How to Drive Corporate Innovation with Training
During the pandemic we saw examples of corporate innovation as companies pivoted to adjust to new business and operations challenges. Fashion designers produced face masks, full-service restaurants built drive-up windows, and distilleries made hand sanitizer. Cultures built on creativity were nimble and able to react with agility. Some companies are realizing that their rigid, inflexible cultures need to evolve and they are looking for innovation training.
Corporate Innovation is Attainable at Many Levels
When you hear the term corporate innovation, your mind may go to massive and costly strategic initiatives. You don’t have to invent the iPod or create Venmo to be considered innovative. You can encourage employees across your organization to approach their work with imagination and creativity.
- Guerrilla Marketing Idea: I was working for the Cardinals in 1994 during the Major League Baseball strike. We were desperate to retain fans. We created a program to randomly reward people who were wearing Cardinal attire around town. Employees carried envelopes with two free ticket gift cards with a letter of thanks from the team. When we saw someone wearing a Cardinal hat or shirt at the grocery store, mall, other sporting event, we would simply say “Hey nice hat!” Hand the envelope and walk away. This was a very fun and innovative way to encourage fan loyalty.
- New Technology: In the late 1990’s I was running large direct mail campaigns that drove customers to call our call center. I tested a new technology that was able to track the level of call activity before the call was answered by our call center system. We found that our campaigns were overwhelming the call centers and potential customers were dialing and redialing five to ten times before they could get through. The findings from this innovative marketing campaign helped to make the business case to expand the call center systems.
- Employee Communications. After an employee survey, we found that employees felt disconnected on company operations and wanted regular updates beyond hearing from their direct supervisors. We created an innovative process to use our authoring tool to record a monthly company update video with news and accomplishments from each department along with “just for fun” personal updates about new babies, vacations, and awards. These videos have done a much better job than an all-employee email or verbal updates from managers.
Corporate Innovation Training Topics
It is possible to teach innovation. If you want to curate a curriculum to encourage innovation in your organization, there are a few obvious topics to include:
Innovation and creativity go hand in hand. Your innovation training must include the topic of creativity to help people open their minds to think differently and challenge the status quo. Most of us approach problem solving and decision making with logic and common sense. This method is safe and sound but to explore more innovative solutions, you will need to be more creative in your thinking. More imaginative ideas may have higher risk but also higher reward. With a balanced approach you can employ more creative thinking when generating ideas and use your logic to evaluate the ideas.
Give employees tips on how tap into their own creativity and trigger memories, ideas and different parts of your brain:
- Revisit childhood activities. Doodle or color. Play with fidget toys. Write with your less dominant hand. Ask “why?” over and over and over.
- Make a creativity board. Put your business problem in the center and create a collage of images, quotes, articles, poems, memes, GIFs, etc.
- Study successful people. Explore their journey, read their books, listen to their podcasts.
- Role-play as other successful companies. What would Apple do? Or Amazon, or Google?
Infusing innovation into your problem-solving training will help your team think outside the box, as they say. Follow the expected process and apply logic when defining the problem. Thinking more creatively when trying to identify the root cause and generating possible solutions may take you down more innovative paths. Gather as many ideas possible, even those that sound too expensive, difficult or crazy.
Here are a few questions to ask to get started with gathering innovative solutions:
- Have we had this problem in the past?
- Can we think of new solutions to the same problem?
- What process or product needs to change to solve the problem?
- Can we substitute any resources or process steps?
Essentially this is the start of the brainstorming process. Which takes us to the next corporate innovation training topic.
SCAMPER is an acronym that can help take brainstorming to a more creative and more in-depth level. The goal is to take an existing product, service, process, or idea and determine whether you can improve on it, by asking SCAMPER related questions that lead to new ideas and innovations.
- Modify, Magnify, Minimize
- Put to Another Use
- Rearrange or Revers
Since 2000, 52% of Fortune 500 companies have "gone bankrupt, been acquired, or ceased to exist" due to digital disruption according to Harvard Business Review. Think Blockbuster vs. Netflix or taxis vs. Uber. Stay ahead of digital disruption by effectively training digital transformation.
Digital transformation will fundamentally change how you operate internally or how you deliver value to your customers. If you are trying to create a culture of innovation, you need to be ready to challenge the status quo. Digital transformation is going to force you to rethink old systems and processes.
A simple example is how we handle expense reports. In the past, business travelers had to keep track of piles of paper receipts while navigating airports, hotel check-ins, business meetings and client events to be reimbursed. Now we have apps on our phone to snap pictures and immediately categorize receipts. HR systems integrate with corporate credit card accounts and charges can easily be imported. The digital transformation of expense tracking is saving business travelers many hours of lost productivity. That is good for the company.
According to a study by McKinsey, companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity were 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians. You can find many more statistics that show companies with diverse management and diverse employee populations perform better on attracting and retaining top talent, serving the market, and fueling innovation.
When you expand your hiring efforts to seek out more diverse candidates you will benefit from new ideas from fresh perspectives. When you create a safe environment for everyone, people will feel comfortable raising new ideas. A few innovative ideas I’ve seen are:
- Anheuser-Busch selling seltzers
- Burger King selling Whoppers with plant-based “meat”
- Hallmark Christmas movies with LGBTQ storylines
Diversity training topics might include:
- The Diversity Continuum
- Working Well with Everyone
- Unconscious Bias
- Gender Identity vs. Sexual Orientation
- Using Your Privilege
Corporate Innovation Training from HSI
When you work with a company like HSI you gain access to our library of off-the-shelf videos. All the courses mentioned above are in our Business Skills library. If you request a free trial of HSI LMS, you could watch all the courses mentioned and many more. Other related innovation training courses we offer include:
- Growth Mindset
- Rethinking Brainstorming
- Effectively Challenge the Status Quo
- DISC Personality Types
- Staying Positive
- Embracing Workplace Diversity
- How to Help Indecisive Employees
- DISC Training: Getting the Most Out of DISC for Your Organization