February 25, 2018


Project management advice, tips, tools and recommended resources for existing and aspiring project managers.

Innovation in Project Management

By Linky van der Merwe

Innovation in project managementAccording to Forbes.com innovation needs to be seen as a discipline of learning to use the right methods, tools and approaches at the right times, in other words: “learning to harness innovation”.

Harnessing the Power of Innovation was the theme of the latest Project Management South Africa (PMSA) National Conference that was held from 9-11 November in Johannesburg. The call is often for creativity and a shift in culture which will enable leaders and employees to optimize change. The question on how to achieve this was answered by a number of excellent speakers on the topic of Innovation!

PMSA Conference Nov 2016Project management often provides the ideal environment in which to harness innovation. It requires project managers’ skills sets to include the ability to encourage and develop creative thinking to achieve results.

The keynote speaker, Vasitha Pather, set out to demystify innovation by presenting a view of the bigger picture thinking required to integrate innovation into our projects. She helped project managers to think how we create an environment for innovation to take root and flourish.


According to Vasitha listening creates a safe space and increases trust. In the context of listening we enter in a psychological state where we are more receptive to be creative. A key ingredient of innovation is to slow down in order to move fast.

Find your flow

In sport they talk about getting into the zone, where they describe an altered state of consciousness, an increased mental state and even a heightened state of enjoyment.

We need to be in environments that are fun and innovative. As project managers and change managers we need to enable that through conversation, having fun and giving meaning to work. Let people engage all their senses, because we think with our whole body.  We’ll immerse ourselves in a state of productivity that can increase our productivity by up to 60%.

Social sensitivity

Diversity is a core aspect of innovation. It helps to have different perspectives, to care about each other and to have authentic leaders.

Vasitha also referred to the work of Peter Block, called Social Fabric which is centered around the need to belong. He believes in building a community that gives a sense of connectedness, where collaboration is a choice and people realise that they can create more together than on their own.

For project managers who value high-performing teams it’s good to encourage a culture of appreciation. Reward and acknowledge people by their name, give empathy that will increase the feeling of connectedness and will contribute to people feeling safe and connected.

Where projects often consist of self-organising teams, project managers need to build resilience in the system to handle the uncertainty. It’s important to remember that you cannot innovate without disruption. Where people play, insights and knowledge come out, because you give people a higher experience, while staying productive.
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