How Innovation Training Programs Can Give You a Competitive Advantage

Big Think Edge | July 13, 2017

For many companies, particularly those in the tech and manufacturing sectors, innovation is the lifeblood of the company. Entire advocacy groups have been created with the basic goal of protecting and promoting innovation and intellectual property.

Since innovation is the lifeblood of modern companies, many organizations have instituted innovation training programs. How can such a program give your company a competitive advantage?

Here are a few of the potential benefits of launching an innovation training program:

1) Increased Adaptability to Disruptive Innovations

Although many younger business leaders rarely think of it, the world that businesses operate in today is vastly different from the business world of just one or two generations ago. In the last couple of generations, new technologies have come along that massively disrupted the business landscape.

Businesses that adapted to these disruptions have thrived, while businesses that failed to adapt have gone extinct.

Take, for example, Blockbuster, the now-defunct movie rental giant. Twenty years ago, Blockbuster was the king of the movie rental industry, with thousands of stores across the U.S., huge ad budgets for commercials with celebrity-voiced hamsters, and a steady stream of revenue from late fees on videos.

However, between the 90s and 2010, something changed, and Blockbuster ended up going bankrupt. Part of that change was a set of disruptive innovations such as online video streaming from competitors like Netflix.

Forbes contributor and managed media business expert Greg Satell may have put it best when he wrote that “The irony is that Blockbuster failed because its leadership had built a well-oiled operational machine. It was a very tight network that could execute with extreme efficiency, but poorly suited to let in new information.” In his article, Satell highlights how Blockbuster’s leadership failed to anticipate and adapt to disruptive innovations, which allowed a small startup company that once offered to partner with Blockbuster to eventually become the new video rental/streaming giant, one that was several times more profitable and successful.

Innovation training programs can help companies become more adaptable, allowing them to react to and even incorporate disruptive technologies rather than being overwhelmed by them.

2) Increased Employee Engagement

Here’s a question: which engages you more: a conversation where you have a say or a lecture where you just sit and listen?

Odds are, you’ll be more engaged in a two-way conversation than you would be in a one-way lecture. That’s because in a conversation, you have an expectation of being able—or even asked—to respond with your own direct input. You’re thinking about how to respond to questions and demonstrate your own viewpoint.

In a lecture, you’re a passive participant. Unless you’re really keen to hear the content of the lecture (either because it’s an interesting subject or the lecturer is someone you really like and respect), odds are that the lecture will eventually start to bore you and you’ll stop absorbing new information. There are speaking tactics to offset this, but there are limits to how engaging a lecture can be.

A similar concept often applies to work. When employees are expected to simply repeat tasks with little or no creative input of their own, the work quickly becomes dull and disengaging. If one employees does find an efficient workaround for a task, they aren’t likely to share it if such innovations aren’t encouraged.

On the other hand, a workplace that encourages innovation and sets the expectation that employees share their ideas freely is more likely to keep their workers engaged. Here, workers are more likely to think critically about tasks, stay engaged with their work, and share their ideas with the rest of the company.

One example of this can be found in Lego’s Serious Play program, which was featured in a Big Think article. The program, which “offers a way for managerial teams to experiment with innovation in a fun, non-threatening way,” has been widely adopted by Lego’s partner companies to help increase workplace innovation (and fun).

Innovation training programs help foster a creativity-centric workplace that makes employees feel engaged with their work and more likely to contribute their own ideas for making the company’s processes more effective and efficient. Sometimes, you might just get an idea for a change that never would have occurred to you!

3) Better Bottom Lines

At the end of the day, the goal of any company is to make sure their bottom line looks good. Staying profitable keeps the doors open, workers employed, and executives/investors happy.

Innovation at the workplace is a huge part of ensuring better bottom lines for every company. Not only does innovation play a key part in shaping new products and services, it helps improve operational efficiency by allowing improvements to existing processes and by encouraging employee engagement.

More engaged employees are more likely to work towards the good of the company—they’ll actively look for and fix errors that could cost money and stay productive when set to a task. Compare this to a disengaged employee, who is more likely to let problematic items slide for others to fix or, in extreme cases, even create problems that waste company time and money.

By helping to foster employee engagement, and contributing to company adaptability to disruptive technologies, innovation training programs can help companies improve their bottom line.

Innovation training programs are a worthwhile investment of time and energy for many organizations. Learn more about how innovation training can impact your company by checking out Big Think Edge’s courses on Innovation Culture and Innovation Strategy!

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