About the talk
Jugaad ("Jugaar") is a colloquial word originating in India that refers to an innovative fix or a simple workaround.
When faced with a problem, teams look to the tools in front of them to find a solution. For our team, that's Confluence.
In this talk, Dash will share some ‘Jugaads’ or little hacks for how to use Confluence for things you may have never considered. Learn how to develop a Jugaad mindset and how it can help your team be more creative and even apply it to solve customer problems.
Watch the talk 👇
"It introduces the audience to the idea of Jugaad and how minimalism, simplicity, empathy, and creativity can be used in day-to-day work to drive inclusive and sustainable change."– Anshuman Dash
About Anshuman Dash
Anshuman is a product person at heart who is responsible for driving Product Strategy for K15t's Scroll Suite of apps.
Driven by his desire to solve problems and his fondness for technology, Anshuman can be found navigating through his path of professional self-discovery building awesome apps for the Atlassian ecosystem, and in the process looking for new avenues for creative expression.
When he is not burning his brain cells over the next big feature to build, Anshuman can be found struggling to learn German, drinking espresso, thinking about drinking espresso, and writing some poetry every now and then.
This is a transcript of the original talk by Anshuman Dash at PM72 Summit organized by Jexo. 👉 Learn more about PM72 Summit: 72-hour Project Management Conference.
My name is Anshuman Dash and I'm a product manager at K15t. And in this talk, I would like to introduce you to the idea of jugaad, which is a colloquial word that refers to an innovative fix or a simple workaround. And share a couple of ways of how you can apply the principles of jugaad to use Confluence for collaboration in innovative, almost unconventional ways.
I grew up in Bhubaneswar, which is the capital city of the state of Orissa on the east coast of India. The city has over 700 temples and has rightfully earned the title of the temple city of India and it boasts of a rich cultural heritage. But for the past few years Stuttgart in Germany has been my home base where I am currently working out of.
Now, given the flexibility of working from anywhere and a fantastically supportive team at K15t, I've been flying back to India for extended periods to work and spend time with my family.
But in the meantime, in my absence, things had got a little interesting back home.
My younger brother, who is an applied AI scientist and a musician, had moved back home after quitting his job in early 2021 to focus full-time on his startup. And one of the first things that he had done was cleaning up my room and turning it into his personal jam room/studio with the hope of getting the old band together someday.
It seems he had grossly underestimated the demands of starting and eventually running his own company. After maybe a few weeks of using the jam room, he had been sucked into the vortex of incubator programs, pitches, seed fundings, product launches and whatnot. And so the jam room just sat there gathering dust, literally and figuratively.
So, when I reached home, I found my room taken over by dusty guitars, keyboards, mixers, amplifiers and a lot of cables strewn all across the floor. Besides all the equipment, the room also had one standing table and a bed. The idea was to reuse the things that were either in the room or lying around the house unused.
I did not want to completely take over the jam room in case, you know, the old band got together.
Therefore, it was time to get creative if I wanted to reclaim my space.
The standing table was turned into a sitting one and I borrowed a chair from our dining room. The mixer doubled up as a laptop stand for obvious ergonomic reasons, and a standless ring light that I found lying around the house provided the occasional lighting during zoom meetings.
The inverter that protected my brother's expensive equipment from voltage fluctuations guarded my laptop. And an Amazon delivery box sat underneath it to give it the right amount of height so that the power cable could reach the power outlet.
And that became my workspace. Next I needed a closet.
Thankfully, I found an old abandoned shoe rack in the basement, which perfectly hid my clothes and all the wires, cables and small equipment from the jam room.
And finally, the stacked up guitar cases provided the necessary shelf space for my vitamins, glasses, and other everyday stuff.
In the end, I was quite proud of what I was able to achieve here.
A temporary living/working space put together with the everyday things, which is not only highly functional, but also minimal efficient and cost effective.
I was proud of the jugaad I was able to come up with, proud enough to have shared the pictures of my room with that embarrassing shade of green on the walls.
Now, jugaad is a word with its origins in India, which refers to a non-conventional frugal innovation. It is often used to signify creativity, to make existing things work, or to create new things with limited resources.
The solutions that come out of jugaad may not be sophisticated or perfect, but they are valuable and oftentimes challenge the status quo of more model of innovation.
Jugaad can be simple life hacks, for instance, when the pandemic hit and the initial lockdown started, there was a shortage of face masks in the market.
