Innovation projects are one of the best aspects of being a manufacturing industry process consultant and a tech enthusiast actively involved in a couple areas of high interest.
In the context of this post, 'innovation projects' refer to those projects that for various reasons fall outside the scope of projects with which people inside the organization are familiar and have a significant track record.
Normal projects are ones focused on supporting reliable output of an organization's traditional products or services. Those products or services are likely to be at least one year old and often are several years old. There are departments and procedures established within the organization to support these products. An organization needs an extremely strong driving force to decide its internal people resources can't adequately support those established products. Even if an organization's employee has the responsibilities that two, three or even four people had 20 years ago, management within the organization is unlikely to allocate money in the budget to hire or allow someone from outside the organization to do activities which internal personnel normally took care of in the past. For these reasons and more, engineers or technical people such as myself are seldom brought in to do work related to established products.
Innovation projects, however, involve either new products or, occasionally, major changes to existing products or processes. Innovation projects for which I am especially likely to be considered are those which fall outside the normal experience of most members of an organization.
Examples of this are when a manufacturing company decides to pursue brand extension, to significantly extend the level of customer support and product development compared to what they historically provided, or to move into an entirely new market. Innovation project schedules rarely allow company personnel time to learn new skills needed to successfully organize and implement the project, so the organization is willing to bring in outside assistance.
The flat world, the global economy, downsizing, knowledge worker collaborative tools, and USA demographics (especially retirement of Baby Boomers and a dwindling engineering and technical workforce in America) all contribute to a growing need for outside resources to successfully develop and implement innovation projects.
If a person likes variety, challenge, emerging technologies and exploring new ways of working and thinking, the above scenario holds both many opportunties and great rewards. In some ways America may be entering one of its best periods of innovation.
There are five innovation projects I'm currently involved with or developing proposals for. All these projects hold great promise for either bringing some cool new products to market or revolutionizing their markets. One project might even create an entirely new market.
Now I just need six more hours in each day...