Doug Dvorak's Blog


How Leaders Can Drive Innovation With L&D

Many leaders want to establish a culture of innovation at their workplace, one that encourages flexibility, creativity and supports risk-taking. The benefit? breakthrough products, a superior customer experience and a more agile response to market changes.

But what is happening in organizations today, and what can leaders do – specifically those within the HR and L&D (learning and development) functions – in not only supporting but also driving, a culture of innovation? The 2019 US L&D Report highlights some of the latest trends that companies are already applying.


Create a safe space for risks and ideas

Innovation occurs when employees feel free to take risks without repercussions. Focusing on employees’ individual strengths has been key to creating a culture of innovation. Focusing on strengths creates trust; it creates a safe space to try something and possibly fail, have a conversation about it, and move forward. For many organizations, innovation is a byproduct of their culture that prioritizes relationship-building and trust between employees and managers over learning hard skills.

Having engaged and committed leaders who can encourage this culture is key. It comes as no surprise that leadership and management skills are in high demand at organizations that are leading the innovation charge.

Together with creating an environment where risks can happen without repercussions, encouraging idea-sharing between colleagues on all levels of the organization will also propel innovation. The takeaway? Create programs that allow employees to cultivate their individual strengths while building relationships with others on the team. Where there’s support, there’s innovation – and trust needs to exist between team members for innovation to flourish.


Encourage flexibility

The aim of HR/L&D leaders is to adjust to continuous organizational changes without compromising either the speed or quality of talent development strategies. An overly-planned L&D program is less likely to adapt to any changes in business strategy, so don’t be afraid to stray from your schedule and remain flexible when business needs a shift. This also means that for innovation to occur, your program needs to tailor itself to the individualized present (and future) needs of employees.


Experiment (and then recalibrate)

Innovation comes from risk-taking. But since there are so many effective mediums and methods to deliver learning in 2019, it’s important to think outside the box and beyond traditional learning – and to never be afraid of recalibrating based on results. It’s crucial to carry out evaluations and monitor feedback in order to continually produce and develop innovation-driving programs of the highest standard.

Evaluation and recalibration are at the heart of world-leading innovation initiatives. Through surveys, focus groups, or other evaluations, it’s crucial to determine which programs work, which can be optimized, and which should be scrapped. Even more critical, however, is that you cultivate a working environment where employees can question current processes without repercussions. In a space where there’s mutual trust, reflection can grow into innovation.


Make the connection between L&D and innovation explicit

You can plan engaging L&D initiatives in the hope that it sparks innovation company-wide, or you can go one step further. Planning programming around the concept of innovation might include a guest speaker series with fellow innovation leaders from your industry, a course on design thinking, or even scheduled ‘hack-a-thons’ where employees get to take a step back from their daily tasks and focus on how they could collectively improve company processes.


About The Author

Oli Garner is a writer and digital content editor at professional training search engine and higher education portal Currently based in Stockholm after graduating from the University of Kent in 2015, Oli is dedicated to creating engaging learning and development focused content that aids companies and individuals in choosing the correct training option for their needs.


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