3 Innovation Training Activities for Leading Teams

Big Think Edge | September 07, 2017

As a leader, setting up an innovation training course for your employees can be tough. Not only do you have to account for how employees access training resources (online video content, in-person lectures, assigned reading, etc.), but you also have to find ways to reinforce that training in the workplace so they’ll actually remember it.

One great way to reinforce lessons is to put your employees through innovation training activities. Doing so can let leaders guide their employees through the content of the lessons and provide employees with practical ways to apply the lessons. This has the effect of reinforcing lessons and improving innovation training results.

Some activities following innovation training could even help leaders identify opportunities for improving the training program.

So, what kind of innovation training activities are there for leading teams?

1) Question and Answer Sessions (Group or One-on-One)

One of the most foundational activities you can hold for your innovation training program is a quick Q&A with your employees. Assembling a list of questions to ask your employees and quizzing them on their knowledge of a topic helps you assess how effective the training was and how well individuals are progressing.

You could also have employees quiz you about the training. Having employees assemble questions for you to answer helps boost engagement and is useful for filling in gaps in their knowledge/understanding of training content. It can also help improve critical thinking skills.

One thing you should think about is whether or not you want to host sessions with groups of employees or with individuals on a one-to-one basis. While group sessions can save time, employees may feel more comfortable sharing concerns or asking for more information in one-on-one sessions—particularly if you have introverts on the team.

2) Group Roleplay Sessions

Try to think of a few emergency scenarios that your team might face at some point in the future and turn them into roleplay sessions.

For example, sales teams could have roleplay sessions for dealing with angry clients who did not receive promised services and are threatening to pull their accounts. IT dev teams could roleplay situations where they have to make critical security updates to system infrastructure during a peak holiday shopping season. Or, a manufacturing team might have a roleplay session for dealing with a flaw in a product design. Team leaders could even be made to roleplay situations where an employee is sick and needs to have their work redistributed on the fly to their coworkers to stay on track with production deadlines.

Once you’ve come up with a few different emergencies, gather your team and challenge them to give you a solution to the problem. If possible, try to setup practical demonstrations of the solution and how it would change things—this helps link creative thinking to real-world results.

Doing this as a group encourages cooperation and collaboration in innovation. Plus, it can prove to be a valuable practice for whenever an emergency similar to yours comes up.

By workshopping solutions to hypothetical problems in a group roleplay session, you can increase teamwork, see how training is paying off, and prepare employees for unexpected situations later—all while driving engagement with the training.

3) Daydreaming/Relaxing Sessions

Avoiding busy work is a major part of thinking and acting in a creative manner—just ask Stanford University’s Science Director for the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, Emma Seppälä.

As Seppälä wrote in an article about obstacles to creativity, research “finds that people are more creative after they have been daydreaming or letting their minds wander... the problem is that many of us can go entire days without putting our brains on idle. At work, we’re intensely analyzing problems, organizing data, writing—all activities that require focus.”

This problem is amplified by the information pushed on workers by modern society. As highlighted in a Big Think article quoting neuroscientist Daniel Levitin, “In 2011… Americans consumed five times as much information as 25 years prior; outside of work we process roughly 100,000 words every day.” Such an information overload makes it hard to relax our brains even outside of work hours—especially when everyone is carrying smartphones loaded with apps and Internet connections.

As counterintuitive as it might sound, one of the best activities to promote innovation may be to have meditative sessions in which employees are encouraged to stop focusing on work and let their minds wander.

This could mean taking a long walk outside, playing some simple group games, or just learning to relax for a few minutes between tasks. Simply by training employees to be able to relax and let their minds wander for a bit, you can actually improve their creativity.

These are just a few of the different activities that leaders can use to maximize innovation training results and improve team performance. Do you have a favorite form of innovation training activity you like to use to lead your team and improve performance?

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