In today's competitive business world, innovation is often what separates the leaders from the rest of the pack. When young entrepreneurs can become billionaires in a few short years, while blue-chip CEOs have worked their entire careers to be millionaires, it is clear that the innovative products, services, and business models introduced by these upstarts can be the difference between good and great. What is interesting, however, is that innovation is rarely triggered by an out-of-the-blue spark of creativity; rather, most innovations extend (or build upon) prior innovations in an evolutionary manner. For example, Edison was not the first to invent the light bulb: some researchers place him in 28th place. Edison leveraged the work of others and extended that work in a direction it was already headed. While no one else had yet found a filament that would last for more than a few seconds, Edison built on their findings and persevered in finding a long-lasting filament, making the light bulb commercially viable.
A company's innovation strategy guides it in focusing its innovation research in the right directions, governs how those innovation activities are managed, and helps the company roll out the results. A sound innovation strategy presents three phases of work: identifying a possible area for innovating, uncovering relevant historical lessons learned from prior innovation efforts, and then using those lessons learned to help better plan the new innovation activities.
There are different types of innovation; for example, organizational, disruptive, and sustainable innovation. Projects offer opportunities for innovation; yet, in many projects, innovation is avoided because it can create uncertainty and increase costs. Often, project managers seek to minimize risks by relying on tried-and-tested techniques, established routines, and proven technologies. They prefer to select the lowest-cost approach, transfer risks to contractors, freeze the design as early as possible, and stick rigidly to the original plan; however, projects are one-time opportunities and sometimes present the only chance for organizations to innovate. Stakeholders may have to live with the deliverables of a proejct for many years; therefore, it is important to recognize these opportunities in projects and take a systematic approach to project innovation. Procept's innovation consultants can help organizations in planning for innovation gains while avoiding associated risks.
Dr. Mark Kozak-Holland is a leader in this field. His specialty is helping organizations learn from the past to help them move from the present into the future. He works with executives and senior managers to guide them through difficult decisions by looking at case studies of historical projects with similar challenges and learning from what worked and what failed. The brilliance in using historical projects for the case studies is that one can now examine them with perfect hindsight, rather than being clouded by personal connections to the project political environments.
Dr. Kozak-Holland has created a series of award-winning books and DVDs that teach executives and senior managers how to analyze past projects using modern project management and business analysis tools and techniques. Using modern techniques in the analysis helps managers see the relevance of each case study to current challenges. The brilliance in this approach is that it focuses on the project situation rather than just telling a story about a historical event. For example, Dr. Kozak-Holland's analysis of RMS Titanic, shows that the ship was destined to fail even if it never hit an iceberg one fateful night in 1912 — the project management blunders made during the project that designed and built the ship, plus a lack of effective stakeholder management, were the real causes of the ship's disasterous end. Using this case study when analyzing situations in other project domains (such as IT operations or mergers and acquisitions) helps people learn the relevant lessons without getting caught up in their own unique project political environments.
Procept's innovation strategy consultants are from the business world but have a deep passion for history. They are highly-experienced and working project managers, consultants, and business analysts. This combination of business and history allows them to reflect on case studies from both the distant and recent past and, in a unique way, draw parallels to today’s business challenges.
Procept's innovation strategy consultants work with you through the historical case studies, selecting the most relevant ones and mining these case studies (with known outcomes) for best practices (proved over time) that they then combine with today’s best practices. Finally, Procept's consultants create a report with recommendations and present the findings to help you plan your evolutionary work.
Innovation workshops examine difficult questions that people avoid or don’t dare ask. They bring to light areas typically avoided because of culture and politics. The case studies provide a communication vehicle to confront "unspeakables" by using situations in a different industry or time that will avoid direct finger pointing yet provide enough similarities that people can still take insights from past mistakes, explore what-ifs and what could have been done. The process triggers out-of-the-box thinking that helps participants discover alternatives, explore potential solutions, and discover best practices that are easily understood. The workshop facilitator helps the group map the lessons learned back to today's business challenges and then getting them to agree on recommendations and next steps.
These workshops bring project management and business analysis to life with real-world examples.
|Issue: Project is highly dependent on new and unproven technologies to solve complex problems|
|Case Study||Project Problem||Outcome||Best Practices for Today|
|Roman Colosseum||Scale of building using new material technologies||Success||Run pilots for new technologies (concrete/iron), take a modular approach with a gradual scale-up, perfect & test vaulted arches.|
|Florence Cathedral: Il Duomo||Technical challenges related to size and scope||Success||Scour all similar projects for lessons learned, probing deep, and establish best practices. Use models and prototypes to establish a solution.|
|First Railway: Stockton-Darlington||Options - stationary engine vs. moving vs. horse||Success||Run a series of prototypes and pilots; look beyond current business models (canals) for new business models and opportunities.|
|Babbage's Difference Engine||Complexity of design, limits of technology boundary||Failure||Find technology solutions that are good enough (don’t have to be perfect), stay on track, and don’t get diverted off the critical path.|
|Hollerith Computer||Complexity of new concept||Success||Use proven technology components (different applications), pilot, and then assemble into sub-assemblies – use what works.|
|Olympic-class ships||Complexity of safety technologies||Failure||Carefully plan testing, use rounds of static testing, followed by comprehensive dynamic testing; maintain independent test teams.|
Examples of project problems Procept's innovation strategy consultants have reviewed with clients include the following:
Click on the "Lessons from History" logo below to jump to a web site providing more details on the books and DVDs that outline the basic innovation analysis approach through various fascinating historical case studies.
|Lessons From the Past that Assist the Projects of Today to Shape the World of Tomorrow|