I saw this question on Twitter in reaction to the post “Managers aren’t Prepared to Handle Today’s Realities and Tomorrow’s Challenges”.
Can you “teach” innovative thinking?
I believe the answer is yes. You can teach innovative thinking. There are skills that allow us to become innovative. I like the way Wikipedia has them listed:
- Cognitive (as in critical thinking or creative thinking)
- Behavioral (i.e. problem solving)
- Functional (basic skills such as writing, reading and math)
- Technical (an example would be project management)
So we can teach people the skills. There are books and classes about all of these subjects. For me, the question becomes how many of these skills do you need to have in order to be innovative? If I’m skilled at writing and problem solving, is that enough? Or do I need to have skills in all four areas? This is where the conversation gets muddy.
Then there’s the whole discussion of learning. Just because you teach it, that doesn’t mean participants have learned it. It’s up to participants to learn the information. And apply it on the job. This is true no matter the skill. I can teach communication skills. The participant can demonstrate that they know the communication skills. Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean the participants is going to use the skills back on the job. In order for teaching to come full circle, a few things have to take place.
- The organization needs to support the content. Let’s face it. If the company doesn’t support the effort, it’s doomed. Senior leadership must support not only the content but the training event.
- Participants have to be willing to learn. Part of this responsibility falls on the teacher, to show the reason participants should learn the material. But the other part is on the participant to come willing to learn.
- Participants should be willing to practice. The way to become proficient is through practice. Participants should consider training to be the start of the learning process. The rest happens on the job.
- Managers need to support the participant. After training, participants must have time to practice what they’ve learned on the job. Managers need to support not only the time but the mistakes the employee will make until they become skilled.
Companies that are serious about innovation will create work environments that support learning. We all have the ability to learn how to innovate. It’s about being in the right environment to make it happen.
Image courtesy of HR Bartender