Our friends at Innovation Leader recently reached out to us and asked if we would answer a question from one of their readers. Below is an excerpt from Maggie Pfeifer, Director of Education, response to the question:
Q&A: How to start training on innovation?
This member question was answered by Maggie Pfeifer, Director of Education at Eureka! Ranch, which is a nearly 30-year-old firm that has developed a method for increasing innovation speed and decreasing risk. A partner of Innovation Leader, Eureka! developed a field of study known as “Innovation Engineering” with the University of Maine. Because of Eureka’s extensive experience educating executives at many of our members’ companies, we thought Maggie was uniquely positioned to answer this member question…
Question: Was fascinated by the educational / training data in your 2015 Innovation Benchmarking Report. We’re in the process of starting an educational / training initiative around innovation, and could use some guidance on where to start. Is there a typical starting point for these programs? We’re a relatively big company (15,000+ employees) and are struggling with whether we begin in marketing, product management, product development, executive management, etc. Any thoughts or best practices or the progression / trajectory of such programs???Answer:
Over the past decade, we've been experimenting, failing, and pouring over the academic research to find the most reliable methods for transforming an organization’s culture to one that embraces and practices innovation.
The transformation can be achieved with three simple principles in mind: autonomy for your employees to opt in, opportunity to apply a new skill set and mindset, and a sense of belonging to something greater than a job or silo.
Here are a few lessons we’ve learned with regards to how to get started.
1. Start with the Willing. Leaders, managers and employees need to make the decision to adopt a new mindset. You cannot force it.
If your aim is culture change, you will eventually reach a majority of your employees with some level of training. However, the way you start will influence the rate of adoption and implementation of innovation across the organization.
By making it the employees’ choice, rather than a mandate, the first wave of trainees will be those who are most likely to influence the culture at your organization, in other words, your Change Agents. From there, each subsequent wave will be influenced by the first, following the Bass Diffusion Curve.
Innovation is messy work at the very start of your transformation and is not for the faint of heart. Your first wave of volunteers will be more comfortable navigating the uncertainty of applying new methods to an organization that is not yet set up to support them. These pioneers will bump into the limitations of your existing systems and help you architect new ones that enable innovation to thrive.
2. Educate and Enable. Next, educate the willing and give them the opportunity to implement their new skills. We recommend that you only train folks when you can give them a clear, and strategically aligned, area to innovate within. For example, “We need ideas for how to 10X the number of face-to-face conversations we have with potential customers,” or “We need ideas for new streams of revenue to fund our wildlife research.” If possible, before they complete your training program, they will have a specific objective to work on.
3. Sustain with Communication. The key to sustaining the culture change is to create the sense that people are part of something bigger than themselves. Belonging to a group gives strength to the new mindset. It provides reinforcement, purpose and meaning to life and work.
Each wave of trainees will start their transformation together. Maybe they meet for the first time during training and work in parallel small teams to address the same strategic objective. But often times, trainees work in different departments and it can be easy to lose track of what the other teams are up to, or how the company is progressing in general. The solution - a conscious communication plan.
In summary, here are the key principles to consider as you start educating your organization on innovation and in doing so, igniting a cultural transformation:
- Start with the Willing
- Educate and Enable
- Sustain with Communication
Good Luck to you!