How can you train your employees to become innovative?

How can you train your employees to become innovative?

In today’s rapidly-changing world, your company’s innovation initiatives determine whether or not your company survives the test of time. After all, new ideas are what propel a company’s success.

Look at fintech giant GCash, consumer electronics manufacturer Dyson, and media streaming platform Netflix. These companies have been the definition of success because of their new and revolutionary products. 

However, while every business would like to replicate these success stories, it is not as simple as ideating and creating new products. There’s a lot that goes into building new successful products, services, and businesses – from the resources a company invests into them to the methods a company uses to build and maintain them. 

But at the core of these investments are a company’s employees and innovation team that executes the innovation projects. The billion-dollar companies listed above wouldn’t be where they are now without the experienced innovators that created the ideas behind these solutions and built them into market-ready products.

Thus, one reason why not every business is capable of replicating these success stories is because its teams may not be equipped to do so. Innovation doesn’t come naturally, instead, it is learned.

So the first thing a company needs to do to become the next billion-dollar success story in their industry is to train their employees in the practice of innovation. Your innovators need to be equipped with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed, which they will further sharpen as they innovate for your company in the real world.

Why you need to train and certify your employees in the practice of innovation

Even though innovation is all about experimentation, letting your innovation teams guess their way through the tools and processes of the trade is a recipe for disaster.

Innovation is an intricate practice full of risk and failure – many things can go wrong throughout the process. Even something as basic as a team’s definition of innovation could easily make a project fail. 

How so?

Imagine a team composed of innovators that have varying definitions of what innovation is. There’s bound to be plenty of miscommunication and errors as they undertake your company’s projects just because each of them understands it in different ways. 

For one, innovation may be all about improving a company’s current products while for another, it may be the creation of new products. Both these members instantly have different goals for your company’s projects – resulting in an incohesive and inefficient team.

So if something as basic as a definition could cause inefficiency and failure in the innovation process, what more for more complex aspects such as tools, frameworks, and theories?

An innovator that is not familiar with using a certain tool could easily cause a costly mistake. An innovation team that misuses a certain framework would most likely produce subpar results.

It goes without saying that an innovation team that knows its way around innovation has higher chances of success than a team that doesn’t.

Thus, you need to equip them for success. This includes giving your team the right work environment and culture that fosters innovation within the workplace and getting them on the same page as to why they are innovating

Most importantly, it also entails equipping them with the right knowledge and skills to use innovation tools, theories, and methodologies.

Here are 3 ways to help your employees innovate better

Companies have numerous ways at their disposal to train their employees and innovators in the practice of innovation. Here are 3 of them:

1. Encourage them to experiment, fail and learn

There are plenty of free resources online that your employees could learn innovation from. It’s easy to find lectures and workshops online which are good places to get a grasp of what innovation is and how to do it.

But that could only take them so far. The best way to learn innovation is by actually doing innovation.

Learning about innovation is useless if your employees can’t practice it on the ground. However, they can’t practice their innovation skills in the workplace if the environment is not innovation-friendly.

What does that mean?

You need to encourage your teams to experiment. That could be something as small as developing a new way of doing their tasks to something as big as developing an app to improve efficiency.

But more importantly, you, as the leader of the company, need to be open to failure. Failure and learning from failure is a big part of the innovation process. Constant iteration is crucial to executing a successful innovation project.

The world’s greatest innovations went through hundreds, if not thousands, of failures which helped the innovators behind them improve their work and ultimately, succeed. The Dyson bagless vacuum wouldn’t be here, for example, if it weren’t for the 5126 failures the Dyson team went through and learned from.

2. Invite innovation experts to conduct masterclasses and workshops for your teams.

From globally-renowned serial innovators to your local business leaders, there are plenty of resource persons your employees could learn from. 

You could invite them to conduct masterclasses and workshops to introduce innovation to your employees and managers. One advantage of this method is that you could do it at scale – from as small as a tight-knit group of 10 innovators to as large as 100 of your company’s employees, innovators, managers, and leaders.

This is what Aboitiz Equity Ventures did when they launched their project to become the Philippines’ first techglomerate. The conglomerate partnered with Embiggen to conduct a 3-day bootcamp to teach their employees the fundamentals of innovation.

The result? Each of their innovation teams was able to produce actionable innovation project ideas that they could explore and develop to build and capture new growth for their corporation. 

The only downside, however, is that it is not possible for one-on-one learning or mentorship – a drawback solved by the solution below.

3. Invest in innovation certifications for your company’s innovators.

One of the most effective, but also most costly, ways to train your employees in the practice of innovation is by enrolling them in innovation certification programs.

These programs will give your innovators in-depth knowledge of tried-and-tested tools, theories, and methodologies. It will also expose them to the latest practices used by the world’s most innovative companies.

Because these programs often use an action-learning methodology, their students start innovating from Day 1. This ensures that their students don’t just understand innovation, but also know how to execute innovation projects.

Companies like the Energy Development Corporation and F(DEV) have gone through this route and trained their innovators through the Global Innovation Management Institute (GIMI) Certified Innovation Professional program.

Embiggen Innovation Institute: Training tomorrow’s innovators

The Embiggen Innovation Insitute (EII) is Embiggen’s innovation learning arm that is making world-class innovation training and education more accessible to Filipinos.

It is the go-to firm for corporate innovation strategy and tactics learning and development firm for top companies in the country and has trained over 1,000 innovators in innovation and innovation management. 

Learn more about the work that EII does here.