2006/12/04

Innovation: Working on Something Important

We should work on projects and ideas that are important, not just ones that are interesting to us.

This point was made both by a recent O'Reilly Radar blog post and by the book, "Innovation: The Five Disciplines For Creating What Customers Want."

Making sure you're working on important projects can be challenging for several reasons. First, most projects don't figure out why they're important, don't clearly communicate why they're important, or just plain aren't important.

Second, it's challenging because most project leaders don't feel the need to have projects understood as 'important' by those on the project team. As Marc states in his O'Reilly Radar blog post, "The best way to get developers to build something great is to make them believe your goal is worthwhile. If you do, control from the top will not only be unnecessary; it will be impossible. That's the best situation you can hope to create, and frankly I love that so many people don't believe that, since it makes things so much easier for those of us who do." [Bold emphasis added by B. Waldron]

Third, a majority of people take a job to feed, clothe and house themselves and those for whom they are responsible. Finding a job with important projects, or seeing their job as important, often takes a backseat to the hundreds of little everyday obligations and interruptions clamoring for a piece of their time and their minds. Once you're in a job where you don't work on 'important' projects, the security blanket of your job can give you lots of reasons not to rock the boat and not to find a new job that does have important projects.

When you're thinking about, proposing, launching, leading and participating in projects, do everything you can to make sure the project is important and is understood as important. Make sure your project is solving important problems. If you do that, it will truly make people's lives better and the world a better place.

An innovation that doesn't solve an important problem is an innovation that will not succeed.

[NEW NET will meet on Tues, 5 Dec, at Mister Churro. See tomorrow's post for more details.]

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