5 ways to build innovation into your project team
Innovation cannot happen without a project manager who recognises that change is part of a process. Here’s how you can build innovation into your project team.
Any organisation that aims to do things differently and push the boundaries must get used to the idea that innovation goes hand in hand with risk. If your organisation is going to do any sort of substantive innovation, it must be able to handle risk. While this does not sit comfortably with all project managers, and indeed all organisations, it is essential for any real change to take place.
Innovation is all about change; changing the way you do things to produce better results. So it’s natural that your project team will lack hands-on experience and have to learn new things. That means you’re inevitably going to make mistakes. You might underestimate the time a task will take, or need to make changes once you’ve received feedback from your team.
However, in most organisations, projects are very much black and white. There is fixed scope, set budgets and deadlines and defined roles and responsibilities. Project managers often feel the weight of deadlines and tight resources, so any room for experimentation is removed. If this sounds like your organisation, what changes can you make to build innovation into your project team?
1. Finding Inspiration
The truth is that most project managers want to have a settled project team. They want each member of the team to know their role and responsibilities and deliver them on time. But this gives very little opportunity to look outside of the project to see what’s going on in the industry as a whole.
Most industries are advancing at a faster rate than ever before, so it’s essential project teams are given the time to read trade magazines, attend conferences, look outside the organisation and spend time with people they can learn from and be inspired by. Teams that work in isolation will be less exposed to new ways of working and less likely to come up with new ideas.
2. Sharing New Ideas
There’s no point giving a project team the opportunity to be inspired by ideas from the wider world if this information is not shared effectively within the team. Ideas that are shared with the whole team can be improved upon, made workable and ultimately integrated.
Great communication is an essential part of every innovative team. Information needs to be able to flow easily between team members, and face-to-face meetings are one of the most effective ways to share and discuss what they know. Where face-to-face meetings aren’t possible, Skype or video conferencing can be an effective substitute.
3. Driving Innovation from the top
Innovation cannot happen without a project manager who recognises that change is part of a process. To innovate effectively, project managers must create an environment that allows and encourages new ideas to surface. These leaders ask why and what questions and want to learn from the people around them.
This is opposed to a controlling leader who creates an environment where team members feel stifled and wants to take the credit for any innovative ideas. Instead of shifting responsibility to the team, they want to stay in control and tell others exactly what to do.
4. Hiring Different Personality Types
Innovative teams are made up of people with different but complementary personality types and skills. Some organisations like to hire similar personality types in the hope that workers will get on, but make it too uniform and you lose the ability to generate and implement new ideas. Innovative teams are typically made up of creative thinkers, but also technical experts and more pragmatic individuals who can refine and implement those ideas.
5. Allowing Experimentation
Teams that work to a tight schedule will tend to be less innovative, simply because they do not have the time to come up with new ideas. Innovative teams are allowed to take the time they need to experiment, look outside their current workload and play around with new ideas. Many of these new ideas will invariably fail, but from these failures lessons can be learned that pave the way for future innovation.
Supporting innovative teams
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