I owe this rule to my time at 3M.
Their culture of innovation was based on several things, but the one that resonated with me was how conceptual failures by 3M’s engineering and science areas (so-called bad ideas) were not tossed away.
Of course there is the famous Post It Note story.
There are many more were an idea that was first, second or even longer a failure. But, thanks to good process of documenting the idea and the failures, with the most important part of having the ‘failure’ reviewed occasionally to give it another shot.
The innovative companies understand that you should never give up on any idea.
Some ideas are just not ready due to –
- the organization is not ready for that large a leap
- the technology is not available to make it a reality
- the solution to make it successful is not present
Regardless of your organizations industry or role, you can have it be highly innovative, by being fostering an atmosphere of tolerating failure and reviewing your failures for future successes.
The more innovative you want to be the higher level of failure you need to be able to tolerate.
Author Jack Uldrich
When I have been tasked to either consult on or build a team that can innovate, I touch on Jump The Curve to remind me of how best to create that environment.
I was asked the other day would you rather build or run things.
– Insight to allow focus on innovative problem solving on page 56
- To develop innovative solutions team members need to spend time. Whether it is staring at walls, walking a creativity path in a garden or my favorite a yo-yo and indo board. The point made here is each members needs periods in their day that they are not interrupted (even for that I just need a sec interruption).
- Lean thinking also regards this critical.
– Use the wisdom of crowds on page 105
- This is a scary thought for most businesses that I know and will take the leap that it scares almost all business people. Would you take your most critical business problems and publish them to the public to have crowd-sourcing produce solutions?
- Let’s put it this way – your business needs to meet a threat from a new, fast moving from a competitor. You need to drastically improve a service, product or develop new. Would you in 2 sentences publish on a the largest billboard outside your building this improvement need and requesting help to solve it?
– Build a diverse team, focus on skills versus personality on page 112
- One, I do like that use of Lewis and Clark as the example.
- Two, it is a strong example of ensuring your team of innovators has the necessary skills and don’t be afraid to look in unusual settings (old, young, local, remote and experienced or just strongly educated)
– Changing the game on page 134
- The Wii example vs Xbox and PS3, are less about technology and more about understanding markets. Wii took a simpler approach to bring gaming to a new market – non-tech consumers. You know, grandma.
– Learning to unlearn on page 183
- To truly innovate you need to unlearn how you solved the problem last time. When you want to bake a cake, you follow the directions. If you want to innovate on cake baking you have to unlearn how you first baked a cake.
If you’d rather build things, this book will help you with that team that you need to surround yourself.
After x number of years with formal project methodologies, project software tools and training upon training upon training, companies continue to struggle to manage projects. Combined with this struggle is a culture that has a strong aversion to failure (aka risk). I put forth that these two are deeply tied. A business will not improve their project success through a new methodology, new tracking tool, additional training or even replacing the staff with new, more highly skilled staff.
What will improve project success is aggressively killing projects that are not succeeding. Call them challenged, failing, behind schedule, in the yellow or red. If they have missed more than one milestone, they are a candidate to be killed. These projects need to be put under a microscope and examined for the likelihood they will hit their next milestone. If the intense review finds that the project will not be able to meet the next milestone it should be killed. But, remember killing it does not mean you skip the closure phase. Close out the project capturing all the necessary learns and put the resources onto the projects that are succeeding to optimize their chance for success.
Making people work on projects that are failing, increases the pressure to succeed, but does not provide the environment for success to occur. Fail to kill projects and you are begging to be lied to by your project teams. Aggressively killing failed project, completing the closure phase and placing people on projects that are succeeding demonstrates you walk the talk of project methodology and that mistakes are acceptable.
The benefit of an aggressive killing of projects has the positive impact to the bottom line through increase success of other projects and cost avoidance from continuing projects that will fail. Add to this benefit the cultural impact. A fear of failure not only adds stress to a project that is already struggling, but it also creates an overall environment that stifles innovation. People will resist proposing new ideas unless they are guaranteed to have success. How many projects are guaranteed to be successful?
Therefore, aggressively killing projects impacts that bottom line through costs savings and the top line through supporting an environment of innovation by removing the fear of failure. If you find these thoughts on project management helpful and would like to not only learn about solid project management, but not have to read boring project management book to learn it, read The Deadline by Tom DeMarco. Gives you a understanding of good project management but in a fun to read novel format.