Today every organization is in need and interested to innovate, and is largely seen as a culture problem to solve. To a large extent it is a culture problem but not just it. The problem with innovation is the complexity of making people believe in it and see the value.  And to make people believe in it, there need to be a sustainable effort at every level to make people understand their responsibility in the innovation process. This article is a quick introduction to how different stakeholders in the organization should think of their role. A lot of this information are things that i learned from IISM. It's a great source of knowledge, and i strongly recommend reading their articles.

The key to innovation in a large organization is to try out small ideas and fail fast than to try out large projects and fail later. But doing so will need mind shift from different players in the organization. They are as follows.

Business Leader and Innovation

Responsibility : Fund smaller projects and accept failure, than building a large project and accepting a failure.

If business teams want both ROI and innovation they need to build it out incrementally so they don't invest much in the first place for a failure. They to understand the business in detail to support the direction for innovation to reduce failures and mis-hits. Innovation can stem from multiple opportunities starting from changing the way we do our own job to changing the way customers do their job. They need to make sure both sides are looked at equally.

Project Manager and Innovation

Responsibility : Use Product Execution for creative work, use Project Execution for implementation work. Find where to use what.

The role of a project manager in innovation is to identify the adoption and scaling of innovative solutions. Finding ways to engage the customers and stakeholders with an adoption framework that is centered around innovation and how the teams can build on top of small ideas to larger product value. The framework should have proper processes in place for the clients to incrementally adopt, drop, report issues. A general rule of thumb is as follows.

  • Use Product Execution to create industry-changing products and services
  • Use Product Execution for discovering and addressing adoption constraints
  • Use Project Execution to deliver those changes across your customer base
  • Use Project Execution for scaling of known solutions with proven methods
  • Use Project execution for translating the value delivered in terms of success criteria.

Don't

  • ‘Inspiring team’ by dictation of delivery date
  • Project Management empowered to drive date
  • Timeline is re-estimated until it matches date
  • Strong Deterrents push team to hit date

Applying the correct management system according to the type of work is a critical factor in R&D effectiveness. Use Product Execution for creative work, use Project Execution for implementation work.

Dev Manager and Innovation

Responsibility : Build trusted teams than monitorable teams. Challenge them every day.

Dev Manager has a good understanding of the product/market fit, technical solution and the tech stack chosen by the team. In addition a relevant Dev Manager stays connected to the changes that the Dev Team is making. And finally, in order to accomplish the previous items, a Dev Manager must have aptitude for and experience with software development. The dev manager should not create the project and start to track metrics to determine success. The following are key to manage and run innovative teams.

▪ Build trusted teams of amazing engineers
▪ Engage the team in world changing opportunities
▪ Energize the team with epic visions of a transformed world

Product manager and Innovation

Responsibility : Make sure the team make "disciplined failures". Because failing systematically will still bring value for future.

Discovery of new value requires a critical mass of new learning, and new learning requires a critical mass of disciplined failure. A product manager should work towards what would be a disciplined failure, and how to engage the development team upfront to avoid "undisciplined failures". Restated from the perspective of cause-to-effect, the systemic tracking of failed solution attempts in a controlled fashion leads to learning which leads to discovery of a new pile of value. However, since failure is nearly universally avoided, discovery of new value becomes a rare event; The fear of failure should not reduce the possibility of a rare event.


There are sprint ceremonies that need to be done differently as well to drive innovation. Couple of them are .....

Grooming and Innovation

What : Discover more , predict less

Modern software is becoming more and more complex and that complexity forces teams to discover (build small piece) the solution rather than predict (groom) the solution. Instead of spending time on questionable estimates, Software Engineers should be focused on creating valuable software. This comes with mutual trust between engineering, business, product and management team.

Planning and Innovation

What : Collaborate without excuses. Don't define what needs to be done, define what will be useful.

When it comes to planning process for innovative work, the product manager should have no excuse. He is available at the disposal of the team, to fill in requirements that are not part of the "story" in a workflow management tool. Remember we don't need exhaustive grooming, but we do need details when implementing.

Usually product owners are pulled in many directions; POs busy with sales, support, demos, business, cross-functional, and customer meetings. Because of this getting to ‘done’ quickly appeared to be many Team’s measure for success to save their side of metrics (alas !) The commonly used “Make it like except” pattern implies that the team must fill in the gaps themselves, often without access to the market. For innovation to scale correctly, they can’t be gated by one expert with access to market, who is busy. The team should be equipped to fill the gaps themselves. The Product owners should play the role of both an educator, and business liaison, and  embrace the fact that they have a competitive team and independent team.

Innovate !,because that's how we can make the world a better place.