Why Radical Innovation Is Dependent on People—Not Process

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I think radical innovation is essential for survival in this century. But no one has been able to come up with a formula or a process to build innovative products like the iPhone or Google Glass. Why is this? Because innovation is a creative endeavor and is people dependent. Steve Jobs is a classic example of a radical innovator. He had the unique ability and creativity to sense the end customers’ requirements.

In addition, Steve Jobs is one of the best product owners (PO) in the world. How many Scrum projects have POs with the ability to come up with innovative product designs like Steve? Most of the POs I have come across are glorified requirement analysts. Even the Version One Survey 2012 has confirmed that POs are the least knowledgeable about agile. With such a poor track record of product owners, sometimes I ask myself whether it is possible to build innovative products in such agile environments?

Collaboration and innovation go hand-in-hand. Agile environments are supposed to be collaborative. However, the common understanding of collaboration in a software delivery context is to help each other without causing friction. If someone in the team is challenging ideas, he immediately is branded as non-collaborative, which is wrong. To be innovative, the team must understand the concept of collaboration and especially these three types.

The job market is another area that is impacted by innovation. Recently, I heard about this innovative 3D-house-construction printer. As I read this, I was wondering what potential impact this printer might have on the construction industry. Can this printer build the entire house on its own with little help? What will happen to the construction workers’ jobs? I realize that it is critical for employees and workers from all industries to build T-Shaped skills for sustainability.

I’ll leave you with this: Can an innovative product be built by applying Scrum or XP in your current project? What is hindering innovation in agile projects?

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Venkatesh Krishnamurthy

Venkatesh Krishnamurthy is an author, speaker and a coach. In his 15+ years of career in the software industry, he has played different roles as a developer, architect and an Agile coach.