But this simple jugaad of making a mask out of old T-shirts really helped me out, especially when I had no idea of how to sew one together.
Or how Moumita B., a chemistry teacher from Pune in India, used everyday things lying around the house to create a setup to stream her classes online when schools were closed due to the lockdowns.
But jugaad can also be bigger innovations that bring lasting changes in communities and people's lives.
For instance, a boy named William Kamkwamba from Malawi built a wind turbine to power multiple electrical appliances in his family's house when he was only 14, using blue gum trees, bicycle parts and materials collected from a local scrapyard.
He then went on to build a solar powered water pump to bring drinking water to his famine-ridden village.
Or how Arunachalam Muruganantham, a high school dropout from the city of Coimbatore in India, built a low-cost sanitary pad-making machine after he saw his wife collecting filthy rags and newspapers to use during her menstrual cycle, as pads in the market were just too expensive.
An interesting fact about his journey is that when he struggled to find female participants to help test his new invention, his creativity and commitment to find a better solution only grew stronger. Menstruation is still considered as a taboo topic in many parts of rural India. So he took testing matters into his own hands and even risked public ridicule by using the pads himself and pumping animal blood through a bladder to test their efficacy.
His machines, which can manufacture sanitary pads for less than a third of the cost of commercial pads, have now been installed in 23 out of 29 states in rural India.
At its core, Jugaad is a flexible approach to problem solving that uses limited resources and in an innovative and creative way.
Jugaad is not just about making do, it's about making things better by creating more for less.
Growing up in India, Jugaad was a way of life. From using kites made of old magazines, broomsticks and cooked rice, or making balls out of paper polythene bags and rubber bands to play a variation of dodgeballs.
You could say you could find jugaad everywhere.
Personally, I always found Jugaad to be both a great creative outlet and also a creative exercise in problem solving.
The underlying principles of minimalism, flexibility, inclusivity creativity align with my personal core principles, and it is something that I always tend to bring to my professional life as well.
That is why it was not long after I was introduced to Confluence, that I started tinkering around with its possibilities to see what creative solution can be found.
And in this next section I'm going to share a couple of my favorite ones.
At K15t, we used to conduct something called a weekly jour fixe, which was an all hands-in meeting every Monday morning where people across the board shared their updates with the entire company.
This worked really well when everybody could fit into a meeting room and then eventually in the kitchen. But as our numbers grew and then the pandemic hit, we had to figure out a more scalable and inclusive way of sharing company-wide news and updates.
Being hardcore Confluence nerds, we didn't have to look too far and came up with our first jugaad the company-wide newsletter, also known as the Weekly Update Pages.
As the name suggests, it's a weekly blog post published on Monday mornings that contains updates from across the board in the company.
From general company-wide announcements to Atlassian news, from important dates and events to People news and finally, updates from the various products and services team at the company.
The blog post pretty much writes itself as it is built collaboratively and asynchronously making the process highly efficient and scalable.
So let's look at the anatomy of this blog post. It starts out as a Confluence page created from a template that was designed by our fantastic design team.
The template is then broken down into different sections like General News, People News and so on. It also contains extensive instructions on how to use the template so that anyone can get started easily.
The page itself is owned by our operations team, but the individual sections are owned by the respective teams themselves.
The page consists of three types of information: the dynamic content that is pulled in by the content by label macro from all over our intranet, the static content that is directly added to the Weekly Update page, and the long-term content that does not change week over week. For example, links to the lunch order form or the Corona information page.
When it comes to team-specific updates, each team creates a weekly update page in their respective spaces. The team level weekly update page contains a summary of the updates in an excerpt macro, which is then pulled into the company wide weekly update page via content.
By label macro, the individuals within the teams add their respective updates to the pages to build the content collaboratively throughout the entire week.
Once ready, the page is converted to a blog post and published on Monday mornings.
And since we have adopted this jugaad, we have found it to be way more efficient than our previous approaches. To start with, the process is more collaborative as everybody on the teams contribute to the creation of the content of the page, as opposed to when a single person would prepare a keynote presentation for the weekly jour fixe meetings.
The process is scalable.
Since the page is built collaboratively and content is pulled dynamically, it is easy to scale if new teams join. Moreover, we don't have to worry about fitting everyone into the kitchen anymore.
The approach is also quite inclusive.
With this approach it's more remote-friendly, and compared to in-person demos, it's pretty much more considerate of people's time zones and working hours as well.
