We all know that innovation and creativity are mostly likely to be achieved when people feel free to think differently and take chances. And yet, in many organisations the worry associated with risk and change, and the fixed processes that need to be followed, make it difficult to deviate from the prescribed well-trodden route – making it almost impossible to be innovative.
For an organisation to become flexible and ground-breaking in its thinking, there needs to be a learning culture, where people feel able to take the inevitable risks that come with exploring new areas without being hindered by fear of blame and reprisals.
The need for innovation in today’s fast-moving world is most likely one of the reasons why the Agile Project Management approach is growing so fast. The Agile approach is set up to respond to change, rather than stick to a pre-set plan. It is designed for a world where change is expected, and is normal, and has enough flexibility built into the framework to deal with this.
Agile projects are designed to deliver the results that are most valuable for the business first. It is iterative and adaptive,
with early testing built in to check and adapt direction, throughout the project. Agile uses the concept of “fail fast”: for example, an Agile team has to check and test early to capture errors before they become established. Agile project managers will be quick to point out that it is often much cheaper to fix things earlier, rather than later. Agile actively encourages this idea of testing frequently (through iterative development) so the team works collaboratively and learns as they go. It is ok for things to fail, and this is a productive part of any process. In the words of the entrepreneur Seth Godin, “You have to care enough to fail”. To change the status quo, improve, and innovate, people have to be prepared to accept that a new idea might not work. If this risk prevents moving forward, innovation won’t be possible. Iterative testing in Agile allows for innovative and creative new ideas not working. In Agile Project Management, a failure is a learning opportunity as long as it is caught early enough.
Learning more about Agile principles can help to promote a collaborative culture and remove the stigma of failure. A process that allows risks doesn’t fail your organisation, but rather gives it a robust framework for innovation!
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