Project management, like any other profession, requires continuous learning and growth. However, the most valuable lessons often come from unexpected places. While the usual textbooks, webinars, and workshops hold immense value, broadening the resource pool to more unusual territories can provide insightful perspectives. Here are some precious and unusual resources that can make you a more rounded project manager.
Biographies of Innovators
Reading the life stories of innovators like Elon Musk or Leonardo Da Vinci provides not just inspiration but also practical insights into handling complex projects. For instance, Da Vinci’s notebooks reveal how he managed multiple projects, often simultaneously, with precision and ingenuity.
Example: Leonardo da Vinci’s Cross-disciplinary Approach Da Vinci’s work on anatomy studies while painting The Last Supper reveals how a cross-disciplinary approach can fuel creativity and problem-solving. References:”Leonardo da Vinci” by Walter Isaacson, ISBN: 978-1501139161.
Philosophy and Psychology
Stoic philosophy, rooted in the teachings of Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius, offers tools for emotional resilience and decision-making under uncertainty. As project managers often face stressful situations, stoic principles can teach them to focus on controllable factors and let go of the rest.
Example: Emotional Resilience in Crisis Management When a project timeline is severely disrupted, applying stoic principles can help managers focus on solutions rather than dwelling on setbacks. References: “How to Be a Stoic” by Massimo Pigliucci, ISBN: 978-0465097951.
Understanding human behavior is crucial in team management and stakeholder relations. Behavioral economics, especially as presented in Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking, Fast and Slow,” can help project managers understand cognitive biases and how they influence decision-making processes.
Example: Nudge Theory in Team Productivity Small incentives or ‘nudges’ can significantly impact team behavior and productivity.
References: “Nudge” by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein, ISBN: 978-0143115267.
Anthropology and Sociology
Indigenous Knowledge Systems
Native communities often have unique approaches to resource management, community involvement, and problem-solving, generally passed down through generations. Studying these methods can provide a fresh perspective on team dynamics and resource allocation.
Example: Native American Resource Sharing The Iroquois Confederacy had a unique approach to resource sharing that can teach modern project managers about equitable resource allocation. References: “Native Science: Natural Laws of Interdependence” by Gregory Cajete, ISBN: 978-1574160413.
Organizational Culture Studies
Though it may sound academic, delving into the sociology of organizations can offer a deep understanding of how cultures form and what influences them. It can be particularly useful for project managers navigating diverse teams or international projects.
Example: GE’s Work-Out Program GE’s initiative to eliminate bureaucratic inefficiencies serves as a case study for organizational culture transformation. References: “The GE Work-Out” by Dave Ulrich, Steve Kerr, and Ron Ashkenas, ISBN: 978-0071384169.
Arts and Literature
In a jazz ensemble, each musician plays a distinct role yet is tuned to the collective sound. The genre teaches the beauty of improvisation and harmony, valuable skills for any project manager trying to foster team unity amidst unpredictability.
Example: Miles Davis and the Birth of the Cool Davis’s approach to jazz improvisation teaches adaptability—a skill every project manager should cultivate. References:”So What: The Life of Miles Davis” by John Szwed, ISBN: 978-0684859825.
Reading a novel may seem unrelated to project management, but storytelling can improve your communication skills. Moreover, complex characters and plotlines can provide insights into human behavior and conflict, elements present in any project environment.
Example: Understanding Conflict through Literature Characters in classic literature, such as Dostoevsky’s “Crime and Punishment,” can give insights into conflict resolution. References: “Crime and Punishment” by Fyodor Dostoevsky, ISBN: 978-0486415871.
The study of ecosystems provides deep insights into complex interdependencies and the importance of balance. In project management, understanding these intricate relationships can be crucial when juggling multiple stakeholders or interconnected tasks.
Example: Food Web Dynamics in Resource Allocation Understanding the food web can offer lessons in resource allocation and interdependencies. References: “Ecology: The Economy of Nature” by Robert Ricklefs and Rick Relyea, ISBN: 978-1319187721.
Concepts like entropy and Newton’s laws have parallels in project management, particularly in the areas of resource allocation and risk mitigation. For instance, the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which states that systems naturally move towards chaos, can serve as a warning to continuously monitor and adjust project plans.
Example: Newton’s Third Law in Stakeholder Management For every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction—a principle that applies when managing stakeholder expectations. References:”Physics for Scientists and Engineers” by Paul A. Tipler, ISBN: 978-1429201247.
Scenario Planning Techniques
Engaging in futurology and scenario planning can help project managers anticipate and prepare for potential future trends. By imagining various possible outcomes, they can develop more flexible and resilient project plans.
Example: Royal Dutch Shell’s Long-term Planning Shell’s extensive use of scenario planning in the ’70s allowed it to navigate the oil crisis effectively. References:”The Art of the Long View” by Peter Schwartz, ISBN: 978-0385267328.
Though speculative, keeping an eye on emerging technologies like quantum computing or blockchain can offer new tools or methodologies that could revolutionize project management practices.
Example: Blockchain in Supply Chain Management Blockchain’s potential for enhancing transparency and accountability can be a game-changer.
References:”Blockchain Basics: A Non-Technical Introduction in 25 Steps” by Daniel Drescher, ISBN: 978-1484226032.
Becoming a more rounded project manager involves looking beyond conventional resources and embracing wisdom from a variety of fields. By diversifying your intellectual toolbox, you not only enrich your own practice but also bring a unique, multi-disciplinary perspective to your team and projects.
To leverage these resources, consider creating a learning plan that mixes conventional project management education with these unusual sources. Engage in periodic reviews to assimilate what you’ve learned and adjust your approaches accordingly. Remember, the world is full of wisdom; you just have to know where to look.
Note: The application of some of these principles may require adaptation to fit into specific project management methodologies.