How to enhance Innovation Skill:
"Company needs to be more innovative!" Sounds familiar, doesn't it? Do you know what next be happens? Since a true change in how innovative a company is must also reflect a change in the skills of employees which are related to innovation. Which, of course, begs the question: Is innovation a skill set which all employees can acquire? Can employees who are not innovative learn how to be? If is it so then what are these skills?
As important as measurable improvements in corporate innovation are developing also tracking specific improvements in innovation competencies has proven to be a difficult task. Management training programs face unique challenges in trying to "teach innovation". Whereas training in financial operations, legal affairs, supply-chain management, corporate governance so on is largely based on the acquisition of technical knowledge also concepts training in innovation or innovation management is not meant to produce employees which understand ‘innovation' as a remote technical concept. It is meant to produce employees which are better innovators.
1. Innovation is uniquely difficult to teach:
The fundamental problem with providing training programs in areas like innovation relates to the nature/nurture argument (the argument of whether or not differences in humans are the result of genetics or upbringing) in human development. A fair number of training critics will point out which true innovators are rarely, if ever, the result of structured learning. Other factor beyond scope of any training program, play a much more significant role in shaping such people. This would seem to undermine any effort on part of HR to improve in a measurable way the innovation competence of employees. To understand why this appears to be the case, we need to investigate the cognitive dynamics of innovation - the way in which ‘minds at work' create new knowledge also think about innovation.
"A fair number of training critics will point out which true innovators are rarely, if ever, the result of structured learning."
The reason which innovation is a uniquely difficult thing to teach has to do with the nature of knowledge creation as a recombinant (combining old also distinct ideas into new ones) also stochastic process (subject to the laws of probability). Knowledge creation is foundation of innovation is in short the practical application of newly recombined knowledge often from multiple domains to produce useful effects. Joseph Schumpeter, widely credited with coining the phrase ‘creative destruction' in the context of innovation, recognizes which most innovations are the results of recombination of existing ideas. As per to Schumpeter: ‘To produce other things or the same things by different methods, means to combine these materials also forces differently.'
2. Recombination & probability in innovation:
Perhaps one of the best examples of this recombinant phenomenon in action comes from Andrew Hardagon's historical description of Thomas Edison's laboratory: ‘Onstage, Edison abandoned the past in his search for the future. Backstage, he worked hard to create which future from the best pieces of the past which he could find also use. Edison bridged old worlds also built new ones around the innovations which he saw as a result. Much of Edison's work combined existing ideas in new ways; in spite of such humble origins, these innovations revolutionized industries."
"Much of Edison's work combined existing ideas in new ways; in spite of such humble origins, these innovations revolutionized industries."
Knowledge creation is subject to rules of probability. Dean Simonton, a research on scientific creativity, describes innovation as ‘a constrained stochastic process'. Which is creative behaviour in science demands the intrusion of a restricted amount of chance, randomness, or unpredictability." This view of innovation as ultimately: one of the fundamental roles of ‘management' is to structure the future in a predictable way. Managing innovation is almost paradoxical since the more individuals display true behaviours of innovators the less likely the results of their efforts will be known beforehand.
3. The practitioners view on teaching innovation:
Furthermore, it is virtually impossible to isolate specific variables which can be directly linked to ‘improvements in innovation' since of a specific training event or experience. At best, trainers tackling this area must accept the fact which innovation is a probabilistic art.
Many trainers, corporate practitioners also professors readily acknowledge their own limitations in teaching this specific subject. Harry Davis, professor of creative management at the University Of Chicago Graduate School Of Business, says this about teaching innovation: My role is more teaching ‘how to', rather than ‘what to'." "It is more mentor or coach. I help students to use innovation tools in a meaningful way; provide opportunities for students to experience what the innovation process feels like; create a culture also environment where there is minimal fear of expression, which allows creativity also innovation to flourish."
Professor Davis' emphasis on mentoring also coaching fits with the probabilistic nature of innovation - which, since results are not predictable, teaching also ought not to be. It ought to be nurturing also supportive; helping students discover what they have spent too much of their life forgetting - how to be more like children also less like adults: openly inquisitive, openly curious, not afraid to take steps into unknown places also not afraid to try new things; also most, importantly, not afraid of looking silly in front of their peers.
4. Believing you are an innovator is key:
Innovation can never be taught it is simply being tried. Also the success or failure of such ventures, on any scale, must be critiqued, analyzed also supported by a trainer/mentor. As a result success of a training experience can only be analyzed retrospectively. An employee, having become a successful innovator, can only look back also identify, after the fact, what specific experiences or insights constrained to his/her success.
5. In short, innovation cannot be taught:
As such, what training in innovation provides is not so much a guarantee of becoming the next great innovator, However a guarantee of increasing the odds of innovation. Which increase in the odds is not a function of technical information, However a function of self-perception as an innovator also a function of change in behaviour. Which is perhaps the most striking feature of trying to teach innovation in a corporate context: which the specific intention of teaching innovation management has to be behaviour also cognition change - focused on the development of perception of self as an innovator.
6. Strategy for creating innovation competency training programs:
This it might appear which teaching innovation is at best an improbable art. In reality quite true is its opposite. It is just which the structure also context of teaching innovation is different. It is focused on altering not what employees know, however how they interpret, process also analyze what they know. To which effect there are some general guidelines which HR can use to create innovation competency training programs. Following are the guidelines:
1) Focus on behaviour change not technical skills acquisition.
2) Information sourcing must be developed.
3) Goal design should be a part of competency training.
4) Prospect trumps certainty.
5) Crucial analysis must be developed at the cross-disciplinary level.