Stand-up Meetings Inhibit Innovation

Andy Wu of Harvard Small business School and his doctoral college student Sourobh Ghosh embedded a discipline experiment in a Google hackathon to look into the effect of stand-up meetings—a core element of agile administration practices—on innovation. They found that the teams that engaged in them made considerably less-novel items. The summary: Stand-up conferences inhibit innovation.

Professor Wu, protect your exploration.

Wu: Extra and extra providers are adopting agile techniques in merchandise improvement, but it isn’t normally apparent why. There would seem to be an assumption that agile is a cure-all for innovation. The study that Sourobh and I did, having said that, reveals that one particular essential factor of the agile approach—regular stand-up meetings—is fantastic for implementation but truly undermines thought generation.

HBR: So recurrent stand-up meetings make persons considerably less modern?

The literature defines innovation as the mix of two things: value—or usefulness for a unique customer—and novelty. We discovered that recurrent stand-up meetings at the hackathon resulted in merchandise that had been rated by judges as extra valuable but much less novel. To be revolutionary, merchandise ought to be equally.

Why do you believe that happened?

Stand-up meetings really encourage crew users to coordinate their do the job at the value of independently pursuing new strategies. Why? Initially, the conferences create a perception of deadlines—even if they are not spelled out—which tends to make men and women focus on delivering something by a selected time alternatively than checking out less-well-defined and consequently riskier and a lot more-time-consuming options. 2nd, in the stand-up structure the crew explicitly states its targets, which refocuses the power on those people targets and doesn’t leave associates experience open to exploring for other avenues. Third, novel suggestions frequently bubble up when men and women think deeply about their unique places of know-how, and stand-up conferences tend to hold persons concentrated on work that is simpler to combine with the team’s, so they never leverage their specializations as a lot.

What about other agile tactics? Is it just stand-ups we will need to worry about?

I’d say stand-ups are rather agent of other tactics and frameworks that derive from the agile technique, like scrum and kanban. They all concentrate on coordination all-around shared objectives, so I suspect that they’d have a likewise harmful impact on new-thought generation.

What should really supervisors employing agile do to stimulate their teams to be much more ground breaking?

The brief remedy is: Have fewer conferences! Just permit people today get the job done on their personal and dig really deep into the difficulty at hand. Really do not be worried they’ll slide down rabbit holes, due to the fact which is wherever genuine innovation frequently will come from.

Way too a lot of managers act as nevertheless organization leadership is the primary source of creativeness. In my encounter it is the engineers and designers at the middle and the base that occur up with the greatest ideas. Bill Gates had to be told by his subordinates that the world-wide-web was worthy of his notice, for illustration.

But implementation is important far too. How do you hold individuals on monitor with out dampening their creativeness?

It is not possibly/or. You just have to have to be intentional about which you want to emphasize now. To change the concentration of stand-up conferences, administrators can pull two levers: frequency and content. If you want far more novelty, have less conferences and preserve them shorter. If your precedence is applying current strategies, better coordination from much more-common conferences can be practical. As for assembly written content, a dialogue of plans focuses men and women on applying old strategies rather than on coming up with new kinds. So if you don’t speak about ambitions, you open up the doorway to much more creativity. Say you’re a tech enterprise trying to acquire a entirely new group of product. A large amount of agile meetings could get in your way it would be much better to just have your engineers comply with their person inclinations and discover randomly.

On the other hand, you have businesses like Microsoft or Facebook that routinely produce lots of new tips at interior hackathons, but it is challenging to flip them into products that make it to sector. That’s the place agile can genuinely assistance. Logitech CEO Bracken Darrell has advised me that reorganizing his corporation all around agile management genuinely paid off. My perspective is that it labored mainly because the firm had clear aims to achieve. For example, when it wanted to improve its presentation clicker to make it much easier to see the laser pointer on large screens, it arrived up with the strategy of incorporating motion monitoring to the clicker and combining it with computer software to render a virtual “spotlight” on the monitor. For that sort of bounded, straightforward trouble, bringing in agile procedures to get your engineers and designers to execute is productive.

You examined a software package hackathon. How is that various from a real operate ecosystem?

The hackathon setup is essentially incredibly very similar to how a lot of real-globe engineering perform receives accomplished. In fact, a quantity of thriving begin-ups have come out of hackathons just like the 1 we studied. The teams had been very similar in dimensions to engineering or product or service style groups in genuine providers, and they crafted actual software purposes. The main difference was that the hackathon groups did not have to stress about integrating their products and solutions with other functions like compliance, billing, internet marketing, and consumer assist.

Another benefit of doing the experiment at a hackathon was that we were in a position to notice the enhancement approach at an amazingly granular amount. Alternatively of just rating the close goods, we could see how groups coordinated and came up with new suggestions in true time by tracking their activity in GitHub. We saw just when individuals leveraged specialised skills by incorporating highly developed synthetic intelligence or cloud-based resources. We also saw that soon after every single stand-up, engineers would begin merging their code, indicating a focus on integration rather than on new thoughts.

How do your findings implement to other industries, like components, or to innovative tasks, like music or art?

Agile tactics have been a lot less popular with components due to the fact it tends to consider a whole lot for a longer time to create, which makes the consistent test-ins and changes related with agile extra expensive. In hardware, “waterfall” practices—a hierarchical, linear approach—traditionally make perception. But a ton of recent innovations in hardware have essentially been software program-­based, as we noticed with Logitech’s clicker. So agile is truly worth contemplating about even if your small business has presented only hardware products and solutions.

As far as resourceful projects go, the exploration suggests that agile practices are not your most effective bet. If you’re working with a group to develop a screenplay or a song, it is far better to let men and women go at it independently. Of system, it also relies upon on the mother nature of the project. If you’re operating on a intricate production with lots of shifting areas, stand-up meetings might be incredibly effective for coordinating seem engineers, writers, artists, and so on.

Does tradition make a difference? You analyzed a tech natural environment in the United States. Would your findings be diverse in other nations around the world or in nontech workplaces?

Neighborhood society is unquestionably an important component. American society can be additional individualistic and place much less emphasis on authority and next procedures. In extra-collectivist cultures, agile might inhibit innovation much more, because persons would probably experience better pressure to adhere to the group plans talked about in stand-up conferences. An additional dimension of national and organizational tradition is the extent to which workers are trusted to get the job done tricky with out supervision. The coordination delivered by agile is just one way to keep track of employees, but that could possibly not be important for all corporations.

That’s in particular suitable now, since so quite a few men and women are working remotely in the pandemic.

Surely. The shift absent from offices has led to considerably less constant coordination and more unbiased do the job. The employees that attained time and autonomy from likely remote can concentration much more on their own ideas (with the important caveat that numerous could have significantly less time now mainly because of little one treatment and other requirements). Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey seen in 2018 that he was far more targeted and inventive when performing at household, and he just allowed Twitter workforce to get the job done from property indefinitely. In my modern investigate it appears that virtual conferences, adopted in the course of the pandemic, deliver a lot less accountability toward shared targets than in-man or woman meetings do, suggesting that they may well not have as a great deal of a negative impact on creativeness.

Ultimately, what we’re all viewing is that you just can’t approach out novelty. All these businesses are searching at Google, Fb, and hip tech start-ups and expressing, “They’re innovative, and they use agile, so we must also.” But which is not what agile truly provides.