In their book “The Innovator’s DNA,” Jeff Dyer, Hal Gregersen and Clayton Christensen distilled five key skills individuals, organizations and even industries need to become disruptive and foster innovation. These skills are associating, questioning, observing, networking and experimenting.
Innovation is at the heart of growth. Without it, there is no continuous improvement or growth. How can this premise of positive disruption be applied to the learning and development industry?
Below, the five “Innovator’s DNA” skills are adapted to help foster innovation from within the learning function:
- Associating: This is about connecting otherwise seemingly unrelated dots. It’s about expanding one’s perspective beyond the industry to understand what are other industries are experiencing and how game changing factors — such as globalization, the personalized use of apps to simplify otherwise complex service operations, and more — have on learning. For example, how might Uber and the disruption it has brought to the transportation economy affect industries such as finance, mortgage lending and brokerage? Seek a best practice in one industry, and explore how it could be implemented in another. Key questions to foster association are: How and what have CLOs in other industries applied with positive results? Are there any opportunities to adopt and adapt some best practices from another industry in your organization in 2016?
- Questioning: According to “The Innovator’s DNA” research, asking the right questions is critical. Innovators ask several questions: What is? What if? Why? Why not? And what caused? Questions like these resulted in the creation of,Facebook, Google and salesforce.com. Of the learning industry we can ask: What is the biggest hurdle today in L&D? What if there was an app that could measure L&D return on investment for the organization as a whole or by line of business? What if massive open online courses were revamped to complete the economic value cycle and increase learner completion rates?
- Observing: Observation is a great teacher, especially if done consistently within a particular industry and outside of it. “The Innovator’s DNA” advises practicing active observing. Observing clients, vendors and internal operations can uncover unmet client needs, hurdles in the supply chain and process-related bottlenecks. To apply observation techniques in the learning function, one might create a junior observation and analytics team, select two to three key processes, and collect qualitative and quantitative observation points about them. While measurement was not mentioned in “The Innovator’s DNA” as the other side of the coin, measuring observations will help prioritize the most critical needs, hurdles and bottlenecks, and facilitate tackling and budgeting to address them. By overlaying measurement and analytics, observations can be transformed into powerful tools to improve learning needs, smooth global learning delivery issues and improve internal learning processes.
- Networking: The ability to connect with peers not just to sell service but also to seek new career opportunities, build relationships and tap into new ideas from people with diverse perspectives from within or outside the industry is important. To practice this, attend outside learning events and conferences for new ideas, such a TED or TEDx events (Editor’s note: The author is a TEDx event founder and curator). Attending a conference in an organization’s industry, such as finance, pharma or hospitality with no specific L&D references also can be beneficial.
- Experimenting: Try new experiences, such as doing a rotation in a new division or new country location within an organization; mapping out a process and applying lean improvement methodologies to make it more efficient; and building a product prototype around a new learning solution. In a world with limited resources, experimenting may seem frivolous, but there are tangible benefits to experimenting: generating new business ideas and piloting to quick breakthroughs, which can advance performance, improving customer satisfaction and increasing economic value. Which of these experimenting opportunities can be applied within the L&D function?
Disrupting the status quo, whether on a personal or society level, requires a specific mindset. The five skills of “The Innovator’s DNA” provide fodder to become more innovative in L&D in 2016 and beyond.