Facilitating the Spread of Knowledge and Innovation in Professional Software Development

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Where has the innovation gone?

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Some commentators have recently been questioning the level of innovation happening in the Agile world.

Naresh Jain recently stated: 

It appears to me that the Agile Community is falling behind the innovation curve. At conferences, user groups, mailing list, etc, we see the same old same old stuff (may be I’m missing something). So where is the real innovation happening? What space should I be watching?

 In the Simple Design and Testing conference  wiki he identified areas to look at for innovation, from Web 2.0 to eLearning to distributed development.

 In a similar vein,Max Choong questions if the Agile iterative “inspect and adapt” approach supports innovation, because Innovation is: 

A step change - a discontinuity - from what we already know or do. Innovation is about thinking out-of-the-box, changing the rules and revolutionising. Optimisation, on the other hand, is about taking what we already have and evolving it.

He goes on to state: 

From my experience, project pressures usually mean the Agile process is an optimising machine. Clients want to keep going forward even when they know full well the solution isn't right. What happens is a solution which may be fundamentally flawed is polished and band-aided into something passable. It takes a brave soul to say: "This isn't working. Let's go back to the drawing board!"

 He argues for an approach that involves setting up an “R&D stream” in parallel with the iterations, exploring and experimenting with new ideas that are not directly related to the incremental product, but could result in additional stories to add to the backlog. 

He also suggests bringing into the R&D stream opportunities to conduct user-centred design: 

I have an ulterior motive for suggesting this "R&D stream" that runs in parallel to the iterative development cycle. It gives user-centred design its own space. We can storyboard, prototype and carry out in-depth research to test ideas. These activities are time-boxed as required and the outputs (if appropriate) eventually feed into the backlog as properly qualified and considered items.

 Is there space for Innovation in Agile projects?  How are your projects addressing the innovation challenge?

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