Innovation training Principle 1: Start With the Willing

Last week I shared part of a piece I wrote for Innovation Leader3 Simple Principles for Thinking About Innovation Training.  This week lets dig deeper into the first principle - Start with the Willing.  

innovation volunteers

For those that didn't see my post last week I'll do a quick recap.  When starting an innovation training program leaders, manager, and employees need to make the decision to adopt a new mindset.  Remember, you cannot force it. When you make it the employee's choice, rather than a mandate, the first wave of trainees will be those who are most likely to influence the culture at your organization, in other words, they will be your change agents.  From there each subsequent wave will be influenced by the first.Remember innovation is messy work at the start of your transformation and is not for the faint of heart.

Now when we dig deeper you should also, consider your needs when it comes to innovation. What offering is most in need of reinvention? What new customer opportunity have you not acted on? What internal systems are most broken? Having a specific objective for the first wave of trainees to focus on will help you rally those who have some experience and interest related to that objective.

innovation leap of faith

How do you find your organization's first wave, the Change Agents? My advice is to ask for volunteers to be a part of a pioneer group to lead innovation (within xyz area). Call upon a vertically and horizontally diverse pool of employees. There will always be change agents at every level.

If you need more data to determine if volunteers are the right people. We've used a 21-question survey to help predict an individual's odds of taking action with their innovation education/training.  You want to map the following 3 things:

  1. Entrepreneurial - Adventurous; comfortable with multi-tasking and uncertainty.
  2. Optimistic - Positive attitude; high energy; healthy self-confidence.
  3. Proactive Scientist - Passion for discovery and applying technology, facts and data.

Here is an example of a question from the survey we use:

How much do you agree with this statement: "I need to feel closure on a learning activity to feel comfortable moving on."

This is an important indicator, because it is difficult to master a skill like "innovation" without failing a few times first. When doing training it is important to fail in order to learn.  That means not getting the closure many people crave.

I'm happy to share the change agent survey I use with you.