Innovation: Training & Coaching, Business Overlooked Imperative

Smart companies often pride themselves on training programs that introduce or enhance employees’ knowledge of corporate business practices. They promote mentoring initiatives that pair seasoned execs with rising talent. They create booklets or PDFs on corporate policy – and implore staff to read them.

But introduce a business innovation initiative, and those involved are expected to just know how things are done. They’re supposed to possess some innate awareness of the concepts, the best practices, the goals, milestones and targeted end-game.

It doesn’t work that way.

Innovation is a learned concept. Training and coaching is the forgotten imperative in the process of innovation. For best practices in the pursuit of innovation have to be shared to be learned – and mastered.

From the Chief Innovation Officer (CIO) to the innovation team to rank-and-file employees who will implement, follow through or carry forth on the fruits of innovation, people don’t just know. They’re taught.

Organizations whose teams are not trained and coached in its unique approach to the imperatives of innovation are destined to amass a litany of failed projects.

For example, a major multinational launched a new Innovation initiative with the hopes of turn-around renewed profitability and growth. After much initial excitement and visibility, expected results did not materialize – and in the turn-around world, false starts are more costly for an organization than starts or restarts.

What happened? The team involved basic project management training. After a course of such training and coaching, associates had gained a common language and understanding. Progress was realized, and the company today remains on a growth path.

Training and coaching is vital to transmitting the organization’s unique approach to innovation – and ensuring people adhere to its practices. Proper hiring, training and coaching is the way to create, reinforce and enhance company culture and mindset. At its root, training and coaching introduces people to the organization’s vision, mission, strategy and objectives, and points everyone’s compass toward True North.

Training and coaching should cover the lot – from the unique way ideation is treated, to the unique way ideas are cataloged and approached; teams are inspired, formed and managed; risk is assessed; new product development is explored; ownership is encouraged; value is created; accountability is attached; metrics are observed and measured; net results are rewarded; and yes, how teams are trained and coached.

Training and coaching is developed and delivered on a continuum. No sooner are existing policies and best practices discussed, then new procedures are introduced to further the organization’s pursuit of innovation.

Continuity is the key. Training helps your team constantly improve its skill set, through new techniques in ideation, process experience and intra-organizational communication of best practices. Ongoing reinforcement helps employees understand their place and aspire to greatness on the New Product Development team (whether that “product” is a product, a service or an internal practice).

This goes beyond the team. Trainers and coaches need continuous training and coaching, as well. Even the CIO at times requires training and coaching on evolving corporate innovation practices.

Alas, training and coaching often is lost or last as companies often believe they have little time and money to fund these efforts. Best of breed companies have earmarked a dedicated budget to training and coaching.

Why? Because they realize the downside of not training – and retraining – their people in the process of innovation is to be mired in mediocrity.