Making Sparks Fly
Innovation isn’t optional. So don’t wait until the C-suite gets the message—get
started with these tips.
By Andrew Robinson, PMP
Andy Robinson, PMP, is COO of Robbins Gioia
in Alexandria, Virginia, USA. He has worked in
management consulting for over 25 years and can be
reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
tion within their own projects to begin their professional and personal innovation journey.
Here are a few ways to take the first steps on
n Understand the power of design thinking. Start
by reading anything by Clayton Christensen, as
well as the two books referenced above.
n Start small. Focus on a problem
worth solving within your pur-
view, and engage your team to
address this problem using an
innovation method. Keep a low
profile until you are skilled and
n Measure the impact of your
innovations to make them
easier to defend. Substantiate
innovation concepts with quan-
titative measures—such as ROI
or market share.
Throughout the journey, assess
and make course corrections as
required—plan, do, check, act.
Your organization is unique—you
can’t just replicate how innovation works at Google or Amazon.
There may be bumps in the road, but the payoff
is clear: When you engage your team members
and clients to develop and implement innovations,
you’ll likely see increases in morale and client satisfaction. Enabling innovation is immensely satisfying—and these days, it’s becoming mandatory. PM
To keep pace with change and avoid obsolescence, many organizations are working to create an inter- nal culture of innovation. Even companies long insulated from
the need to innovate—electric utilities reliant on
coal-fired power plants, for example—are feeling the pressure to innovate as new and cheaper
sources of energy emerge and “smart grid” and
battery technologies mature. Executives now face
an environment of “unprecedented uncertainty,”
as University of Pennsylvania professor Jeff Dyer,
PhD, has said.
My point: We all need to become skilled at
innovation. The good news is that, contrary to
popular stereotype, innovation isn’t about creative
people dreaming up new ways of doing things.
Two books I strongly recommend quickly dispense
with this idea: Making Innovation Work, by Marc J.
Epstein, PhD, Robert D. Shelton and Tony Davila,
PhD, and The Innovator’s Method, by Dr. Dyer and
Nathan Furr. They’re rich in details about how to
create a culture of innovation. They cite companies
and their processes for consistently and successfully driving innovation. (Yes, “process” is not a
dirty word when it comes to innovation.)
So where to start? Ask yourself two questions:
Does your organization consistently get innovative
ideas out of its employees and clients? And does it
understand and employ a method of innovation?
FLIPPING THE SWI TCH
Of course, building a culture of innovation isn’t
easy—it sometimes takes years for an organization to accept the necessity for change. Sometimes
a crisis must first occur, or a shift in leadership.
But project managers needn’t wait for these big
changes—they can leverage the concept of innova-