With 2017 drawing to a close, many organizations are taking the time to think about how they can improve in 2018. Often, solutions are around finding ways to make the company more agile and adaptable in the face of new challenges—something that innovation training programs can help with.
How can you make 2018 a year for innovation training? More importantly, how can you make sure that your employees and the company actually benefit from the training? Here are a few suggestions to help your company with its innovation training program in the new year:
1) Think Like a Gamer
Jane McGonigal, a researcher at the Institute for the Future, frequently talks about video games and how they can be used as tools to teach people. In a Big Think article, McGonigal notes that games provide something “that we crave the most,” like “satisfying hands-on work where we can really see the outcomes of our actions, or a chance to succeed and get better at something, to start out being really bad and then have this sense of mastery as we get better and better.”
Games often provide an immediate reward to players for completing specific actions and objectives in the game itself. For example, in role-playing games like World of Warcraft (WoW), completing an in-game quest rewards the player with experience, gold, and/or items. These rewards create a sense of progression that keeps the player invested in the game through many hours of gameplay.
Mimicking the incentivizing strategies of games like WoW and providing smaller but more frequent short-term rewards to employees for meeting innovation training objectives/milestones can help you improve the results your organization receives from such training.
Also, as an MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game), WoW gives players a chance to cooperate and compete in real-time events via group quests and player-versus-player (PVP) arenas. These cooperative and competitive elements reward players who work well with a team and create optimized strategies for completing objectives. For this reason, McGonigal says that games that require strategy and cooperation with other players are “actually honing skills of cooperation,” which can be beneficial for improving a gamer’s resilience, perseverance, ambition, and collaboration.
This can serve as great practice for creating new innovations and strategies for meeting work goals—if the gamified training can be linked to the learner’s work environment.
2) Focus on Creating a Growth Mindset in Employees
In an article for Big Think, Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck talks about the impact of having a growth mindset—and what helps to create such a mindset. Basically, a growth mindset is about helping learners grow smarter by emphasizing effort over innate ability. As highlighted in the article:
“In one of Dweck’s experiments, students were either told following a test ‘you must be smart at these problems’ or ‘you must have worked hard at these problems’. [sic] Following this, the scores of the students who were praised for their intelligence dropped in further tests, while the scores of the children who were praised for their effort increased. The students who were praised for their intelligence avoided further challenging tasks while the students who were praised for their effort proceeded to more challenging tasks.”
Creating a growth mindset by emphasizing effort, learning, and progress helps employees perform better and be more willing to accept risks to meet goals—a must for any innovative thinker. After all, innovation often requires people to step out of their comfort zone and accept some risk.
At the end of the day, cultivating a growth mindset is about turning the “I can’t do that because I don’t have the skills or smarts to do that” into “I ought to try. If it doesn’t work, I bet I could do some research or try a different approach and succeed later. At the very least, I’ll have learned something.”
3) Make Innovation Training Ongoing and Available to Everyone
One problem with some innovation training programs (and many training programs in general) is that they’re treated as a one-off program or initiative. One group of employees gets the training, and then the program is forever abandoned. New employees aren’t given the same training, creating a knowledge gap between the employees who have the training and those who don’t.
Integrating innovation training into the core of the employee onboarding process can be crucial for making sure that everyone treats innovation as a core part of the organization’s operations rather than as a pointless one-off that can be ignored.
4) Keep Employees Engaged by Avoiding Motivation-Crushing Mistakes
In an article for Big Think, Jim Collins, the author of New York Time bestselling book Good to Great, says that the best leaders “don’t worry about motivating people – they hire passionate employees and don’t extinguish their passion.” When employees are engaged, they’re more likely to retain information from lessons and engage in transformational behaviors that boost innovation.
What are some of the biggest mistakes that demotivate workers? The top three identified in the Big Think article featuring Collins’ insights are:
- Hype: a failure to acknowledge the real difficulties the organization faces.
- Futurism: Always “pointing down the road” at distant goals and not at the tangible results of employees’ recent efforts.
- False Democracy: Inviting people’s input when you’ve already made up your mind.
How can you avoid these mistakes?
For the first point, “hype,” it’s important to be open and honest in communications with employees. This helps prevent feelings of betrayal if difficulties arise.
The second point, “futurism,” can be closely related to the point about using short-term goals and rewards from the “Think Like a Gamer” section of this article. By frequently reinforcing employee’s efforts with positive feedback, employees are more likely to feel that their work makes a difference and their efforts are being rewarded.
For the third point about “false democracy,” simply acting on employee feedback when possible can do a lot to demonstrate that you understand and care about their concerns and input. And, if you do make a decision that runs contrary to input you’ve asked for, be sure to explain why you made that decision in a tactful manner.
There are a lot of things that you can do to make 2018 a year for innovation training. For more information about innovation culture and strategy, check out a demo of Big Think+ today.