Innovation & Project Management: Exploring the Links


By Dr. Donncha Kavanagh and Ed Naughton

Dublin, Ireland


If innovation was traditionally seen as technology-led, it now covers a much broader canvas. Innovation is possibly best defined as the exploration and exploitation of new ideas in pursuit of a competitive advantage. The pressure to be competitive drives innovation across the range of business practices, and, conversely, innovation is a key driver of competitive advantage.

Innovation is not necessarily about big-bang, major breakthroughs. More often it is incremental and built on the day-to-day expertise of employees and their thorough knowledge of customers and competitors. For them, innovation is often about making non-technical adjustments that have significant customer impact with correspondingly little cost.

Examples of such “adjustments” include the development of new or enhanced products and services, the introduction of new business models – shorter lifecycles to get product to market – and new work practices. These “adjustments” are in essence projects that must be exploited /managed and brought to a successful outcome. Framed in this way, the proper management of projects, through project management, is vital to innovation.

But from another perspective, formal management practices like project management might hinder innovation by imposing standard techniques that stifle the creativity needed to innovate.

In this article we report on a study into the relationship between project management and innovation. To avoid the problem of trying to generalise from a small-scale survey or from case studies, we took the nation as our unit of analysis. Thus, we asked if nations that use project management are more innovative than those that do not.

Project Management Score Index

We used the level of project management certification as the best available metric of the concentration or intensity of project management practice in various countries. It is important to distinguish between project management education and professionally accredited project management certification. Accredited certification is a reflection of application competence while education focuses more heavily on the acquisition of knowledge. If formal project management methods are applied extensively in a country then that is likely to be reflected in a high number of project management certificates issued.


To read entire paper (click here)

Editor’s note: Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English. Original publication acknowledged; authors retain copyright. This paper was originally published in the April 2009 edition of PM World Today. It is republished here with the permission of the authors.



About the Authors

pmwj43-Feb2016-Kavanagh-PHOTODr Donncha Kavanagh

University College Dublin
Dublin, Ireland



Donncha Kavanagh
is Professor of Information & Organisation in the Business School at University College Dublin (UCD), Ireland; Director of UCD’s Centre for Innovation, Technology and Organisation and a member of the Management Information Systems subject area.  He is also Director of PhD Programmes in the Michael Smurfit School of Business in UCD.

His research interests include the sociology of knowledge and technology, temporality, phronesis, the history and philosophy of management thought, pre-modern and postmodern modes of organizing, play and creativity. He is especially interested in the nature of ‘management’ in atypical forms of organising, while his most recent publications have focused on the relationship between work and play in management theory and practice. He has published widely in the fields of information and organisation, management, marketing, organisation studies, and engineering in leading international journals such as Organization, Organization Studies and Journal of Business Research.  Prior to his academic career, he worked in a number of project management and project controller roles. Further details at http://donnchakavanagh.com/


pmwj17-dec2013-naughton-AUTHOR IMAGE
Ed Naughton

Institute of Project Management
Dublin, Ireland



Ed Naughton, BE, C. Eng., F.I.E.I, FIPMA, IPMA-a, PMP, is the founder and Director General of the Institute of Project Management of Ireland, the leading authority on the PM profession in Ireland. On the international front, Ed was responsible for initiating cooperation agreements with both the PMI (Project Management Institute) USA and the IPMA (International Project Management Association). He is Ireland’s representative on the IPMA council of delegates, and a former Vice President-Marketing for the IPMA. He was also the first PMP registered in Ireland. Ed has researched, published and presented many articles and papers on project management and is the author of the Irish Project Management Competence Baseline. During his thirty year career, Ed has worked as a project manager and/or project management consultant on a large variety of high profile domestic and international assignments.

Ed Naughton is a graduate of University College Dublin (BE, civil), a Fellow of the Institute of Engineers of Ireland, a Chartered Engineer (Ireland), a Professional Engineer in Canada, and holds an IPMA Level A certification. He is former founder and editor of the quarterly international publication “Project Management Practice”. One of Ireland’s most respected experts on the topic of modern project management, Ed is an executive advisor to PM World in Ireland. Ed Naughton was named a Fellow of IPMA in 2013.

Ed lives in Dublin and can be contacted at [email protected].