This approach is also time-saving for two reasons.
1. We are using content that we create during the week anyway, like blog posts or other Confluence pages.
2. People read updates that are relevant for them and only at their own convenience, and they don't have to sit through an entire live presentation.
Now, for the second jugaad, the idea dates back to the beginning of my product management journey almost 3.5-4 years ago. When we started working on a new product, there were three people on the team and decisions were being made at lightning speed.
Most of the decision making happened verbally and sometimes in slack threads.
This worked out initially, but did not scale very well when new members started joining the team. They did not have any context for some of the more important decisions that had been taken. And some of the decisions had also been made without the involvement of subject matter experts.
And due to the distributed nature of our teams, it was always difficult to get everybody into the same room at the same time.
Therefore, motivated by the need to solve this problem and to enable more asynchronous communication and decision making while documenting the outcomes in a more meaningful and long-lasting way, I started exploring the marketplace for apps that could solve my problem.
And while doing so, I noticed that every questions or forums app that was out there had the following things in common: they all had an entity called a question or a topic that you can categorize or tag. Then, each topic had a summary and a description to give the readers more context and this could either be text or media or a mix of both.
Each topic then uses the ability to answer the questions or to discuss the topics in comments or threads. And finally, each of these apps gave you sort of a dashboard, where you can search and find all the questions or the topics that have been created.
And when you strip them down to the bare minimum, you see that you can achieve all of this using a simple Confluence page.
And once again, being the Confluence nerds that we are, we came up with a jugaad of building an internal team/company forum just by using Confluence pages and other out-of-the-box Confluence features.
This jugaad uses Confluence pages that enable you to ask questions, encourage collaboration and discussions, and record decisions or answers if necessary.
So let's take a look at the anatomy of the page.
As always, it starts out as a Confluence page created from a template that defines the boundary of the content. We encourage using a prefix called Question to the title of the page and a Questions label to the page for better searchability.
The title of the page is the Question, and the Summary section captures some basic metadata about the question like the creator, the status in a page properties macro.
The Details section encourages the creator to provide more context or details about the topic.
You're free to add text or any other media that Confluence supports like images, gifs, videos or other file types.
A contributor's macro lists all the contributors on the topic on the right-hand side and we also use a third-party macro to display all the pages that this question has been referred to.
Then people are able to use the Page comments functionality to answer the questions and or have discussions about a topic, and likes/reactions to responses add to the acceptability criteria of a response.
The author then documents the accepted answer in the Answer section of the page, which basically is a panel macro or if there are decisions, they are documented using the Decisions macro.
The author then updates the status of the answer so that it reflects on the questions dashboard that we're going to build next.
A library/overview of all the questions is created using a Page Properties Reports macro that pulls in the metadata from these page properties macro on the Question pages.
We also add a 'Create from Template' button so that users can easily ask the questions at a live search macro to search through and find the topics that people are looking for.
You can further extend the questions metadata by adding a category field or add a label system for the same so that you're able to categorize and group topics easily for your different audiences.
Now, one could argue why we didn't go with using Confluence questions or a third-party app. To that I would say, where's the fun in that?
But fun aside, I wanted to find a solution that was simple and can be set up immediately without having to go through the process of procuring a new app. Because I was not sure if all other teams within the company would be interested in using it.
But a jugaad like this one would not only solve our team's problem but also quite easily double up as a working prototype to test the adoption of such a system across the company.
Also, it probably doesn't cost us much to get a license for a new app. But for many people out there and many customers, cost can be a major blocker, if not the IT red tape that they have to deal with within their organizations when procuring a new app.
After having used this jugaad for a couple of years now, I can confidently say that its charm lies in its simplicity.
The solution is built with tools your team is already aware of and is probably already using: a Confluence page and the commenting feature.
So the resistance that comes with the introduction of a new tool or new change can be avoided.
The solution encourages collaboration by design.
For instance, creating a Confluence page automatically sends a notification to people who have subscribed to the updates from that space. And they can easily subscribe to a question by either commenting on it or watching the page.
As you may not want to contribute to the discussions but you are curious about the outcome.
You can also pull in subject matter experts to the discussion or the decision-making process by simply @ mentioning them in the comments or sharing the page through email or via Slack.
You can also create a Questions Overview page where people can go and contribute their answers, creating a sort of full-fledged forum or a knowledge base.
