Project Management

Indulge Your Audacious Curiosity—Even if It Means Failing

From the Voices on Project Management Blog
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by Cyndee Miller

A quantum physicist and a self-proclaimed mad scientist walk onto the stage at PMO Symposium. Now some of you are bound to be wondering what the heck they could possibly teach us about working in The Project Economy.

Plenty. For starters, you need to be embracing all those “what if” questions you have roaming around in your head.

True innovation—whether in the lab or at the boardroom table—often stems from a seemingly wild question. “It’s about optimizing that moment in a meeting when someone says, ‘This is a crazy idea, but what if we tried X?’” said Andrew Pelling, PhD, a scientist and professor at the University of Ottawa.

At Pelling Lab, the team thrives on a balance between scientific rigor and “audacious curiosity.” Bottom line: Scientists and project leaders alike must create a framework that lets in a little room for bold questions and creativity. “Those kinds of questions have led to an enormous amount of discoveries,” he said.

In Dr. Pelling’s case, it might have even led to a new innovation strategy altogether: “We took the business model canvas and the scientific method and mashed them together,” he said. The result is the pHacktory, a small lab where “risk is a virtue” and where projects are “bound to fail…or change everything.”

Yeah, he said it, the F-word.

“No matter the question, we really push our teams to understand what types of knowledge they might create, even when they fail,” he said. “It’s the accidental discoveries, the unintended innovations that come from these failures that we’re after. So, the more failures, the better.”

Now I realize those are truly frightening words for many of the project leaders held accountable for those failures. But it also speaks to the need to keep asking questions—it’s the only way you’re going to deliver the truly spectacular results.

Dr. Pelling was one of the speakers at the TED Conversation, part of a partnership between PMI and TED. It’s a pretty obvious collab: TED is dedicated to spreading great ideas. Project leaders turn those ideas into reality.

“If there’s anyone who can help usher in the future, it’s the people in this room,” said Briar Goldberg, director of speaker coaching at TED.

Part of that ushering process has to involve looking at the end result. Take quantum computer technology. Shohini Ghose, PhD, a quantum physicist and professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, outlined some of the revolutionarily applications it could have for all kinds of projects, from medication to encryption.

But, she said, there are also loads of questions that have to be answered: “Who will access this tech? How will it be used? How will it change and improve society for the better?”

So, what’s your big idea? Now’s your time to share. PMI members have an opportunity to take the stage at PMI Global Conference 2020 for a special TEDx event. Stay tuned to—more details and an application are coming soon.

In the meantime, how are you indulging your audacious curiosity? And how are you encouraging it on your team?

Posted by Cyndee Miller on: November 05, 2019 08:40 PM | Permalink

Comments (5)

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Dear Cyndee
It was, of course, a fascinating moment spent at the PMO Symposium with the quantum physicist and a self-proclaimed mad scientist as he took the stage..
Thanks for sharing

It will be a big event the PMI Global Conference 2020, given this challenge now launched

Wonderful perspective. Thank you!!

Wonderful perspective. Thank you!!

Great piece, thank you for sharing Cyndee

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