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Can Innovation Be Taught? 8 Steps to Your Most Innovative Workplace

Innovation is a complicated process marked by critical and creative thinking, problem-solving, project management, entrepreneurship, and collaboration.

How is innovation taught? Can it be taught?

To answer this question, McKinsey has compiled eight principles for teaching innovation. These “essentials of innovation” use business-oriented questions to teach employees how to innovate for the real world.

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1. Aspire

“Do you regard innovation-led growth as critical, and do you have cascaded targets that reflect this?”

Inspiring your team as a leader takes more than just vision: you also need clear goals for people to work towards.

That means starting with precise, measured, and realistic targets for your employees to work towards. Those goals should be supported with specific timelines and delegated to specific personnel.

Doing this encourages a sense of ownership within the team, and clears up who is responsible for what.

2. Choose

“Do you invest in a coherent, time- and risk-balanced portfolio of initiatives with sufficient resources to win?”

Although risk can’t fully be eliminated from the innovation process, it can be mitigated.

To manage uncertainty, your organization should compare its ideas with its available resources, including time, and decide which projects to pursue and how much to invest in them.

Don’t be afraid to start with more initiatives than you can possibly complete. You can always whittle them down to the ones with the most potential.

3. Discover

“Do you have differentiated business, market, and technology insights that translate into winning value propositions?”

‘Discover’ emphasizes three key points: finding a problem to solve, identifying a novel way of approaching it, and developing a profitable business model to support it. This is the core of entrepreneurial innovation and intrapreneurship, and the key to your project’s success.

4. Evolve

“Do you create new business models that provide defensible and scalable profit sources?”

‘Evolve’ means supporting your innovation with experimental adjustments to the organization’s business model. This means investing in initiatives outside the core business, and continually testing new markets and segments.

The key is to make sure your innovation is always supported by your business model, even in the early stages of deployment. By staying open-minded about what your business can do, you give it room to adapt and grow.

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5. Accelerate

“Do you beat the competition by developing and launching innovations quickly and effectively?”

‘Accelerate’ encourages cutting red tape to ensure timely deployment.

Your innovation will only be successful if it goes to market while it’s still relevant. However, in order to guarantee successful deployment, you also need good project management.

The key behind ‘Accelerate’ is balancing both demands: working quickly, while also minimizing undue risk.

In practice, this means building a cross-functional, customer-centric team with a sense of ownership and responsibility for the end product.

6. Scale

“Do you launch innovations at the right scale in the relevant markets and segments?”

‘Scale’ is all about determining the appropriate scale of your innovation’s market. This figure is essential, because it determines the resources you need to develop and market your idea as a product to a precise target audience.

7. Extend

“Do you win by creating and capitalizing on external networks?”

Quick, successful innovation often requires external partners’ help with resources and skills that the internal team lacks.

Knowing exactly who your partners are, and how they can be helpful is a key force multiplier in this regard.

By using your network effectively (and offering good incentives for their partnership), you can dramatically cut down on the time and resources required to go to market.

8. Mobilize

“Are your people motivated, rewarded, and organized to innovate repeatedly?”

This last principle encourages organizations to continuously support and reward the team involved in the innovation process. Without this, innovation teams lack the support they need in order to motivate their next victory.

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In summary

Can innovation be taught? Yes.

Using guidelines like McKinsey’s, real-world innovation can be taught to your employees, helping them understand the scope and importance of their work.

These principles highlight key business factors, providing a well-rounded perspective of what it takes to innovate successfully in today’s competitive, fast-moving world.

Looking to innovate more effectively?

Build Agile, value-driven teams with our hands-on, collaborative learning program. Learn more about Prepr’s Innovation Management Labs.

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Dayna Lang