Innovate for Incremental Benefits

Some people think that all of the innovative thinking is up front, and that once a project is moving, there’s little more room for innovation.  While there is a lot of innovative thinking up front, it is of a strategic or tactical nature. Once the project or initiative is underway and has some momentum, there may seem to be limited room for innovation…but I think there is plenty of opportunity for innovation to produce incremental benefits – sometimes even significant breakthroughs.  Thinking innovatively has the benefit of keeping the team fresh and engaged at a time when things could become mundane and routine. The article explores how you can incorporate innovative thinking to incrementally improve your project in the execution phase.

This is the third of a series of four articles on “Innovation”, where we explore how to innovate at various levels and in different domains.  This article, Part 3 in the series, “Innovate for Incremental Benefits,” raises the idea that innovation is not just done up front, but can effectively transform projects in the execution phase.  Part 1, “Innovate for Strategic Gains”, looks at how to get into the right mindset to innovate at the strategic level. Part 2, “Innovate for Tactical Improvements,” looks at how to innovate while focused on implementing at the tactical level.  Finally, Part 4, “Innovate to Increase Personal Effectiveness”, encourages you to apply innovation in a number of ways related to our most important resources, people!  

So once a project gains some momentum, how can you find opportunities for innovation?  I would argue that it’s imperative that you try, or motivation will suffer and the team may lose sight and thirst for the objective.  In short, in the execution phase, the questions are, “Are we on track?”, and “How can we improve how we are doing?”

Here are five things to do…but with an innovative twist:

  1. Monitor to identify if going off track – There are lots of things to monitor, and that’s where some innovation can come in.  What are the most important things to monitor? What are the key metrics to help monitor? Are there better ways of doing it?  What can possibly go wrong, and can/should we plan for alternative approaches in some cases?
  2. Improve a process – While things are moving ahead, maybe they could be done better in some cases.  Let the team be engaged in improving key processes as they go. They could be aspects of software development, product development, customer or team communication…  All the team thinks outside the box as they move forward with implementation.
  3. Cut a cost – Is everything that was planned necessary?  The default tendency may be to not even think about that question…so by introducing it, you may open some opportunities to cut costs.  Note that you may need it if a cost unexpectedly arises somewhere else.
  4. Find an area of increased benefit – It should be standard practice to constantly be focused on benefits.  However, that’s not always the case…and people can lose focus. Keep the question front of mind for the team…not only to keep in mind the original intended benefits, but any additional benefits that might come about.
  5. Find a way to enhance communications – Ongoing communications always takes effort…and so there is often resistance.  Keep the ideas of easier, faster, more effective ways to communicate front and center…and elicit team input where possible.

Are you a proponent of innovation at the implementation level?

This Article is Part of the Series: Innovation

These articles explore how to innovate at various levels and in different domains.

  1. Innovate for Strategic Gains
  2. Innovate for Tactile Improvements
  3. Innovate for Incremental Benefits
  4. Innovate to Increase Personal Effectiveness