Project Management

Innovation Does a Project Good!

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Categories: community news, innovation


When some people think of the word "innovation", they might associate it with the word "invention." In fact, these two words are not the same. Innovation often acts as the spark that ignites change within an organization or business to foster continued relevancy within the marketplace. And these changes come about through the help of projects and programs. 

As you may have noticed, this month's community theme is innovation! Braden Kelley shows us how making innovation happen has a lot to do with the roles we play versus individual personalities in his article "Innovation: A Team Sport."

On 21 July, Bruce Harpham will deliver a webinar to the community that shows us how some of the greatest innovations in the history of technology came about during the webinar titled "Lessons from the History of Innovation." If you haven't already registered, make sure you do! 

And you can always find templates and other resources to help you by visiting the Innovation practice area right here on!

Join in the conversation! Please share with us in the comments below some ways innovation has helped you drive a project forward. We'd love to hear from you!

Posted by Marjorie Anderson on: July 08, 2015 10:29 AM | Permalink

Comments (5)

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What is interesting is that I have found that each organization has its own definition of innovation - slightly different from the others.

I think innovation is important and difficult to encourage. It is something that, like Peter Senge's learning organization grows, when the right environment is maintained.

I'd steer clear of trying too hard to distinguish between invention and innovation. According to an online dictionary, innovation is, "a new method, idea, product, etc."

What that all has in common is the word "New." New ideas, may be the source of new products or the source of new methods, in either case, the new idea had to be embraced by the team, implemented and worked with, and often improved. Not every work environment provides room for those actions to take place. In fact, if my career is any example, most don't.

Rather than discuss what to do to encourage innovation, I think I'll create a list of things that will kill innovation. Avoid these in your organization if you want innovation to thrive:

1) Failure = consequences
Too often, people are afraid to innovate, because if their idea fails, and any risk is realized they'll be reprimanded, written up, ridiculed, or somehow suffer negative consequences. This sort of culture will kill simply isn't worth the personal risk. Your innovators will find better jobs elsewhere, and your rule followers will stay. Your operations may run smoothly, but your organization will be devoid of innovative ideas, methods, and products. You can't afford to belittle or punish failure, failure is the path to innovation and success.

2) "I don't think that will work, because.... NEXT."
Some of the best ideas I've seen, seemed like a really bad idea when I first heard it. This is for a variety of reasons, but the primary reason is that people are horrible listeners, and we don't think we are. We actually think we listen, so when we say no, or poo-poo and idea, we think we are disagreeing with what someone said, rather than some jumbled mess in our own head, which may or may not resemble the actual idea being presented. If you or people on your team think you are listening, think again, and try harder. It isn't possible to explore and improve on an idea without first listening, and considering the benefits of the idea being proposed. Maybe it leads to an alternate idea, maybe it needs some tweaking, but what it always requires is engagement, and people who know that they didn't really listen the first time around.

3) Competition
I love watching soccer. Two of my kids are on soccer teams, and I was glued to the TV for both the men's world cup in 2014 and the women's world cup in 2015. One thing I noticed about winning soccer teams, is that they may be in competition with other teams, but they aren't in competition with each other. Rather, everyone on the team is focused on team success, and what it would take to propel their team to victory. Players always have the highest of praise for their team mates and they often say things like, "I'm so proud to play on a team, which is filled with such incredible people." This allows them to work together, and not be focused on individual glory. In a business environment, this translates into collaboration, acceptance of innovation, and a team effort to improve on innovations. A culture of internal competition and "me first" will kill that off, and make your organization mediocre.

What are some best practices for innovation while continuing to meet customer requirements (versus 'gold plating' the project)?

There is no doubt that innovation could enhance projects and meeting success metrics - but there is a risk attached to innovation that creeps out of the scope of the project.

Researchers generally agree that creativity is defined as something "novel and useful" whereas innovation is the "implementation of that wish has been created". I have a few webinars posted if anyone wants to learn more about the application of creativity in project management.

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"Imagination is more important than knowledge, for knowledge is limited while imagination embraces the entire world."

- Albert Einstein



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