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Chris Locke



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Boosting innovation requires a culture change, not just training

It’s no longer enough to send employees on a course – innovation needs to be embedded on a cultural level.

Innovation is critical for businesses to survive; indeed, it’s been shown that 85% of all economic growth is down to innovation. The Bloomberg Job Skills study and the Future of Jobs Report from the World Economic Forum both highlight the demand for innovation skills by organisations in every sector facing disruption.

Despite this, most organisations lack essential entrepreneurial and innovation training and upskilling programmes.

To maximise the opportunity innovation offers companies, it's critical to start investing in your people. 

Statistics show that only 38% of organisations actively work on their entrepreneurial culture, and 35% are in the embryonic stages. The impact is that teams are ill equipped to lead innovation projects and programmes, projects fail, and companies are falling further behind as competitors and new entrants hit revenue and profit margins.

Organisations must accelerate the adoption of identified skills and a deep understanding of the methodologies to drive healthy and effective innovation. This can't and shouldn't be done by leveraging either lightweight or outdated approaches and time-consuming MBA programmes that take two years or more, however.

What's wrong with most innovation training?

While a solid innovation background has become one of the most sought-after skills, anyone looking to increase their capability will struggle to get the correct type of training. Options tend to be either lightweight do-it-yourself online programmes that don't provide any tailoring or personalisation, or taking a more traditional route of going back to university or through a business school system.

More often than not, online programmes only provide the most simplistic insight into building a tech startup as the basis of all innovation learning and lack the opportunity for mindset development and coaching.

A two-year business school masters programme can be incredibly costly, and most organisations do not have the luxury of time to reap the benefits. Plus, with a focus on theoretical, often delivered by faculty with little to no experience in actually applying the practicalities of innovation and entrepreneurship, the knowledge and learning are lacking.

Changing organisational needs

To meet growth ambitions, it's time for organisations to equip teams across their business with the skills and a deep understanding of the methodologies to drive healthy and effective innovation. For innovation to be the corporate game-changer, businesses need to be continuously driving the mindset into the culture while instilling through training the tools and skills into your talent. Creating a company-wide opportunity and internal capability for everyone to be part of your growth.

Proven methodologies must be embedded at all layers of the organisation to avoid creating an environment where innovation stagnates instead of accelerates.

New realities, new requirements

Don't fall for the old saying ‘those that can't, teach’. In this instance, it's dangerous. You cannot truly teach innovation or entrepreneurism if you haven't gone through the experience yourself. Programmes need specialisation and educators who have the backgrounds and experiences of doing it themselves.

The rise of hybrid flexible working, mobile workforces, and globalisation means programmes can no longer exist on-site. Businesses must use technology combined with traditional teaching approaches to gain scale and meet the needs of evolving global workforces. Training needs to adapt to the company, not the other way around.

Soft skills and coaching are critical elements

LinkedIn found that 57% of senior leaders believe soft skills are more important than hard skills. We need to change perceptions as well as learning methodologies. Innovation requires forming relationships and networks, building trust and learning how to negotiate – all skills that improve working relationships.

Mentoring and coaching can make all the difference in incorporating new skills into the heart of a business. Unfortunately, humans are not great at remembering things and forget approximately 70% of new information within 24 hours. When combining mentoring and coaching in the process, however, the retention rates on new skills and learning can shoot up to over 75%.  

Innovation teaches critical skills

According to PWC, 74% of CEOs worldwide are concerned that a lack of essential skills in their workforce is threatening their organisation's future growth. Analytical thinking and innovation, complex problem solving, critical thinking are at the top of the list shared by the World Economic Forum expected to grow in prominence in the next five years. The process of embedding entrepreneurship and innovation tools and skills across your business using scalable solutions combined with mentoring and coaching helps to future proof your organisation.

Running internal programmes rather than outsourcing team members to MBA programmes has other impacts overall. The same PWC report also found that 60% of organisations running upskilling programmes lead to stronger corporate cultures and employee engagement and 43% had higher workforce productivity.

A learning culture

To maximise the opportunity innovation offers companies, it's critical to start investing in your people by creating a company-wide culture of innovation and entrepreneurship. Organisations can drive growth and productivity but also stronger cultures through the training of essential skills and methodologies.  

The most effective process requires providing upskilling and learn-by-doing training to build entrepreneurship skills as business as usual. You can't expect one person to wear the innovation cap alone, and innovation can't be a slogan or something that happens ‘over there’ in that other department. For innovation to truly occur, it has to be a company-wide effort.

Interested in this topic? Read Skills gap analysis: How well do you understand the skills needs in your business?

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