The Innovation Shake Up – Projects, Processes and People

7 Jul 2017

The Innovation Shake Up – Projects, Processes and People

Innovation Invites Adaption

I went to a talk on innovation in project management recently and was struck by some common themes we are seeing across business in all industries and disciplines. Or in other words that innovation is giving us a rather overdue multi-faceted shake-up.  At the organisational level – businesses are seeking to transform their operating models into more agile, collaborative and flat hierarchical structures to combat a disrupted market, respond more swiftly to client needs, and empower the workforce to own and drive change in an organic way.  At the solution level – it’s about creative problem solving and frequently (but certainly not always) digitisation. At the personal level – and this is what is really interesting to me – we are all confronting the need to adapt to this new world characterised by continual change. So are adaption and innovation skills that can be learnt?

Give Up the Fiction of Control

A simple and great metaphor captured by Dom Price of Atlassian, is: if you are standing at the door, stop talking about what’s behind it and trying to prepare in advance. Just open the door and go through it. Chances are you had a pretty good idea anyway. Regardless, no amount of contemplation and discussion will create certain knowledge that can only be obtained by direct experience. Reduce the time wastage and stress and give up the fiction of control.

Risk or Opportunity – Why Not Both?

Whilst in some ways you could argue this philosophy contradicts with traditional risk management where rigorous processes are employed to assess risk probability and impact – I think really it’s just a healthy dose of common sense on top of our existing frameworks. Methods or methodologies serve a purpose and are invaluable in organising businesses, groups, work and projects. But conversely over-engineering of processes stifles innovation, communication and agility. Thus there is no need to chuck out the baby with the bathwater. Just exercise critical thinking, tailor or simplify processes and be creative. We do not need to define ourselves as process atheists. Let’s just socialise and accept the fact that there are unknowns. Free yourself and your staff to be more innovative in their approach and work practices. Risks should still be calculated. But let’s be part of the transformation from a culture of self-protectionism and meekness that is, let’s face it, soul destroying, and embrace our instincts, empathy and creative brains.

In the world of projects, the Opera House remains a rich case study of a project that was widely considered a failure from a project management perspective but is universally acclaimed for its innovative design. Perhaps, with this in mind, the very concept of success needs to be innovatively re-framed.

So check your innovation mindset (thanks for the great concept Julia Steel, Telstra) – and ask yourself if what you are doing is innovative and if there is a better way to do it? Be bold and innovate.

“I daresay you haven’t had much practice. When I was your age I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes, I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” – Lewis Carrol, Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There.

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