The solution is also highly flexible.
We know that no two teams work the same way and that is the beauty of modern-day self-organized cross-functional teams.
Therefore, a solution that can be easily customized and modified and is flexible enough to cater to the diverse needs of different teams across the organization is always welcome.
Now, this particular jugaad gives teams the opportunity to customize the template the way they want or use it to ask questions, make decisions or have discussions.
They are able to keep topics private within their teams or make them available for the entire company.
Questions are also quite easy to search because of the prefixes and labels that can also be easily cross-referenced on other pages by adding links or page properties report macros.
And as a little side bonus, the jugaad is also quite cost-effective.
You get the benefits of an app without actually paying for one, which, by the way, should not be the ultimate goal.
Here you should definitely try out some of the fantastic questions and forum apps in the Atlassian marketplace.
Now, like we saw earlier in the presentation, jugaad doesn't need to be restricted to simple hacks. Rather, they can also be a driver for innovation.
And in this next example, I wanted to show you how we were able to turn a simple jugaad into an award-winning project.
By now you must have guessed that we, at K15t, are obsessed with Confluence.
But when it comes to Confluence page templates, we take that obsession to a whole different level.
We have a template for almost everything and we encourage everyone to use them.
In fact, we love them so much that we wrote an entire series on the topic that you can access on our microsite Rock the Docs.
One of the out-of-the-box Confluence features we extensively use is 'Create From Template' macro, which enables us to add a button to a page.
And then you can use this button to create a page with that template. When you create that, it appears in this page Properties Report macro because we also add labels to that template.
We used this, but it was very restrictive because with this macro, you cannot set a target location for where the page needs to be created. You cannot set up a page title naming convention.
And there were other restrictions that we kind of hit a wall with and we wanted that to become more flexible.
And that is where our jugaad mindset kind of went into hyperdrive.
We came up with a creative solution.
We would place the Create From Template button on the actual overview page inside an excerpt macro and then use an excerpt include macro to add the button in any other location, like space, home page or a different space or even on a blog post.
And this worked out really well until it didn't anymore.
Once we migrated our Intranet from the on-premise Confluence to Cloud, jugaad just broke.
But thanks to the simplicity and flexibility that the Atlassian Forge platform provides, we were able to create our own Create from Template Macro in almost a day's time.
And that could be embedded anywhere and could be configured to add a page at a pre-selected location as well.
Last year we submitted the app to Atlassian's annual Hackathon Codegeist and won in the Apps for Business category.
Turns out a lot of people out there were looking for a similar jugaad.
Now, I gave a few examples of jugaad from the real world and how it can be extended to collaborate in your everyday work and team collaboration.
How to develop a jugaad mindset
So I tried to boil it down to these five principles that you can apply in your everyday life and at your organizations to develop a jugaad mindset.
The first one is that constraints combined with human will is an incubator for creativity and innovation.
Embrace the constraints, befriend them, get comfortable around them and see them as opportunities rather than obstacles to push the boundaries of your creativity, like Arunachalam Muruganantham did by trying the efficacy of his pads on himself.
Use what you have.
Don't try to re-invent the wheel. Things can almost always do more than one thing, like William did when he used a bicycle in his design for his windmill.
Take a good look at the tools that you have at hand. There's a good chance that's all you will need.
Keep things simple - Jugaad is all about simple and minimalistic solutions to complex problems.
Focus more on solving the core problem in the best possible way by making things easy-to-use and accessible, like creating face masks out of old T-shirts without the need for sewing.
Embrace the diversity.
Gather feedback and insights from various stakeholders. Think and act horizontally.
One of the core principles of jugaad is inclusivity.
Therefore, make sure that the solution has as wide and as positive impact as it can on a diverse group of people.
And most importantly, the key to developing a Jugaad mindset is to be open.
Be open to new and unconventional ideas and above all, being perceptive of the needs and challenges of the people you are building your solution for.
In a time of excess and convenience, it can get overwhelming when faced with constraints while solving complex problems. But if we take a step back and challenge this more for more model of innovation, we can build solutions that are simple, sustainable and most importantly, inclusive of the people that they're built for.
And that is what Jugaad is all about.
I hope you found the talk informative and stimulating.
And if you're curious about more cool stuff that you can do with Confluence and make sure you check out our Confluence Best Practices series on YouTube.
My name is Anshuman Dash from K15t.
Thank you for watching.