Innovation and project management

A (non-)question from Askville:

Innovation is one of those buzz words that evokes positive emotions. It is generally considered a “good” thing, and therefore is something that we want to do. However, there are other things to consider so, lets put innovation into perspective as a project management tool.

Innovation and project management are the polar opposites.  Innovation implies dealing with previously unknown, untested, and/or unquantifiable at the present level of knowledge.  Project management, in contrast, is a collection of tools and techniques that have been repeatedly tried in the past, found to work at least under some circumstances, and yield themselves to measurement and estimation (be it in terms of resources required, time to completion, or monetary cost). In other words, if you want to innovate, you shouldn’t use project management, or at least limit its use to support areas, where the degree of uncertainty is considerably lower than in innovation per se.  Even financial metrics can be different: project management is all about net present value (NPV); innovation, in contrast, is all about the option value…

You can plan the construction of a skyscraper or an airport, because you know something about how skyscrapers and airports have been built in the past.  Try planning the construction of a fusion reactor; all you know about it is that some very smart people have been making progress toward it for thirty-some years now and are still far away from a working prototype…

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