emerging technology. Instead we rely on our vendors to make the proofs of
concept,” he says.
Yet this approach poses its own risk: that lessons learned by vendors won’t
INVESTING IN INNOVATORS
be shared with the organization. A solution is to form mixed teams, which are
more likely to share knowledge, says Mr. Douarche. “Knowledge transfer is an
important part of successful innovation,” he says. “This often takes the form of
mixed teams of internal people and vendors fully dedicated to the program.”
A crowdsourcing approach to innovation also can reduce risk. “Share informa-
tion from innovation labs with the rest of the organization to get feedback,” Ms.
Riveros says. “Feedback from the crowd—about what will work, what won’t work
and what are the right questions to ask—really helps the innovation process.”
The best tool for managing the risks of innovation probably isn’t a pro-
cess. It’s a person—a project practitioner, to be exact. “Innovation
projects can’t go on for eternity, so you need project managers
who are hands-on in terms of what is required and what is being
produced,” Mr. Srivastav says. “You need someone to govern,
moderate and track the cost, time and effort of all innovation
activities to turn experiments into results.”
The project managers best suited to helm innovation initia-
tives think outside the box and find unique solutions to com-
mon problems. For that reason, it behooves organizations to
help project managers exercise their creative muscles.
“Project managers tend to follow specific instructions,” says
Diter dos Santos, PMP, head of projects, Rabobank, São Paulo,
Brazil. To break this mold, he challenges his team to practice disruptive thinking. “In my team, we have weekly sessions where project
managers present a problem they’re having that impacts their project.
The group tries to find a way to avoid this problem. Every week we talk about
how to do things in smarter ways.”
Mr. Srivastav takes a similar approach. “I ask my team to carve out a time
every day to start doing something differently than they did yesterday,” he says.
“For example, take writing a piece of code. I might tell my team, ‘Yesterday you
wrote 2,000 lines of code. Can you accomplish the same thing in 200 lines?’”
Critical and creative thinkers—the battery that powers innovation-focused
portfolios—emerge through these types of exercises. And these well-armed
practitioners can help steer the organization away from dangerous shoals, Ms.
“If you do business today the same way you did 20 years ago, statistics show
that you won’t be in the market much longer. If you don’t innovate, you die.” PM
can’t go on for eternity, so you
need project managers who