Monday, November 23, 2009

Are you experimenting enough?

How many of your company projects failed last year due to technology or business reasons and since they were being tried ahead of their times? Note that project failures due to poor execution or people management issues don’t count in the above list. If the answer is none and if you are proud about it, think again - Are you actually playing it too safe?

It takes a lot of courage to try and do projects that are innovative and being attempted for the first time. There are just too many obstacles – critics who are quick to point out why it will never work, “experienced” leaders who don’t want to associate themselves with failures, Business Analysts who just are not able to think outside the boundaries they are used to. So literally the odds are stacked against it right from the start. However, these are the kind of projects worth doing. So if you are the top leader in your organisation, these are the projects you should be tracking. The larger your organisation, the more difficult it is to run such projects.

So why does this matter? Simply - because your customers deserve it. Remember your first paying customer. How happy would he feel if you are the first to market a new feature than your competitor who is more priced than you? Because your brand deserves it. People tend to remember and associate innovative brands even better. Finally your employees deserve it. Employees love the space and fulfilment of working on projects based on innovation. The challenge gives them an incomparable high and makes all the hard work worthwhile.

Oh… and by the way – typically 1 out of 3 true innovation projects fail. Is that bad? NO. I would say that as long as there are lessons learned and the failure happens rather fast in the project life cycle, it is good. It is important however that the people associated with these projects are not treated as “failures”.

Let me leave you with this famous saying – “A ship in the harbour is safe but that’s not what ships are built for”. Similarly you can just stick to the tried out feature list but that is not what your customer is expecting from you. Every once in a while, you should be prepared to try out different things even if it means you may not succeed. Remember – nothing ventured, nothing gained

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