Project Management and Innovation: Past and Future
Nikunj M. Prajapati
Sardar Patel Institute of Technology
Gujarat Technological University, Gujarat, India
Originally developed a way back, in the mid-20th century, project management has become a distinctive way to manage business activities nowadays. Another important development is almost virtually universal recognition of the role of innovation and technology in the corporate change, growth and profitability. It is unsurprising that development of innovation is often run as a project. Yet, theoretically both project management and innovation studies have evolved over time as distinctively separate disciplines. In this paper we make an attempt to conceptualize the innovation project management and past as well as future of same. By doing so, we contribute to the nascent academic debate on the interplay between innovation and project management.
KEY WORDS: Project management; innovation; past; Future; technology.
This paper is concerned with three topics and the interplay between them, namely “Innovation”, “Research and Development (R&D)” and “Project Management”. The interest in these topics has exploded recently as they emerged both on the policy agenda and in the corporate strategies. The contribution of technological innovation to national economic growth has been well established in the economic literature. In the last couple of decades, new technologies, new industries, and new business models have powered impressive gains in productivity and GDP growth. While originally there was a tendency to equate R&D and innovation, contemporary understanding of innovation is much broader than purely R&D. R&D is one component of innovation activities and knowledge creation among others. Innovation emerges as a pervasive and complex force, not only in the high-tech sectors in advanced economies, but also as a phenomenon existing in low-tech industry of developing, or catching-up economies. Still, the link between R&D and innovation is often at the core of the innovation studies. Presently, we are witnessing “projectification” of the world as a growing number of specialists organise their work in projects rather than on on-going functional basis. The connection between R&D and project management has a long history. Most tools of project management have been developed from the management of R&D, often with military purposes (Lorell, 1995). The most vivid example of managing R&D projects in the public sector is the PRINCE2 method (UK OGC, 2005). Due to the above mentioned difference between R&D and innovation, R&D projects should be distinguished from innovation projects too. Innovation is a non-linear process, not necessarily technology-led and may not necessarily result from formal R&D investments. Innovation is the exploration and exploitation of new ideas and recombination of existing knowledge in the pursuit of sustained competitive advantage. Besides, both innovation and R&D projects by their nature differ from conventional projects. Thus, there is a need to examine the Innovation Project Management (IPM) as a distinctive area of managing innovation in projects, using the tools and methods of the project management.
The Evolution of Project Management Theory
The genesis of the ideas that led to the development of modern project management can arguably be traced back to the protestant reformation of the 15th century. The Protestants and later the Puritans introduced a number of ideas including ‘reductionism’, ‘individualism’ and the ‘protestant work ethic’ (PWE) that resonate strongly in the spirit of modern project management. Reductionism focuses on removing unnecessary elements of a process or ‘ceremony’ and then breaking the process down into its smallest task or unit to ‘understand’ how it works. Individualism assumes we are active, independent agents who can manage risks and create ideas. These ideas...
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