Innovation training programs are meant to help companies be more agile—by increasing adaptability in the face of new and disruptive challenges in their respective industries and by coming up with the next big thing that everyone else has to respond to.

However, in many companies, these innovation training programs fail to produce results. You may have noticed that your own company’s program isn’t working.

To figure out how to fix your program, you first need to figure out why it isn’t working.

Here are a few reasons why your company might be struggling with its innovation training program, and what you can do to fix things:

1) Lack of Input from Employees and Middle Management

Without the input of employees at all levels of an organization, innovation simply isn’t as likely to occur. It takes a diverse set of perspectives to fuel innovation in any organization—not just any one individual.

There are several reasons why there might be a lack of input from employees and middle management in an organization, such as:

  • Lack of buy-in to the program
  • No trust in upper management to follow through on input
  • Lack of incentive to introduce innovative ideas
  • No system in place to provide input and monitor results

These are just a few of the potential issues that can obstruct the flow of ideas from the lower ranks of an organization to the decision-makers at the top.

The best remedy to this is to establish systems in the company that engender trust and make it easier for employees at all levels to provide feedback—both about the organization and about its operations. As noted by venture capitalist and Forbes contributor Henry Doss, “where systems operate to constrain trust, no amount of leadership will serve to create trusting relationships. Systems drive trust, not people.”

While this writer might contend that leaders are vital for earning trust in this equation, it is true that the systems you have in place are immensely important for building trust. By putting in place systems that promote trust, whether by rewarding employees who create useful innovations or by documenting and demonstrating how employee contributions improve systems, you remove potential barriers to getting valuable input.

This is a task that may go beyond the innovation training itself. It may take time to create systems that build (or rebuild) employee trust in the company and how valued their input is.

2) Lack of Transition Planning for Organizational Initiatives

Innovation is important, but the training program used needs to establish tools to transition employees from their old way of doing things to the new way—and leaders need to be able to ensure that the resources are in place to handle any complications arising from company innovation or disruptive new practices/technologies in the industry.

Creating a transition plan, setting up the infrastructure to handle changes in internal technology, and having specific people throughout the organization designated to be innovation officers to help manage transitions can all help smooth out this issue and make future innovations more successful and adoptable.

3) Setting Expectations Too High

Not every innovative idea is going to work—especially not at first. Failure is a part of any process. However, it is all too common for expectations to be set to unreasonable standards when first adopting any training program.

When expectations are not met, it’s easy to write a program off as a failure.

When building an innovation training program, it’s important to manage expectations to prevent disillusionment at the first sign of trouble—both at the top and the bottom of the organization.

Employees should know that, while their input is valued, not every idea will see implementation. Leaders, on the other hand, need to know that there is always a chance that an innovation might not work out as expected.

Instead of being afraid of failure, it’s important to take the time to understand why a particular innovation or initiative failed, as well as what can be done about that issue in the future.

4) Treating Innovation as a Temporary Initiative Rather Than a New Standard Operating Procedure

One problem with many innovation training initiatives is that they’re treated as temporary, one-and-done programs rather than the new core standard for training every employee. In short, a company might run an innovation training program once with one batch of employees, and not incorporate anything covered in that training with any future employees.

This is problematic because it creates a disconnect between the two groups of employees—the ones who got the training and the ones who didn’t. The one group might continue to follow the guidance of the training program, while the other won’t because they were never given access to that set of tools.

As a result, there’s less diversity in the feedback generated from the training program, and the program’s outcome suffers for it.

Innovation training needs to be integrated into the core of the onboarding process for future employees and worked into the standard operating procedure for the organization as a whole. By doing so, organizations can ensure that a larger percentage of their employees embrace the systems for innovation that have been put in place—and make the organization more adaptable when changes occur.

These are just a few of the potential issues that might be holding back the success of your innovation training program. For more help with your innovation training initiatives, be sure to check out the advice from the experts in the Innovation Culture for Managers and Innovation Strategy for Leaders program videos on Big Think Edge!

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