From adversity to innovation


Forging a creative discovery journey

Advances in Project Management


By Prof Darren Dalcher

Director, National Centre for Project Management
Lancaster University Management School

United Kingdom

The most recent contribution in the series (Dalcher, 2021) focused on the need to lead transformations, with a particular emphasis on navigating disorder in times of crises. The contribution makes it clear that disorder plays an important part in enabling significant change and transformation. This month we continue to explore the imperative to change and the creative and human sides of transformations.

The Covid-19 pandemic has shaken the world to its core, forcing urgent adjustments and fundamental changes to society, and our way of life. But pandemics and crises are not new. Indeed, the history of the human race is littered with a myriad of crises that have challenged the normal order of things, often inducing abrupt resets. Crisis events can therefore force a rethink and offer the inevitable spark needed to engender transformation.

Mitroff (2018) observes that beyond the immediate harm wreaked by a crisis, there is a more insidious impact with an existential component where all the important assumptions, the notions of what might be safe and the deeply held models, become invalid all at once. The pandemic has thus questioned the wisdom, perceived capability and desired inclination to control nature through technology, bringing the physical and natural environment, our wider ecosystem and our complex connections with it into sharp focus.” (Dalcher, 2020: p. 4)

Following the financial crisis of 2007-8, it was noted in the Journal of the American Bankers Association that innovation presents an enormous challenge for most banks, and especially for those with long histories of conservative management (Sullivan, 2009: 30); yet, innovation is recognised as the all-important engine that empowers recovery. The normal controls and procedures that are cherished for their ability to introduce efficiency and inhibit variation and irregularities in normal times, also root out creativity and innovation, supressing the potential for change and recovery in the aftermath of a crisis. A crisis is an important reminder that ‘what got us here’, will no longer suffice to get us out of trouble…

Crises compel us to re-evaluate, rethink and reposition in response to disruption, turbulence and uncertainty. When the safety of the known, the familiar, and the habitual is challenged, there is an urgent need for an injection of attention and effort to develop alternative modes of coping, coasting and prospering under the newly altered conditions. Indeed, there seems to be nothing as powerful as a crisis to ignite innovation, as the discovery and creativity needed for forging a new direction, are often borne out of urgent necessity, pressing adversity and sheer pragmatism and perseverance.

Creativity to see afresh

Most individuals seem to have a good notion of what creativity is about, yet, researchers and practitioners have struggled to define and explain it. So, what is this thing called creativity, and why has it proved so elusive?


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Editor’s note: The PMWJ Advances in Project Management series includes articles by authors of program and project management books published by Routledge publishers.  Each month an introduction to the current article is provided by series editor Prof Darren Dalcher, who is also the editor of the Routledge Advances in Project Management series of books on new and emerging concepts in PM.  Prof Dalcher’s article is an introduction to the invited paper this month in the PMWJ. 

How to cite this paper: Dalcher, D. (2021). From adversity to innovation: Forging a creative discovery journey, Advances in Project Management Series, PM World Journal, Volume X, Issue III, March. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/pmwj103-Mar2021-Dalcher-from-adversity-to-innovation.pdf

About the Author

Darren Dalcher, PhD

Author, Professor, Series Editor
Director, National Centre for Project Management
Lancaster University Management School, UK


Darren Dalcher, Ph.D., HonFAPM, FRSA, FBCS, CITP, FCMI, SMIEEE, SFHEA, MINCOSE is Professor in Strategic Project Management at Lancaster University, and founder and Director of the National Centre for Project Management (NCPM) in the UK.  He has been named by the Association for Project Management (APM) as one of the top 10 “movers and shapers” in project management and was voted Project Magazine’s “Academic of the Year” for his contribution in “integrating and weaving academic work with practice”. Following industrial and consultancy experience in managing IT projects, Professor Dalcher gained his PhD in Software Engineering from King’s College, University of London.

Professor Dalcher has written over 300 papers and book chapters on project management and software engineering. He is Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Software: Evolution and Process, a leading international software engineering journal. He is the editor of the book series, Advances in Project Management, published by Routledge and of the companion series Fundamentals of Project Management.  Heavily involved in a variety of research projects and subjects, Professor Dalcher has built a reputation as leader and innovator in the areas of practice-based education and reflection in project management. He works with many major industrial and commercial organisations and government bodies.

Darren is an Honorary Fellow of the APM, a Chartered Fellow of the British Computer Society, a Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute, and the Royal Society of Arts, a Senior Member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and a Member of the Project Management Institute (PMI), the British Academy of Management and the International Council on Systems Engineering. He is a Chartered IT Practitioner. He sits on numerous senior research and professional boards, including The PMI Academic Insight Team, the CMI Academic Council and the APM Group Ethics and Standards Governance Board as well as the British Library Management Book of the Year Panel.  He is the Academic Advisor, author and co-Editor of the highly influential 7th edition of the APM Body of Knowledge. Prof Dalcher is an academic advisor for the PM World Journal. He can be contacted at d.dalcher@lancaster.ac.uk.

To view other works by Prof Darren Dalcher, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at http://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/darren-dalcher/.