Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Sustaining Innovation or Placating Management

Computerworld, July 26, 2010 cover story was "Sustaining Innovation". The magazine was chock-full of thoughts on innovation.

Much of it was good, but some of it is just appeasement to management types who are focused on cost and schedule.

"Establish processes and ownership. Organizations should have a process for taking a promising idea and testing it out..."

Innovation is disruptive. Having a process seeks to minimize disruption. Indeed, most processes are there to block real innovation and constraint the energies into pre-approved areas of innovation.

Which do you want? Innovative change or a nice, controlled process so that things don't change?

The number one item -- in the side bar -- is brilliant. "Give employees the right to fail."

Epic advice. And almost impossible to follow, hence the appeasement item. Permission to fail means -- well -- failures and money "wasted". Cost and schedule shot in an attempt to improve.


There's an interesting juxtaposition with another article in the same issue. "When Good Projects Go Bad".

This: "Push for due diligence at the start of a project." This is the perfect way to stifle innovation.

I realize the two articles are almost unrelated, but they're side-by-side in the print edition. Any cowardly project manager knows that we can't really give people permission to fail. We need to have a well-defined process, perform due diligence, and then assure that all projects are either denied up front or are a ringing success.

It's easy to avoid the important lesson on innovation (innovation == failure) and focus on the appeasement words: "process" and "due diligence".