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Innovation Strategy Consulting

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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.

Sample Case Studies

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.

Past Problems Solved

Examples of project problems Procept's innovation strategy consultants have reviewed with clients include the following:

  • Meddling project stakeholders
  • Project costs escalating and budget getting out of control
  • Projects introducing unproven technologies
  • Competing projects and hostile environments
  • Projects jumping to a solution without a strategy
  • Projects delivering quickly to meet market pressures but not meeting expectations
  • Reducing waste and improving efficiencies in projects

Books & DVDs

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

Consulting Clients

Consulting Testimonials

For several years, Dalhousie has had an ongoing, positive relationship with Procept and we expect to work with them for many years to come [...] We known we can always count on Procept Associates.

Steve Andrews: Program Director, Dalhousie University

I would highly recommend Procept Associates for project management training services.

Dino Loricchio: Manager, PMO, Kingston General Hospital

We felt we had a partner; not just a vendor.  I would not hesitate to recommend Procept Associates.

Warren Long: President, PMI New Brunswick

LFH Testimonials

After reading many of Mark's articles in Project Manager Today and Gantthead.com I invited Mark to speak at the BCS Chartered Insitute for IT (Manchester, UK). He was and is a fantastic, energetic speaker who appears to seamlessly adapt to how to present his knowledge using the Titantic series. I have no doubts about the interest he portrays in his presentations and the engagement of his audience and would recommend anyone to listen and read Mark's works.

Andy Jordan MBCS CITP, R&D Project Manager at SG Gaming:

Really excellent integration of historical perspective into PM context.

Jeff Zalusky:

The presentation on how lessons from the building and maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic are applicable for today's projects was outstanding. What was particularly useful was how you related the PMBOK knowledge areas to that project, and then discussed with our panelists the parallels that could then be drawn with our agency's projects. It was a perfect example of how, even on the best run projects, the results may be disastrous if shortcuts are taken in quality assurance and control.

Bob Morse, PMP: Chief, Cloud Technology and Hosting Office, US Courts

The City of Los Angeles and its Emergency Management Department have used the information presented by Mark to increase its emergency preparedness activities and our understanding of effective project management. We were pleased to be able to bring Mark to Los Angeles and share the information with our Executive Management. If any agency is interested in evaluating project management success and thinks a self evaluation would be useful, the Lessons From History offerings are the best course of action.

Anna Burton: Assistant General Manager, City of Los Angeles

Mark was the opening key note speaker for the PMI UK IPM day in November 09, which I chaired.
What a fascinating talk we had around the way the Titanic project was brought together the pitfalls and decisions that were made that led to that fateful iceberg. Bringing history to life and relating it to the issues of project management today, thoroughly enjoyed and recommended.

Patrick Bird, Communication Excellence Trainer and Facilitator. Professional Speaker and Event Compere:

Mark Kozak-Holland presented a fascinating seminar to our group. For thousands of years, the greatest teachers have used stories to effectively illustrate important concepts. Mark proves that history provides amazing stories with powerful lessons that provide value for today’s world. His speaking and writing styles are entertaining, educational and effective. He is always a crowd favorite.

Vince Socci, President, Platform Division at LHP Engineering Solutions:

Mark is passionate about project management and business analysis. He brings a unique perspective by analyzing historical events and extracting lessons learned that can be used today. He has deep understanding of PM and BA processes/techniques, and is able to explain not only the "how" but also the "why" behind them in very simple terms. As an author, he is easy to work with through the editing and production processes, and actively works to promote his books. He is also a fascinating and dynamic speaker, comfortable speaking to audiences of all sizes.

Kevin Aguanno, Senior Consultant at GenXus: