Several months ago, I wrote an article on a topic of great interest to me (1). A consistent problem with many companies I work with is that senior management and those in position of leadership in new product development (NPD) do not consider what might be happening in other industries. There is a need, as I like to say, to look beyond your “four walls”.
Many in organizations become too inwardly focused and believe they have all the answers. This, of course, has driven the popularity of “open innovation”. There is more, however, to “open innovation” than focusing strictly on ideas for new products and services or solutions to technical problems. The concept of “open innovation” should extend, in my opinion, to other important facets of your business such as the innovation management process itself.
A fundamental way to expose yourself to new ideas and ways of looking at your process is by reading. And I am not talking about reading a book or article here or there. You must make a concerted effort to approach topics from multiple perspectives. Many read one book on a particular topic and believe that they have suddenly learned all there is to know. They buy the latest business best seller that purports to highlight a popular “best practice” but are sorely disappointed when they attempt to implement this process and it does not lead to any improvement.
A great example is the drive several years ago to implement phased development processes. While most companies are now using them, many companies still confuse these processes with project management. A phased development process does not replace the need to manage each project based on a keen understanding of the risk. Every project is different and will require a specific set of tools based on the risk, but all projects will be managed within the common framework of the phased development process that details the high-level deliverables necessary to pass the gates.
Another example is the use of “scrum” for managing software development. Don’t get me wrong, I think this software development project management tool is fabulous but the fundamental concept of “sprints” is based on the time-tested technique of “iterate-and-learn” cycles applied to software development. The fact is, “iterate-and-learn” is essentially a project management technique that has been used for many years to manage projects with high levels of uncertainty. It is a classic technique, and is also the basis of “lean” with its emphasis on “fail fast, fail cheap”. The point is, without having exposed yourself to many different books and articles on project management and risk, or without the benefit of many years of practical hands-on experience, you would come away with the impression that “scrum” is a fundamentally a new way to manage a project with high levels of uncertainty.
One challenge is that innovation management processes are contextual. What might work in one company with a specific history, culture, and technology, will not work elsewhere. Only be considering a topic from many angles and perspectives will you truly be able to integrate other’s thinking into improving your process. And make no mistake: every company can improve some aspect of their innovation management process.
So, what to do? Well, start by considering this bibliography of some of my favorite books on a variety of topics associated with innovation management. But don’t stop there. Read journals and magazines on multiple topics. Become a member of PDMA and participate in your local chapter. Focus on looking beyond your “four walls”!
Do you have other books that you would add to this bibliography? Send me your comments as I am always on the lookout for investigating a topic from a different angle!
- See this article: Looking Beyond Your “Four Walls”
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