Projects are about changing the world for the better. Many project managers I talk to tend to be most proud of their highly innovative projects. For example, Jon McGowan PMP is proud of the mobile banking application project he developed. The excitement and challenge to deliver a truly innovative project is well worth the effort.
That just leaves one question – how exactly do we become highly innovative project managers?
Here is a six-step process that will take you from an adequate project manager to a project manager focused on delivering innovation projects.
1. Change your perspective on problems.
“There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why… I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?” – Robert Kennedy
Complaining about poor customer service and other problems is easy. It also does little to make the world a better a place. Instead, I propose viewing problems as the raw material for innovation. If a company struggles to ship orders to customers on time, the answer may be to use an entirely different fulfillment system rather than yelling at people to work harder.
2. Seek out highly innovative people and organizations.
Recent books exploring innovation such as The Innovators by Walter Isaacson and Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson point out that innovation rarely occurs with a lone genius. More often than not, the best innovations come from groups of people working together.
Joining a professional association such as the Project Management Institute is a great way to expose yourself to new ideas. For added benefit, consider joining an association in a different industry unrelated to your work.
3. Look for new ideas from other industries.
Becoming innovative sometimes involves transferring ideas from other industries and making them your own. For example, Steve Jobs copied aspects of the visual design of kitchen appliances for the early Apple computers. This innovation made computers accessible to people who were not experts in technology. If you are looking to improve customer service, look into companies that win awards for top notch customer service. Rackspace, a Texas-based technology company, has won several awards for its customer service and well-developed training program.
4. Develop your idea muscle by writing 10 ideas each day.
Becoming more innovative is easier when you have a lot of good ideas available. In addition to holding brainstorming sessions, consider developing your idea muscle.
Earlier this year, I came up with 10 ideas each day for 90 days. The exercise is based on Become An Idea Machine: Because Ideas Are The Currency Of The 21st Century by Claudia Azula Altucher. It is a great way to develop increased creativity and problem-solving. The fundamental rule is that you must come up with a minimum of 10 ideas each day.
Resource: The Ultimate Guide for Becoming an Idea Machine by James Altucher
Book: Become An Idea Machine: Because Ideas Are The Currency Of The 21st Century by Claudia Azula Altucher
5. Start with continuous improvement projects.
World-changing innovation projects have the potential to fail. Conservative, risk-adverse organizations may not be able to tolerate that risk. Fortunately, there is a solution.
Build your credibility by delivering smaller continuous improvement projects. Look for ways to improve customer service, ship products more quickly or reduce costs. Consistent success with such projects gives you added credibility to propose significant projects.
6. Propose a high-impact project.
Armed with an impressive track record and the creativity to develop new ideas, you are now ready to propose a highly innovative project to your organization. Remember that ideas are not enough – excellent execution matters too.
Discussion Question: How will you become a more innovative project manager this year?
For more brilliant insights, check out Bruce’s website: Project Management Hacks