If innovation brought chaos, would that be so bad? Isn’t chaos the place where new and great things are discovered? Isn’t innovation all about new and great things?
Innovation can get in the way of control
Does this sound familiar? You are in a group, networking or brainstorming and someone cones up with an idea for improvement. Business owners want to be able to predict the progress of the project to the plan. Project managers always want to be able to deliver on the promises made. But how can you do that when someone says, “I think I can come up with a better way to do this if you give me some time to investigate.” What goes through your mind? “Yikes, how much time? What is better, anyway? Who do you need how much is it going to cost?”
Innovation in projects.
I managed a series of projects with my last client and by project number four we were pretty set in the routine of what needed to be done, how much it would cost, when we’d be finished, etc. And we were great at delivery, the problem was with one deliverable. The process we used minimized the customer disruption, but still caused disruption, no one was really happy with the outcome. The deliverable required customers to change a code that couldn’t be translated automatically. One of the team members, new to the team for this project, said, “I think I can come up with a better way to do this if you give me some time to investigate.”
If he reads this blog, he’ll recognize the situation. What I’m hoping he won’t recognize is my internal reaction; “What the @@##!! do you mean? We’re on track, we can’t divert for an idea.” And other similar thoughts.
What I said was something along the lines of, “tell me about it.”
We had a quick discussion and I asked for this information; how long do you need, who do you need, how comfortable are you that this could work.
The result was a solution that resulted in no customer complaints, little manual support, and overall savings of a week of post launch assistance, as well as a reusable solution for future projects. Man, am I glad I had my internal filter running.
Tips for encouraging innovation
- Be willing to listen when someone has an idea, it can be someone new to the team, someone on a completely different work stream or any stakeholder who comes up with an idea.
- Try to find the resources to investigate the idea if it has some potential to improve your project or your business
- Don’t ever think that a solution is perfect; someone will always have an idea to improve it.
Some resources for innovation online,
The always informative and entertaining Tom Peters has a video
Steven Shapiro’s 24/7 innovation site