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New Study Shows How Schedules Determine the Spread of Innovation

January 3, 2015

Schedule for innovation

A fascinating study in the Journal, Physical Review X, shows the importance of a schedule in determining the adoption of innovation. The study, published October 2014, looks at the adoption of a new test for life-threatening bacterial infections by physicians in a hospital. It found that use of this new test, an innovation in the hospital, depended on physicians interacting and communicating with each other. The more a physician who doesn’t use the test hears about the test and the benefits of it, from another physician, the more likely they are to adopt that test. The physicians need to talk to each other for the idea to spread. There needs to be an effective communication environment for the ideas to spread.

The communication environment of physician interactions is determined by the work schedule for these physicians. That means adoption of this life saving innovation is determined by the schedule. This makes schedule development critically important for spreading innovation, which is critical in our society.  To quote the study “Adoption of innovations, whether new ideas, technologies, or products, is crucially important to knowledge societies.” This is particularly true of innovations with great societal impact such as life saving technologies.

We can apply this lesson to our complex projects. A schedule determines who communicates with whom and how often. This, as the study indicates, determines how knowledge and innovation spread. Traditional factors such as network logic, resource availability, cost, etc. are all relevant considerations when building schedules. However, it is important to consider how a schedule shapes the communication environment. On projects where we need people to share knowledge, develop innovations and spread solutions, a schedule’s impact on the communication environment can be more important than traditional factors when developing a schedule for a successful project outcome.

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