Detailed Requirements a barrier to Innovation?


I recently came across a question on a social media site…

“A bizarre new argument is emerging – that detailed requirements are a barrier to innovation and play into the hands of suppliers…

…Is this not a nonsense? How can requirements, provided they are not prescriptive, ever be accused of this?”

This is my view…

Let’s start with the definitions

in•no•va•tion [in-uh-vey-shuhn]
1.a new method, idea, product, etc.
2.something new or different introduced.

re•quire•ment [ri-kwahyuhr-muhnt]
1.a thing that is needed or wanted.
2.a need or necessity.

When we talk about innovation and requirements, we are only talking about solution, not problem. There should not be any confusion regarding this.

The difference is, when we talk about innovation, we are thinking new ways, new products, new methods; Whereas in requirements (especially detailed requirments) we are focussing on how to implement a way, a product, a method.

There is no contradiction between innovation and detailed requirements, as long as the former is present before the latter. The contradiction arises only when detailed requirements arive ahead of innovation, when the latter disappears!

The devil is in the details ‘only’.

Talking in normal terminologies, innovation is what we call ‘solution options’. How many projects have you seen that has gone through the fun of identifying multiple solution options before settling for the right one (for which then requirements are elicited in detail)?

I hope this perspective will help in doing analysis of business changes in the right way. Innovate then Require.

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