Innovation is on everyone’s mind these days, but best practices for delivering innovation aren’t new. This summer marks Versatile’s Tenth Anniversary of our Delivering Innovation course, designed and delivered specifically for Lockheed Martin’s Engineering Leadership Development Program.

Delivering Innovation stresses the critical contribution of risk management, engaging stakeholders, and requirements engineering to the innovation experience. It isn’t enough to produce a breakthrough product or service – it must also pass the Cost/Benefit test. That’s the innovation challenge.

Risk Management provides a logical, repeatable framework for increasing the probability of success when our projects break new ground.  It is a systematic process of identifying potential problems and then developing strategies to either avoid the problems or at least reduce the negative impact.  Rigorous risk management contributes to affordable innovation because it makes it safer and less expensive to try out new ideas.

Stakeholder Analysis recognizes that a wide range of people judge the success of our innovative solutions. Some will be the customers we want to satisfy. Others may include departments from whom we’ll need cooperation in order to complete the project. Not everyone will view our project or product in the same way, so we need methods to understand the variety of stakeholders, what’s important to each of them, and to predict their influence and contribution related to implementing using our innovation. Stakeholder analysis contributes to cost-effective innovation because it brings the project closer to the customer.

Requirements Engineering is the foundation of affordable innovation.  Innovation solves a problem in a new and better way.  Affordability adds the constraint of choosing the optimal combination of capability and cost.  Requirements create the context for creative problem solving. Requirements engineering is the disciplined approach to clearly understanding the customer’s problem and decomposing that problem so that the problem can be solved by a team, all the while keeping track of each element of the problem.  It is the discipline that enables a project team to see the total set of potential capabilities and to prioritize them to achieve affordability.

Requirements, stakeholders, and risk exist on every innovation initiative. Ignoring any one of them leads to almost certain failure. So why aren’t these the major focus of discussions on innovation? I have a few opinions about that, and would enjoy hearing your ideas (post a comment below). Here’s my take:

  • Other innovation topics have more sizzle – such as creativity.  It’s more fun and a lot more visible when we get creative.
  • Like much of project management, performing risk, requirements, and stakeholder management well creates the absence of error – which is pretty difficult to measure and therefore difficult to justify.  They each take constant, steady focus with no specific result that is tied directly to these activities.

Let’s be clear: I love creativity. But innovation is creativity that adds value.  Creativity powered by clear requirements that are discerned from the right stakeholders and strengthened by risk analysis is a formula for breakthrough results.



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