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Businesses don't have to scrimp on quality - a little innovation can go a long way

‘Frugal Innovation’ is a book for businesses that want to do great things with less.
Mar 26th 2015, 7:30 PM 5,928 3


IRELAND MAY BE pulling itself clear of a horribly prolonged recession but don’t be fooled – things are still far from ideal for small businesses.

Talk to any Irish entrepreneur and he or she will tell you – getting your business set up and established is a long, tortuous affair, and once you’re there keeping your head above water is the immediate priority.

In such an atmosphere, particularly one where banks won’t lend and working capital can be so hard to come by, cutting costs and corners might seem a fairly understandable survival mechanism.

Frugal Innovation argues differently.

The book, co-authored by Silicon Valley-based innovation expert Navi Radjou and marketing professor Jaideep Prabhu, suggests that the solution for businesses is to ‘do more with less’. Put another way, innovate and consolidate, and produce a better product for less, not an inferior one.

frugal3 Navi Radjou and Jaideep Prabhu

The iPhone 4 (itself long since obsolete) contains more technology than the Apollo spacecraft of the 1970s.  Radjou and Prabhu argue that such incredible advances in technology in recent years have spawned a cutting-edge ‘virtual R&D platform’ that is always switched on.

In other words, the tools for every business to innovate to a supremely high standard are already there – they just need to be exploited.


The book distils frugal innovation into six key principles:

  • Engage and iterate
  • Flex your assets
  • Create sustainable solutions
  • Shape customer behaviour
  • Co-create value with prosumers (the authors argue a prosumer, or proactive consumer, is the natural inheritor of today’s culture – a consumer who creates the products and services he/she wants)
  • Make friends with fellow innovators

If that all seems a little heavy, it actually translates into a (relatively) engrossing read. The writers say nothing that they cannot back up, and the book deals with practicalities while pointing out that the modern world has made almost everything more achievable than it once might have been.

Frugal Innovation is structured by the principles it advocates, and incorporates specific case studies for each.  From a small-business perspective, these may seem a little out there, but the book’s principles are applicable across the spectrum. Reading about how the likes of Britain’s Giffgaff mobile network innovated on the idea of customers helping one another is fascinating.

Who should read this book?

If you have a small business and want to know how to jump up a level Frugal Innovation is a great read.  It fosters common sense and showcases people with a can-do attitude and a willingness to make their assets work for them without breaking the bank. For anyone interested in the fascinating ways people are innovating in a world constantly evolving this book should be a definite port of call.  The prose is a little heavy it’s true, but it’s still a page-turner on its own merits.

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What will it tell me?

  • How to do more with less regardless of your field.
  • The principles of modern innovation and how to make them work for your business.
  • How to think about the big picture, and realize that quality sells, and it needn’t cost the earth.

In a nutshell

People are doing brilliant things in business both for themselves and for the world, and they’re doing it on a budget.  Frugal Innovation can show you how.

If you liked it, you’ll love:

Jugaad Innovation: Think Frugal, Be Flexible, Generate Breakthrough Growth

A Beautiful Constraint: How to Transform Your Limitations into Advantages, and Why it’s Everyone’s Business

This month, as part of’s ongoing small and medium enterprise (SME) focus, we look at business and the environment, and making enterprise more sustainable.

To view other SME stories from our collection, click here.

Read: Setting up a food business is a lot more doable than you think

Read: What you can learn from one of the world’s greatest football managers? Quite a lot, really

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Cianan Brennan


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