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Cris Beswick

Author, Speaker + Strategic Advisor on Innovation

Read more from Cris Beswick

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Learning to Innovate


The autumn may be the season of fruits and mellow fruitfulness but for thousands of school and university students it also heralds the start of a new year of learning. Perhaps more so than before for those living in England and born on or after 1 September 1997 as they now have to remain in some form of education until their 18th birthday. 

For many of those school and college students the end of their formal education is seen as a demarcation point, a step out of education and into the world of work. For them when school’s finally out for summer, there is no more need to learn. How wrong they are! As Socrates said:

“Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.”

When we step outside formal schooling and into the world of work we soon realise that whilst ‘education’ is over, we are merely embarking on a lifetime of learning. But there is one important difference. Whether we learn facts in school or learn to reason we are in the main dealing with fixed things, immutable and largely born out of the past. By contrast when we move out into the world of work we find that the need to learn is ever changing; growing and renewing itself with every development and every demand. 

And that pace of change is ever onwards. 75% of CEOs say fast changing market conditions are forcing companies to reinvent themselves quicker than ever before. Leaders and employees have to learn new skills, new shortcuts, and new technologies in an ever-changing landscape. And that very pace of change demands new ways of learning. In the time taken to develop and test out a formal training course, the material can be obsolete. The name of the game now is blended learning, training which mixes workplace, the internet and some class based activities in a continuing and evolving stream. 

But learning is not confined to employees. That same pace of change is moving the business landscape into an innovation dimension and that requires leaders to learn an entirely new set of skills. For most organisations, innovation requires a shift from traditional leadership towards a more future-oriented and entrepreneurial agenda and that means a change in the mind-set and behaviour of senior teams. Out goes formalised direction and in come agility, creativity and collaboration. Businesses no longer design products, services and experiences for customers they design them in collaboration with customers.

One of the biggest challenges leaders face here is highlighted in a recent IBM survey of more than 1,500 CEOs from 60 countries and 33 industries worldwide.

“Chief executives believe that, more than rigor, management discipline, integrity or even vision; successfully navigating an increasing complex world will require creativity.”

With the ability to think creatively, differently and from wider more rounded perspectives being a fundamental part of driving innovation the main challenge may actually stem from the beginnings of our education system. In the most watched TED talk ever Sir Ken Robinson makes an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity. Something well worth a watch!

It has long been said that leadership is a journey not a destination but with the drive towards innovation that journey has suddenly become more interesting. Learning new skills is only a part of the overall pattern, which also demands new mindsets, and new methods of approach. The innovation landscape demands flexibility and free thinking but it also rewards as much as it challenges.

Those who once thought that education could end at 16 and then discovered they faced two more years, those who believed that leaving the world of classroom or university signalled the end of education will find that the reality is far from the expectation. Education may be over but learning goes on and the more that innovation forces learning to be flexible and multi-faceted, the richer our worlds will be.

If innovation is a current strategic or leadership challenge and you’ve got a question on innovation feel free to email Cris at [email protected] or visit for more information on how Cris and his team help some of the worlds smartest companies succeed through innovation.

Author Profile Picture
Cris Beswick

Author, Speaker + Strategic Advisor on Innovation

Read more from Cris Beswick

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