On the 9th and 10th September, PMI Bangalore Chapter organized their Annual PMPC (Project Management Professionals Conference) at NIMHANS Convention Center, Bangalore. I got an opportunity to be invited to the conference at the last minute. Could not attend on both days but squeezed in as much as possible to be there on Day 1.
The key theme around the conference and its speakers has been “Innovation”.
Conference was well organized and there were eminent people who came to share their experiences including Mr. T N Seshan, former CEC of India. I could capture few interesting points during the conference and here, I am sharing them in Q&A format which could probably provoke your thought process.
How do we help “team” think Innovatively?
Many managers struggle with this. Innovation is not a skill, but attitude and the thought process. How can we change someone’s thought process when they are tuned to a particular style? Especially the learning style which we grew up with? One noble Professor who was part of the Panel provided an interesting thought. Managers should keep pushing what he calls Stress Relievers. What he recommended is that we should push team members to inculcate the habit of reading. Along with this, Management should periodically give Puzzles to its team (group and Individual) and encourage them to solve. This will help them sharpen their thought process and start thinking of new ways of solving real live problems.
Helping team to de-stress regularly by encouraging them in Sports and Dancing is another way of motivating team to think different.
We are so used to follow instructions and solving problems in School and at College. What we need is a different way of solving problems. This comes only when Management/Managers give the opportunity to its team members to think different. Manager’s should definitely understand how to balance the pressure of the demanding milestones and also give the liberty to team members to think and solve a problem. Also, the success for the organization comes when Managers give the same freedom to their Managers.
Why is India far from Innovation?
Panelists had various thoughts on this. One perspective which struck chord with the audience is that we are more Service Driven. Others agreed, however also highlighted that there are various organizations which have started thinking in these lines. Intel’s Celeron processor was completely born out of India. There are many other innovations which are coming out from India. However, the cycle is taking longer due to the infrastructure. What I mean by Infrastructure is the system we have – Our Education System, Incubation Cells, Government Support, Investments and mentorship. These are working today, however, there is loads of differences when it comes to execution. We are definitely in-line, however it is taking longer than the usual cycle.
What are organizations NOT providing to foster Innovation?
One aspect which many have agreed is the timeframe and the service mindset. We need to Quantify results quickly than the anticipated time. This happens everywhere and most of the times. This becomes a burden for Innovation. Organizations need to develop their Delivery Models based on this. Time required for Innovation in solving the problem should be considered while estimating their timelines for Delivery. This builds the culture of Innovation in the organization and also teams are motivated to think in this direction. Organizations which have incorporated this have definitely been successful – Google (20% of time goes towards working on an individual’s passion), ThoughtWorks (Services organization) have been the true differentiators. There are many organizations across the globe, but mentioned the above examples so that they can easily be referenced.
How do you measure Innovation?
Many participants agreed that they use Innovation Index. Others who shared their experiences mentioned that they measure what needs to be delivered to how it is being delivered, essentially metrics.
For each of their goals, organizations should have a quantifiable measurement criteria and this helps measure their Innovation. How many different and effective ways have been proposed to solve a problem is what needs to be measured. This becomes a benchmark in the Organizations measurement.
Does aggressive growth need rapid Innovation?
It depends. There are various parameters in understanding what the end goal is. Organization Goals take the center stage. What is the Priority of the organization – Growth or Innovative Solutions? Until this is answered, one cannot determine if each of them are inter-connected or inter-dependent.
Is Competition killing Innovation?
One Professor who was part of the Panel started with an interesting perspective on various Era’s:
Socialist – The Nehru age. We need to become an industrial economy to build the country.
LPG (Liberalization, Privatization and Globalization) – This happened across the globe. Each country wanted to build their economy to establish themselves.
WTO (World of Threats and Opportunities) – This is today. We have an Opportunity and Threat sitting beside each other all the time.
Did this kill Innovation? NO. What ever the perspective is, Innovation happens all the time and organizations ensure they stick to what they are doing. Going forward also, these aspects are always existing and how we handle them and build ourselves is what counts.
“Innovation is Attitude” – How can we develop this attitude?
No rocket science. Build the attitude from day one. Give the liberty to your teams to think on their own. Do not provide them with solutions to solve problems (like in a typical System Development Lifecycle). Let teams think for themselves and propose solutions. Match with what your experts have in mind and arrive at a cumulative solutions. This will provide confidence to your teams to think independently.
I was present for a session by Sudhir of Lumium Innovations, Ahmedabad and that was very different. Lumium is working towards becoming the Indian IDEO. He had a different perspective on thinking out of the box. He says that there is Nothing outside the box, but it is just a bigger box.
The session name on the agenda attracted double the capacity of the auditorium. The initial case-studies he presented which they were working on, gave a different light to many in the auditorium, but what attracted me is one slide he shared toward the end on the three tangents of the Box.
There are three tangents to the graph – Past, Present & Future
- Cumulative Learning
- Discrete Experiences
- Bio mimicry
What happened in the Past is that we banked on our cumulative learning. Imagine the last project you worked on? The project schedule was prepared based on a similar project done earlier. The design and architecture is based on past experiences of the Architects (This is what they are paid for, right?). The pricing has been based on the projected number of hours taken to complete the project (again, this goes back to referencing earlier projects). There is nothing wrong in this. It is a very well accepted perspective.
In the book Super Crunchers, Ian Ayres begins the book with a reference to column in a famous wine magazine which mentions that a particular place in France, at a particular latitude and longitude and at a particular time frame produced the best wine in the world till date. How did this come about? This is based on various calculation of the location of the vineyard, climatic conditions and the quality of grapes grown. This came into writing when the columnist referred to various statistics of wine produced around the world. The prediction (even though its in the future) was based on historical data. He did not predict that we will have the best wine prepared in the future, but it is based on the past data.
What is happening at Present is that we are building systems based on the consumers requirement. There is no referential data available. Look at all the applications which are being developed for the Mobile space as an illustration. There is no reference because the mobile space is re-inventing itself everyday. A new kind of platform is being conceptualized and brought to the real world almost every day.
What will happen in the Future is that our reference point is going to be Technology and inclusion of Bio mimicry. How technology takes shape and how consumers want o see what the want and demand what they see.
Most of the notes above are my interpretations and my examples. Feel free to shoot your thoughts.