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Innovations applies to both the product/service/result we are producing as well as the process we are using to produce that product/service/result.
While PMs can certainly encourage their teams to be innovative and creative, this also requires organizational support. Lacking that, the PM should at least try to create a psychologically safe environment within the team to enable an innovation oasis".
Innovation is less about a method or framework and more about creating the right culture for it to develop.
I worry about the application of the word "innovate" and the concept of 'innovation'. It means more than doing something different. Its doing something different in the hope of improvement. If an 'innovative idea' does not show promise of better results either in the process or the final deliverable, take a pass. If you are implementing something that is already being done by others, this is not innovation but adoption. Unless the innovation is being sourced from another industry, even then you have to question the proper application of the term 'innovation'.
That being said, innovation happens when someone comes up with a better way of doing something and it can be implemented with a positive outcome. "Better" being defined as reduced effort and/or improved outcome.
Note everyone recognizes this concept so when someone, company or team starts throwing the word 'innovation' around ask what is meant. Is their interest in something new for the sake of new, or a search for a more effective way of achieving the objective. Here are the questions leading to innovation
1) what is it we need to do better?
2) what is it we are doing now?
3) what have we tried in the past?
4) what are others within the industry doing?
5) what are those outside the industry doing?
6) what is current research focusing on?
7) do we have the resources to pursue this?
8) do we expect a return on investment?
9) is this a corporate priority or a "wish"?
10) do we see innovation as an evolution or a eureka moment?
Delivering the project is the priority. If you can be more effective by applying new ideas then you are obligated to proceed accordingly. If there is a risk associated with the new ideas these have to be identified and analyzed and mitigated. If the risk is greater than the tolerance level, take a pass.
Incremental "Innovations" e.g a More efficient way to accomplish tasks in a project are welcome at any time.
However, innovation can have much bigger connotations , for example trying to accomplish an MVP , ability to throw the prototype if it does not meet customer expectations . That is entirely possible if the cadence is set from the beginning , that this will be a project that has little or limited set of requirements upfront and the product is likely to evolve as team explores further. It most definitely requires management and organisational support and a culture of Innovation .
If there is a specific department in your company that does Innovation or looks at new business opportunities, Lean startup and Design thinking sort of work , then they are best placed to help such projects progress.
There is a concept of inspect and adapt . Run your Agile sprints for three months , then inspect your progress...if the progress is not as expected , then pivot in a different direction . As you can appreciate, it requires serious backing from the management because it all costs time, money and people
In my humble opinion, innovation is the responsibility of a project team. Everyone – the client, the sponsor, the performing organization, the PM, stakeholders, project team – benefits from it. Therefore, I believe that innovation (or attempt to seek better way of doing things) must be made a default goal of a project and a percentage of project effort should be dedicated towards the same.
We need a PMBOK area for innovation management. Just like the way we identify and manage risks, we need to identify novelty and add to the organization’s assets.
A simple metric such as “number of ideas generated” or “number of alternate ideas produced” could be useful to start with.
Interesting your question
Thanks for sharing
Innovation in terms of project results (products, services) and project management processes should be the paradigm for all people and organizations
That said, there are companies and / or organizations (project managers included) where it is not possible to innovate and others where there is an environment in which it is possible to innovate
I belong to the Transformation and Innovation group inside the EPMO. I am program manager there. The problem, and the problem I faced because I was in charge to implement this type of things in lot of companies but mainly in my actual ones, is helping people and mainly the whole organzation what "innovation" means. When you get that then you need to help organization to understand that a envionment to facilitate innovation is needed. For example people need free time between other things. But the key is helping organization to understand that people will not innovate after taking the magic pill. With all that on hand. innovation must be made for all people, not for a specific role. There is no problem with having metrics of governance process in place. We have that. Innovation is a way of thinking and behave. Is to have in mind that we need to work smarter instead of harder because in this way the individual and the group will doing well.
I agree with Kiron
To add to my earlier response, the word "innovation" itself has gained some unwanted baggage over time.
This is a link to an article from HBR over the past week which highlights this challenge in further detail: https://hbr.org/2020/02/stop-calling-it-innovation
thank you for your thoughtful answer. While I completely agree on the tenants of fostering the right culture, my question was also tactical in nature. Let us say you have the following situation; a project can be on time and budget, but the frame of reference lends itself perfectly to an innovative solution, which will push it past the time and budget, but save resources on future projects, or produce a better product. For our conversations sake, let's say that the circumstances that fostered this innovation are not easy to replicate outside of the scope of the project, as they may have to do with, say, product improvements quantifiable through extensive testing only. Do you take the opportunity or not?
thank you for your reply. I love the fact you quantified a lot of manageable work units, to lay out the path on how to accomplish what you want. Great use of PMI standards in a practical setting! Additionally, I echo your view of "innovation"; as a flavor-of-the-day buzzword in the business world, it has taken on many meanings, and many incarnations, but defining it, whatever it may mean for your organization or project, is essential. Good points.
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