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Want to Be More Innovative? The Answer is Simple: Train for It.

There’s not a CEO on the planet who wouldn’t respond affirmatively to the question “Would you like your organization to be more innovative?” The problem is far too few do anything to proactively make that happen.

In fact, only 37 percent of companies have any formal processes in place to drive innovation. Given all the focus on innovation over the last couple of decades, that’s pretty pathetic.

At the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) we study the people practices of high-performance organizations. We measure “high-performance” as organizations that lead their competition in revenue growth, market share, profitability, and customer satisfaction. And when it comes to innovation, our research shows high-performing companies are 2.4x more likely to support innovation with formal strategies and processes as compared to low performers.

What do I mean by “formal processes?” There are several:

  • Establish a dedicated function where innovation resides
  • Appoint a dedicated leader (i.e., a Chief Innovation Officer)
  • Ensure innovation is stated as a desired competency in hiring
  • Make innovation a part of the performance management process
  • Redefine physical space to generate more collaboration
  • Establish an innovation lab
  • Implement an ideation and/or crowdsourcing platform
  • Hold specific events and contests dedicated to innovation
  • Regularly reward and recognize innovative efforts

But one of the most effective things a company can do to create and foster a culture of innovation is one of the simplest. Train for it.

In a study titled, Advancing Innovation , which was just completed by i4cp and ATD (Association for Talent Development), we found that high-performance organizations are 7 times more likely to train for innovation than low performing companies.

Seven times.

Normally we get excited about 2x and 3x contrasts in our research, but 7x certainly makes us stand up and take notice.

In organizations that offer innovation training, we found the content primarily emphasizes creative and analytical skills, and the training is delivered using very standard methods (traditional instructor-led training, experiential learning, etc.). However, in high performance organizations the leading focus often centers on teaching employees how to use creativity and innovation tools such as brainstorming, design-thinking, or other problem-solving methods.

Top 5 Characteristics of Innovation Training

So why isn’t this more widespread? TD professionals tell us that pressure to produce is the biggest hindrance, and nearly half also blame unsupportive workplace policies for hampering innovation training. But, talent development leaders are optimistic. When we asked TD professionals to tell us what they thought would spur more innovation training in the future, two answers stood out to me:

  1. Competitive pressures will motivate more organizations to provide innovation training to their workforce
  2. Competition for talent will drive organizations to use innovation training as a means of attracting and retaining talent.

As companies continue to fear disruption in their businesses, the focus on innovation will continue to intensify. TD professionals need to be ready for this inevitability.

Interested in learning more? Join me on Thursday, January 4 th at 2pm ET / 11am PT to further explore what our research says about Advancing Innovation.

To register:

Kevin Oakes
Kevin is the CEO and co-founder of i4cp. He is a world-recognized thought leader on the topics of corporate culture, the future of work, and learning, and is the author of the bestselling book Culture Renovation: 18 Leadership Actions to Build an Unshakeable Company.