6 areas of innovation that can be learnt

It is a common misconception that the ability to be innovative is something you either have or don´t and nothing much else to be done about that. However, the fact is that pretty much any employee can learn the basic skills that you need to identify build and execute innovative ideas. And this is very much true also for employees within large, mature and conservative organizations.

In this article, as well in a previous article Why bother? The Value of Training Your Employees Around Innovation we focus on how middle management and more junior level employees can get the skills needed how to be innovative, rather than a the top management telling the organization to become more innovative, without supplying the tools and techniques.

The below six areas of innovation are six examples of areas of innovation that can be taught:

1. Knowing how to identify and sort ideas 
This is a quite well known area of innovation; one of the most common approached of ideation is brainstorming, which usually is a quick way of generating ideas. Bryan W. Mattimore outlines seven ideation techniques that consistently deliver excellent results and can be used to address nearly any kind of creative challenge in his book Idea Stormers: How to Lead and Inspire Creative Breakthroughs. In addition to this there are plenty of other tools and techniques available that supports your ideation process and can quickly add value to your organization.

2. What are the available channels, tools and resources
When launching an innovation training effort it is important to make sure that all employees knows about it and that they know which tools and resources that are available to support them. It´s probably also a good idea to dedicate time for the employees to actively use the resources and to make them understand how their efforts can contribute and generate increased value for both themselves and the organization.

3. Business plan elements – to ensure the idea can get a proper evaluation
The fun and easy part is often times to generate the ideas. The real challenge is to take it to the next step so that it can be properly evaluated and perhaps even implemented in the organization. T o be able to do this a simple business plan template needs to be available so that the value of the idea can be clearly presented as well as a possible path towards implementation. This needs to be executed in a format that is good enough for the decision makers to make an informed decision about go or no go.

4. Stakeholder buy-in – to prevent premature death of ideas
The not invented here-syndrome is a common cause of many a good ideas premature death. To prevent this you need to identify the main stakeholders and make sure to get their approval and, even better, support. There are tools available to train employees in approaches to identify their stakeholders and, very importantly, develop approaches to identify and address their questions. In this should also be included skills to make the stakeholders support the idea going forward.

5. Development planning – the next step after the business plan
The business plan is the first step to complete and this is often done on include a high level approach to move an idea forward. However, learning how to develop and create a specific implementation plan would be the next step after the business plan has been assessed and accepted. The business plan format is oftentimes generic while the development plan usually is more specific and detailed depending on the needs of your organization perhaps also business unit.
Teaching employees when and how to use a development plan needs to be included in your training program. Development plans are often utilized more actively in product development areas, since they usually have established approaches to developing new thinking compared to other areas of the business.

6. Building inter-personal relationships
It is a well-known fact that diversity of perspective is something that encourages the development and implementation of innovation. In his book The Medici Effect, Frans Johansson introduces how diversity drives innovation and is cited by Clayton Christensen (Kim B. Clark Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School and bestselling author of The Innovators Dilemma) as “one of the best books on managing innovation I have ever read”.
Unfortunately job rotation and similar measures to help employees and participants to a better understanding of what roles and functions other people within the organization perform is often missing. If you can manage to build new relationships and increased understanding of the organization, this will significantly position the program to drive value to the organization.
All of the elements above is something that can be taught and should be included in any innovation program.
It is a common misconception that the ability to be innovative is something you either have or don´t and nothing much else to be done about that. However, the fact is that pretty much any employee can learn the basic skills that you need to identify build and execute innovative ideas. And this is very much true also for employees within large, mature and conservative organizations.
In this article, as well in a previous article Why bother? The Value of Training Your Employees Around Innovation we focus on how middle management and more junior level employees can get the skills needed how to be innovative, rather than a the top management telling the organization to become more innovative, without supplying the tools and techniques.
The below six areas of innovation are six examples of areas of innovation that can be taught:
6. Knowing how to identify and sort ideas 
This is a quite well known area of innovation; one of the most common approached of ideation is brainstorming, which usually is a quick way of generating ideas. Bryan W. Mattimore outlines seven ideation techniques that consistently deliver excellent results and can be used to address nearly any kind of creative challenge in his book Idea Stormers: How to Lead and Inspire Creative Breakthroughs. In addition to this there are plenty of other tools and techniques available that supports your ideation process and can quickly add value to your organization.

7. What are the available channels, tools and resources
When launching an innovation training effort it is important to make sure that all employees knows about it and that they know which tools and resources that are available to support them. It´s probably also a good idea to dedicate time for the employees to actively use the resources and to make them understand how their efforts can contribute and generate increased value for both themselves and the organization.

8. Business plan elements – to ensure the idea can get a proper evaluation
The fun and easy part is often times to generate the ideas. The real challenge is to take it to the next step so that it can be properly evaluated and perhaps even implemented in the organization. T o be able to do this a simple business plan template needs to be available so that the value of the idea can be clearly presented as well as a possible path towards implementation. This needs to be executed in a format that is good enough for the decision makers to make an informed decision about go or no go.

9. Stakeholder buy-in – to prevent premature death of ideas
The not invented here-syndrome is a common cause of many a good ideas premature death. To prevent this you need to identify the main stakeholders and make sure to get their approval and, even better, support. There are tools available to train employees in approaches to identify their stakeholders and, very importantly, develop approaches to identify and address their questions. In this should also be included skills to make the stakeholders support the idea going forward.

10. Development planning – the next step after the business plan
The business plan is the first step to complete and this is often done on include a high level approach to move an idea forward. However, learning how to develop and create a specific implementation plan would be the next step after the business plan has been assessed and accepted. The business plan format is oftentimes generic while the development plan usually is more specific and detailed depending on the needs of your organization perhaps also business unit.
Teaching employees when and how to use a development plan needs to be included in your training program. Development plans are often utilized more actively in product development areas, since they usually have established approaches to developing new thinking compared to other areas of the business.

6. Building inter-personal relationships
It is a well-known fact that diversity of perspective is something that encourages the development and implementation of innovation. In his book The Medici Effect, Frans Johansson introduces how diversity drives innovation and is cited by Clayton Christensen (Kim B. Clark Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School and bestselling author of The Innovators Dilemma) as “one of the best books on managing innovation I have ever read”.
Unfortunately job rotation and similar measures to help employees and participants to a better understanding of what roles and functions other people within the organization perform is often missing. If you can manage to build new relationships and increased understanding of the organization, this will significantly position the program to drive value to the organization.
All of the elements above is something that can be taught and should be included in any innovation program.

Lars Percy Andersson
Contact InnovationManagement.se for
Innovation Management Programs
Online Learning Innovation Programs
Lund, Sweden

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