Barriers to Innovation in Project Management
Did you ever have a great idea or a way to improve a product or service?
How open was your project environment to take it seriously?
Every idea is not equally feasible or productive. Sometimes, there are very good reasons not to innovate. My experience is that new ideas are often rejected before they have been properly evaluated.
As project managers, it is incumbent on us to embrace innovation. Encourage it and seek it out. You must evaluate the value of any new approach with great care.
Even if your idea is clearly in progress, you will still need to sell the idea to your customers or sponsors. There are many obstacles to innovation in project management. Here are some of them:
It’s hard to change the way things are moving within an organization or project.
The new idea is likely to compete with an existing approach. You are threatening to replace their great idea from 20 years ago. You dare to do that!
It is possible to find entire programs or organizations that are used to doing things the same way. Project managers must be able to convince the organization to change.
We are often so overwhelmed by the daily struggle to get our jobs done that we feel like this change is just another straw we would rather remove.
If you feel overwhelmed, your ability to accept change is reduced. It’s paradoxical that innovation will increase productivity. But that feeling of overwhelm should be a sign that something needs to change. We are not all rational, so we have to work at it. This is a real obstacle to changing — protecting the system that has created the feeling overwhelm.
Change is disruptive and people prefer predictability. How can we be sure that this will work if it has never been done before? We don’t know.
When estimating project costs, it is important to consider the additional risk that comes with innovative approaches. Particularly when using a new technology, there is a lot of uncertainty. Because of the learning curve involved in implementing a new technology, most innovations cost more upfront. We will deliver late and over budget if we don’t add extra time and cost to our estimates in order to account for uncertainty. This can further stifle innovation as managers who support innovative approaches end up feeling that “this innovation just caused us miss our deadlines, and went over budget.” It was a bad idea.
Here’s a video that I found on the topic that I really enjoyed. This video is a great example of the challenges faced by my project team members who have great ideas but are not taken seriously. It’s amazing that many people who have great ideas are also the best performers. If their ideas are not taken seriously, they will leave.
I encourage everyone to ensure that innovation is given a fair chance. What are your thoughts on this topic? Leave a comment to share your thoughts.