How Learning and Development Can Create a Culture of Innovation
Guest post by Rama Eriksson
Innovation isn’t a task that you complete and then move on. It’s a continuous exercise tied to your organization’s learning and development.
Continuous innovation stimulates revenue growth and helps companies perform better during economic downturns. Fixation on top-line growth can skew innovation efforts, resulting only in innovative gains from the low-hanging fruit of incremental growth. Disruptive innovation is only possible when the entire organization is set up for an innovation mindset, a process that starts with proper leadership training.
What Does Being an Innovative Company Mean?
Innovation is a complex, company-wide effort, and it’s hard for an organization to get out of its own way. They’re stymied by too many fixed routines and cultural factors. An innovation-minded Learning and Development program can help unravel the corporate red tape to free the innovative spirit.
An organization-wide strategy is required to instill a creative mindset within an organization and create a thriving, innovative culture. These five steps will help get you there.
1. Ensure Engaged Leadership
The best companies have leaders who use learning and development to weave innovation into the broader culture. Executives are three times more likely to say their company has a “culture of innovation” if they are themselves highly engaged in the learning and development process.
An innovation mindset is more likely to penetrate an organization when leadership is highly engaged. These leaders encourage greatness from their teams by not micro-managing from the top. Control stifles innovation. It prevents teams from learning and experimenting.
Good leaders encourage employees to play an active role in their own learning journey, and are engaged in continuous learning to better themselves as well. They are the role models in the organization, and whatever they learn trickles down so as to create a “do as I do” culture rather than a “do as I say” one.
2. Hire for Diversity
Diversity drives innovation. More ideas = more good ideas. Hiring for diversity provides a mix of beliefs, perspectives, values, and ways of problem solving. The more perspectives at the table, the more ways a problem can be analyzed, and the more ideas created.
Research from Deloitte shows that organizations with inclusive cultures are:
- 2 times more likely to meet or exceed financial targets
- 3 times more likely to be high-performing
- 6 times more likely to be innovative and agile
- 8 times more likely to achieve better business outcomes
Organizations that capitalize on diversity of perspective are primed to foster an ongoing process of innovation.
3. Create a Safe Space for Risk-Taking
It’s essential for an organization to create a safe space for employees where they can speak and collaborate openly, and make mistakes without repercussions. Without mistakes, there can be no serendipity.
Companies well-positioned to nurture an innovative culture are those that engage their employees through activities such as formal and informal training, recognition, and effective communication.
4. Keep Learning Opportunities Flexible
A culture of innovation calls for a highly flexible environment that knows how to navigate inconsistent markets, take advantage of new opportunities, scrap ideas that aren’t working, and monitor the pulse of consumer behaviors.
It’s no different for learning and development departments that need to be able to pivot with these changes. Overly planned learning and development programs are less likely to adapt to changes in business strategy. When business needs shift, leaders cannot be afraid to change course in response.
5. Experiment, Evaluate, and Re-Calibrate
Learning and development managers can be innovative in their approach to training, which can be as simple as offering a different group of people a new opportunity. Of course not all experiments are successful. As with any experiment, you must evaluate the results and re-calibrate your efforts accordingly. It’s trial and error.
You already know what’s working for you now. To get to the next level, you have to be willing to take a chance and keep trying something else that could be even more effective. Innovative organizations don’t just survive, they thrive. How your company manages its learning and development initiatives is key to creating the culture needed to do so.
- Good leadership nurtures an innovative culture.
- Hire for diversity to gain a variety of voices.
- Create a safe space where employees can speak openly and make mistakes without repercussion.
- Apply a scientific mindset to learning: experiment, evaluate, and re-calibrate.