Effectively Lead The Charge To A Culture Of Innovation

The gist: Recent trends in Learning & Development (L&D) training have illustrated how leaders are building and driving cultures of innovation for their businesses with L&D. Conversations with practicing training professionals illustrate some simple but effective leadership and L&D strategies to lead the charge towards innovation.

Innovation is an omnipresent reality of operating a business, (or even just having a job) in today’s fiercely competitive and rapidly globalizing business market. On a daily basis, other businesses, employees, and competitors are constantly coming up with new ideas that seem to strip yesterday’s innovation of all its greatness.

In your capacity as a leader, driving a culture of innovation may seem like a nearly impossible task. The swift, ruthless and global nature of business is an overwhelming challenge to overcome at first glance, but accepting that facing worldwide competition is the new normal is an effective first step to stop vying for, and start maximizing your business’ competitive edge.

Recent research from a 2019 L&D Report indicates that organizations and leaders across industries are taking advantage of the many benefits of L&D training to drive cultures of innovation forward for their businesses with simple yet effective training strategies.

Using L&D training to create safe spaces for ideation, embrace diversity, and implement agile training are all straightforward tactics that you can employ in order to manage your team towards a culture of innovation and maintain your competitive advantage over the long term.

Allowing Ideas To Safely Flourish

You may think that as a leader you already encourage an open working environment for your entire team. But take a second to reflect. Are your employees and team members readily coming to you with new ideas and innovations? Creating a sense of security for idea-sharing across organizational hierarchies can be accomplished first in the training room, and then spread organically into day-to-day operations and workplace culture overall. Effecting cultural change is no simple task, but the L&D environment is a great place to start.

Tailoring your training strategy to employees’ individual strengths is one way to produce that sense of security, as employees will feel safe in the training environment and less afraid to take risks and share their ideas. For Tiffany Poppa, the Director of Employee Experience at Bonobos, focusing on individual strengths in training produced significant results.

“Our strengths-based approach has effectively fostered a culture of collaboration and open communication because it celebrates the individual,” Poppa says. “Focusing on what’s right with people makes for an inclusive environment where people can openly express themselves, their ideas, and even their challenges.”

Once employees feel safe to share their ideas, a wealth of new perspectives and innovations can flow openly between employees, teams, and across hierarchies. Encouraging open peer-to-peer and cross-structural communication through L&D is a technique to lead your entire business towards a culture of innovation.

Increased Diversity Means Increased Competitiveness

The report revealed that companies with increased growth are 72% more likely to have high diversity in their organization compared to those that didn’t see growth. Having a diverse employee pool is not only a realistic reflection of the contemporary American workforce, it’s better for business. According to the report, a worrying 48% of respondents said that they did not receive any kind of diversity and inclusion training. Without the right kind of training, increasing diversity will always remain a pipe dream.

At Ernst & Young (EY), harnessing the power of diversity in training has proven itself with an increase in productivity and higher quality outputs. Martin Hayter, the Global Assurance Learning Leader for EY explains that his “…team has a global flavor to it. It brings more creativity and higher quality and we know that the content we develop is going to be applicable to different cultures, and to both emerging and mature markets.”

Balancing creativity with productivity doesn’t have to be difficult, and by embracing and increasing diversity from your talent acquisition team through to upper management, new perspectives and innovations will be brought to your attention that you may not have otherwise considered. Many people are not necessarily opposed to increasing diversity, but may have never recognized it as an issue. L&D training is an effective way to raise awareness about the current state of diversity and inclusion in your work environment, and provide you with the right tools to lead your company into an innovative future.

Agility Breeds Sustainability

Are you still with me? Sounding straightforward? That’s because it is! There is, however, one remaining issue. How can you make all of this stick? Training happens, employees learn something, but what happens when everyone returns to their regular routines? Will innovation flourish just like that?

Not necessarily. A recent survey indicated that up to 70% of trainees forget what they learn within 24 hours after training. This doesn’t have to be the case for your employees. Innovation is omnipresent, and maximizing your company’s innovative potential requires a training infrastructure that’s easily adaptable to the goals of your business. Being an effective leader means implementing and integrating an agile training infrastructure into your daily operations that can change on a dime to keep up with the pace of innovation in your industry.

In a similar L&D report from findcourses.co.uk, 41% of market challengers predicted an increase in their L&D budgets. If you want to maintain your place as a market challenger, VP of Learning and Development at Wyndham Destinations Anthony Sandonato has seen the impact of an agile training infrastructure first-hand.

“Our L&D team structure is built upon that flexible framework, and designed to remain nimble and adjust to continuous organizational changes without compromising either the speed or quality of our talent development strategies” explains Sandonato.

By staying agile, your business and training goals can align to approach innovation strategically and harmoniously as an organization. Naturally, individuals can effect change on any scale, but coordinating your approach to challenging innovation as an organizational team will significantly increase your chances for success.

Grow As A Leader, Grow As A Company

Admittedly, it’s incredibly difficult to be objective about our own endeavors. Good leaders already put maximum effort into everything they do, and finding flaws in your current leadership strategy isn’t exactly a bucketload of fun. Letting go of your trepidation and recognizing where there’s room for improvement, however, is a natural part of growing and developing as an effective leader.

Training professionals will give you objective expertise and contemporary training strategies that can bring about real change to how you and your organization currently function, especially in the face of the ‘innovate or perish’ mantra that has even the most confident leaders struggling to keep up. Using the variety of tools that L&D has to offer will help you build up a culture of innovation and carry you, your team, and your company into innovative and profitable operations for a long time to come.

Max Maccarone is a content editor for the higher education portal educations.com and professional development search engine findcourses.com. Originally from Canada, Max relocated to Stockholm after graduating from York University in Toronto. An avid traveller, Max is dedicated to creating diverse and engaging learning and development content for a wide-range of publications.