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An unusual leadership development program that promises to “make a difference”, transforming young people into powerful grass-roots leaders urgently needed to transform our organizations – and change the world. Recognizing social innovation ideas from the, Gen Y, who have what it takes to be leaders – not tomorrow, but now.
Called “Mad Ltd.”, it aims to foster innovation leadership among youth long before they are of traditional “leadership age,” unleashing energy that can be applied to India’s pressing social, technology and business challenges.
At a time when India had a total of just 250 computers, Shiv Nadar, the founder of HCL, led a young team of eight who passionately believed in the growth of the IT industry. That entrepreneurial vision in 1976, born out of a Delhi “barsaati”, (akin to a garage start-up), resulted three and a half decades later into a global transformational technology enterprise.
Today, HCL is among India’s leading Technology companies, as a $6.2 1billion enterprise having 90000 employees worldwide. It provides IT consulting services to clients globally and has presence in 31 countries. Comprising two companies listed in India, HCL Technologies (www.hcltech.com) and HCL Infosystems (www.hclinfosystems.in).
In 2005, HCL Technologies embarked upon a journey whose goal was a reversal of the company’s slow but steady decline. The global technology and IT services firm, despite growing at a healthy rate, was falling behind its three larger Indian rivals, who were growing faster and gaining both market share and mindshare.
So the new CEO, Vineet Nayar, launched a number of experiments. They were designed first to get employees to acknowledge the company’s need for positive change and then to empower and energize those employees to take the lead in making the change happen. Just as those efforts were beginning to yield results, the economy crashed. But the company continued to experiment with new approaches and, while rivals struggled, HCL’s now turbo-charged growth rate continued unabated through the downturn. HCL’s strong performance has resulted from the success of its management philosophy – known somewhat provocatively as “employees first, customers second” (EFCS).
At the forefront of this management shift was the belief, that ideas fuel change, progress, evolution and sometimes, revolutions. People who come up with such ideas are often called MAD. HCL stretched beyond its own employee base in search of MADness and reached out to Gen Y who fuel India’s unsolicited growth, through a program – MAD LTD (Make a Difference, Lead the Difference).
MAD LTD runs as a leadership innovation program with EFCS as its core essence among the youth, or Gen Y, in Engineering Campuses across India and is spreading its wings to encompass more.
Further, the program has turbo-charged HCL’s recruiting efforts on the more than 50 engineering campuses where the contest has been promoted.
HCL Technologies focuses on strengthening the education and innovation capabilities among Indian Youth through the MAD LTD program. A primary trigger behind the program was a demographic and psychographic conception of today’s youth:
- The urge to disrupt the status quo is one key attribute of an aspiring leader – is part of their makeup or gene.
- The amount and richness of the information they take in – at any given point in time. A Gen Y-er may be interacting with four or five digital information feeds. This manifests fresh thinking and openness to different points of view.
- The Social Media Generation’s transparent and collaborative work style is well-suited to solving today’s complex problems.
- Their extraordinary passion, energy and willingness to throw themselves at problems surpasses those traits in people of her own generation.
The MAD LTD program is an initiative which grew out of the desire of HCL to deepen innovation among these young college students. In the process, we not only enrich the ecosystem with new innovative ideas but also learn from GenY who shall drive the world in the coming time by giving our current employees an opportunity to connect with the students through formal mentoring programs.
Hence, the key objectives of program is articulated as follows:
- Engage and Enable GenY to come up with innovative ideas and empower them to bring a difference in the world around them.
- To identify individuals with disruptive ideas which make a difference to the society, and honor their mettle
- Build the HCL brand among potential employees and future leaders, as one who believes in innovation and recognizes the need for sustainability and social relevance
University-level engineering students compete to be the CEO of a “virtual organization” called MAD LTD., which stands for “Make a Difference, Lead the Difference.” Ultimately, MAD LTD takes shape of the idea conceived by the participant. The program launched in Sep 2010 is in its third year, and the two rounds so far have generated 2,400 ideas for meeting the country’s challenges.
The program has garnered some notice in India. Here’s how it works:
- In the first phase, Ideas are invited over an online platform and are mentored, improved and refined.
- In the next phase, shortlisted ideas battle for the crown of CEO of MAD LTD in a Grand Finale.
The program encourages students to submit innovative ideas, and for each season a winner is chosen and mentored to implement the idea. It not only identifies the leaders but also promotes their concepts and pushes them a step closer to realization through funding and mentorship.
(Refer Additional Material 1 - MAD LTD Media Snapshots)
The 2011 winner was a program called KAP – Kids, Adults, Plants – that brings together street children and adult mentors for a mission of growing plants to make the planet a better place to live.
The 2012 winner was a program called “No to Food Wastage, No to Starvation,” which created a delivery system for aaking leftover food from restaurants and other food-service venues and distributing it to the poor in India’s cities.
(Refer Additional Material 2 - MAD LTD Collaterals)
The winners of the first two rounds received support from HCL in order to expand their programs across India. The creators of many of the other submitted ideas received mentorship from HCL employees. (The Mad Ltd. website is at http://madltd.com/index.php.)
