Are Innovation Courses Right For You?

Innovation. It doesn’t really sound like something you can learn in a classroom. But as innovation courses pop up left and right, you start to wonder: is this really as good as it sounds?

Innovation courses promise creativity, ingenuity, inspiration, collaboration–all good things. And for the most part, they deliver. Ask any writer, any artist, any creator, and they’ll tell you all about their creative process–because it is a process, a set of steps that they follow to produce something kind of amazing. It’s not a science, no, but creativity is far from abstract, either.

It’s also subjective. What works for one person doesn’t always work for another. What inspires one person doesn’t always inspire another. And what one person does when they run out of inspiration isn’t always what another person does. True professionals will always, always do this, though: keep going.

Inspiration isn’t some magical kingdom where fairies wave their magic wands and grant ideas like wishes. Inspiration is more like a luxury; you would very much like to have it, just to make your life easier, but it isn’t necessary. Any true professional will tell you that, too.

That’s where innovation courses come in. Innovation is an integral part of design thinking, which is just a fancy way of solving problems creatively. Design thinking, and by extension, innovation, courses give you all the tools you need to give analytical thinking a rest and think outside the box. They teach you the creative process, how to keep going when you’ve run dry on inspiration, how to create something kind of amazing yourself, something that solves a serious problem within your business.

And to solve a little of that subjectivity problem, they teach you to do this is a collaborative, team-centered environment. You may not all agree, but two (or three or four or a whole company of) brains are always better than one.

But seriously. Design thinking? Innovation? Actual courses for design thinking and innovation? It still sounds a little iffy, right? How do you know it’s not just a fad, the next cool, cutting edge thing to bandwagon on?

Because today’s business environment isn’t a fad either. Companies have to do more with less, new products are being rushed to save collapsing margins, and markets are being invaded by competitors and copy-cat foreign companies with much lower cost structures. The whole nine yards. Things are changing. The modus operandi is changing.

The success of a business tomorrow is starting to depend almost entirely on how crises are solved today.

And innovation courses give you the competitive edge, by teaching you how to think in new, creative ways, in order to solve all these problems that don’t have clear-cut, textbook answers. Innovation courses teach you how to innovate, simple as that.

And anyone can be an innovator, a problem-solver and a problem-finder, as long as they have the right tools.

Stanford’s Innovation Masters Series offers advanced design thinking and innovation courses for business leaders in today’s challenging business environment. It is a collaboration between the Stanford School of Engineering, the Stanford Design Group, d.school, and the Design Program.

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