that you’re telling and that hero’s journey. I also ask questions about nostalgia. How important is nostalgia? We talk about the sweet spot’ between the past, the important past and the future. We look at how we develop that sweet spot that people love.

Finally, social entrepreneurship, with so many people coming online, the needs for large segments of the population to be served by entrepreneurs who want to bring products and services to those billions. How does that happen? How much does social entrepreneur think? It’s a wide and varied conversation that you’re going to love and I want introduce you now to my conversation with Deepa Prahalad.


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Here are the learning points you’re going to get from listening to this conversation.

  • Design is more than aesthetics, it’s about emotion
  • How the logistics of delivering mosquito nets worldwide to populations that need protection against malaria is similar to the logistics of a U.S. supply chain.
  • The impact of the ‘rising billions’ and how do we serve their needs
  • It is no longer enough to market solely with your own company story. You need the support of your customers telling their story about you, your product(s), and their experience with your company.
  • The power of open-ended questions to build momentum around ideas.
  • Information is no longer privileged. You are at the 10-yard line – the imperative is to execute.
  • Needs vs. aspirations with Innovation
  • Creating and Optimism vs. Needs
  • A hero’s journey and the importance of emotion.
  • Nostalgia the sweet spot’ between the past and future.
  • Social entrepreneurship is for-profit, not free

How to get in touch with Deepa Prahalad

Books | Publications:

Predictable Magic: Unleash the Power of Design Strategy to Transform Your Business, by Deepa Prahalad and Ravi Sawhney, pub. by Pearson Education, Inc., publishing as Prentice Hall, 2011.

This episode is sponsored by the CIO Innovation Forum, dedicated to Business Digital Leaders who want to be a part of 20% of the planet and help their businesses win with innovation and transformation.

I hope you enjoyed this interview with Deepa Prahalad. You can go to the show notes to read the details of what we discussed in this episode.

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