In this constantly changing business environment, innovation has become a necessity not only for growth but also for survival. However, to fully unlock your innovation potential, you’re going to need a clear vision and a strong learning culture.
Knowledge is the foundation of new concepts, and uncultivated ideas don’t turn into successful innovations without a process of learning and adapting. Disruptive solutions to problems are not born from deep thinking but are amalgamations of brilliant ideas permitted to grow by passionate leaders.
This is where the culture of continuous learning comes in. Without it, companies risk falling into monoliths with an expiration date. Cultivating a culture of continuous learning is challenging for any company, so here are three strategies to get you started:
1. Start with the Leader
A company’s learning culture is always reflective of how the C-suites confront the concept of blame. CIOs who cultivate the right Learning & Development practices take risks, create trust, and share their ideas.
There’s a huge difference in learning from your mistakes and assigning blame. One leads to nurturing a culture of continuous innovation and the other leaves leaders and employees stuck and paralysed.
Mark Zuckerberg himself was a proponent of ‘running towards mistakes’, according to CNBC. He was once reported telling his employees that making mistakes is normal and that they should learn from them. This philosophy has made his workforce agile and able to innovate despite being a gargantuan tech company. Providing a safe environment and leading by example should be what leaders are tasking themselves to do.
2. Invest in Your People
A famous quote from Steve Jobs goes, "It doesn't make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do." But that’s just half of the equation.
Hiring the right talent is the best investment your company can make. In fact, a study from KPMG notes that talent shortage remains a top concern for 55% of businesses in the world. However, hiring the best is just the first step. Training these talents so that they can spark innovation is the other half.
Up-skilling, re-skilling, and retraining should be integrated into the workday of your employees. This means making time for them to continue learning and not overburdening your staff with regular work. Lack of resources not only stretches a workforce, but it also prevents learning and innovation as time becomes limited. This is especially true in resource-heavy industries such as newly developed startups.
3. Institutionalize Collaboration
Collaboration fosters innovation. A strong learning culture also means giving them time and opportunities to work together. Set up huddle room spaces so that they will have venues for quieter, disruption-free meetings. This also helps them learn from one another and discover their strengths together. INC suggests that adding informal employee development programs also helps in sparking a learning culture. Supporting book clubs, events, and field trips can be a great and inexpensive way to cultivate collaborative learning.
Empowering employees to innovate also means equipping them with the collaborative technologies available. Companies looking to grow and nurture a culture of innovation must not shy away from adopting new advances in technology that help keep them connected and continuously on the same page. Investing in research and development, emerging tools, and harnessing automation are necessary for sparking impactful innovation, as your workforce will need to learn to help your company adapt to the modern world.
Innovation through a strong culture of continuous learning is at the heart of most agile and successful companies today. Leading by example then supporting efforts from below is the best strategy in cultivating this. But as with anything, it takes vision, time, and effort to be successful.
Written by guest contributor Jennifer Birch. Jennifer Birch is a long-time business manager who likes to dabble in writing when she can. When she isn't working, you can find her furiously baking or reading a good book