MAD LTD concluded its second season with a grand finale hosted by CNBC TV 18 (an Indian affiliate Business News channel of CNBC) in June 2012.
(Refer Youtube Links in Additional Material Section)
MAD LTD has run for 2 years now and is entering its 3rd season early 2013. In the past couple of seasons many ideas have been implemented in different parts of the country.
During last two seasons of the program we came across a few instances where we felt a need to add and modify our approach.
We observed that though today’s youth has some real good ideas and were trying to implement them with all their effort, there was a lack of experience and knowledge which held them back. To overcome this situation, we mapped the participants with industry experts under three broad categories – Technology, Social and Business to enable these bright minds to approach their initiatives more effectively and efficiently.
Though the MAD LTD program identifies an individual winner, but we felt a need to improve collaboration between participants. We did so by improving engagement among them via online as well as on ground initiatives. Consequently, we saw many students from various cities combining their initiatives and operating out of multiple points in the nation thus automatically improving the scale to which they were earlier impacting society. An impactful marketing program and compelling collaterals and catchy Title just helped the cause.
(Refer Additional Material 2 - MAD LTD Collaterals)
The MAD LTD initiative has completed two seasons and cumulatively touched nearly 35,000 students across 60 Campuses. MAD LTD as a concept promotes innovation and “out of the box” ideas. The quality of Ideas submitted under MAD LTD is becoming more inclined towards social change with subsequent seasons of the program.
The program saw a 266% rise in submission of ideas in season 2. MAD LTD concluded its second season with a grand finale hosted by CNBC TV 18 in June 2012.
(Refer Youtube Links in Additional Material Section)
Out of 7000 + participants and close to 2000 sustainable ideas, the title of the CEO of MAD LTD II was won by Sneha Kunasani who participated in the program with her start up – N2 – No to Food Wastage, No to Starvation. Through N2, Sneha aims to bridge the gap between the malnourished slums and the daily surplus food in hotels, corporate canteens and mess and has been working on it in the city of Hyderabad.
Post winning the title, HCL Technologies, via its Diversity and Sustainability team, is closely working with Sneha to expand her idea multi fold and spread to other cities.
About 7,500 engineering students have attended workshops, either on campus or online, about the possibilities for and means of effecting constructive social and organizational change.
MAD LTD. has 27,000 Facebook followers.
In June, CNBC India aired two half-hour programs (Refer Youtube Links in Additional Material Section) in which the finalists’ projects were showcased, the creators were questioned by a panel of judges and the winner was announced. Plans for the 2013 contest are underway now.
Few Examples of innovative Ideas bourne out of the MAD LTD platform include:
- ‘Enable The Disable’ – The initiative is taking actions to improve life of people with disabilities and put them at par with the other citizens
- ‘Save Extra Irrigation Water’ – This initiative trains farmers to avoid underutilization of resources especially water. They have implemented an automated system which indicates the ideal amount of water required to sustain the growing crop thus avoiding water wastage.
- ‘E3 – Treatment of Slums’ - E3 stands for Enhance, Educate, Enrich. The initiative targets the slums and applying the E3 improvement approach to their lives.
- KAP (Kids-Adults-Plants) KAP is a social program which connects adults who have time and the will, to give love and time to orphans and street kids. Together they grow plants and make this planet a better place.
Parameter Summay MAD LTD – Season I & II
- Colleges Approached 60
- Online Followers 27,000
- Students Reached On Ground 35,000
- MAD Ideas Submitted 2426
The MAD concept, which is a natural adjunct to HCL’s the “Employees First, Customers Second” management philosophy, has spawned a number of manifestations within HCL, as well. These include MAD Jam, a bottom-up innovation contest and platform for celebrating innovation among “value zone” employees who work directly with customers on creating solutions to customer problems.
We think this is a powerful example of how you can engage young people to perform beyond their elders’ – and their own – expectations. Achieving this is crucial in a business environment requiring bottom-up innovation and on-the-spot decision making – and in a social environment with daunting challenges requiring breakthrough solutions and massive commitment. In both cases, we need young people who are motivated to jump in, instead of waiting for others to solve “our problems.”
The approach is well-suited for the generation now entering the workforce and society. Members of Gen Y admire influence in horizontal networks more than formal power in vertical hierarchies; are impatient with traditional constraints on their advancement; and are motivated by incentives other than money.
But, most importantly this outside-in innovation stance can help your employee brand and connect with a new breed of potential hires, who are innovative, socially responsible and eager to make a differnce and lead.
1. Additional Material - MAD LTD Media Snapshot
2. Additional Material - MAD LTD COLLATERALS
3. MAD LTD VIDEOS
CNBC Episodes : MAD LTD I
Young Turks Coverage - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YZumCx8NX98
MAD LTD II
Episode 1 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3m2zRL9I2lM
Episode 2 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bsKAeCyixyE
4. Facebook Page - https://www.facebook.com/madltd
5. Website - http://madltd.com/index.php