Monday, August 06, 2012

How to assess an innovation training program has kindly published our latest white paper, entitled How to assess an innovation training program.  I wrote this with some of my colleagues here at OVO because the number and range of innovation training programs is exploding.  The fact that the number of training programs is rapidly growing isn't, by itself, a bad thing, but the lack of agreed standards, the breadth and depth of innovation skills and attributes mean that everyone is simply defining an innovation training program according to their own personal beliefs.  This means a "certification" from one program (say, for example, my MBA alma mater, the University of Texas, or Georgia State's Program) looks nothing like an innovation certification from a different program. Each program focuses on what it does well, but provides little focus or insight into other capabilities or needs where innovation is concerned.  This is not to say that any program is "bad" or "good", just that each program is defining innovation according to its purposes.  There is no standard accreditation body or panel of experts approving innovation training or defining the body of knowledge necessary for "certification".

Innovation needs to move from its "wild west" phase into a more purposeful, more reasoned approach.  To do that, we need agreed standards or at least a consolidated body of knowledge.  If such standards existed, we could agree on what skills and knowledge nascent innovators needed and structure programs based on those common needs.  After all, a university doesn't grant a bachelor's in math or biology to people who simply create a course of study out of the whole cloth, or people who neglect vital areas of basic knowledge in the degree area.  If innovation is important, we should hold firms that offer innovation training, and especially firms that offer "certification", to high expectations.  We should ask firms that offer innovation training certification what standards they are building from, what defined set of skills they believe are necessary for innovation success, and what body of knowledge they are drawing from.

In the white paper I've tried to identify some characteristics you should investigate when looking at an innovation training program.  Clearly, the definitions are important.  Both the breadth of innovation (innovation in all processes and functions of the business and life cycle) and depth (beyond product innovation to encompass business model, customer experience and other forms of innovation) are important.  Further, you should consider the instructors.  Look for people who have led actual innovation programs in companies, who have real world experience.  Leading innovation work creates lessons learned that only practitioners can share.  Finally, examine the body of knowledge or sources that the training firm draws from.  There is a rich body of knowledge about innovation - don't allow your firm to ignore the material that's available.

Finally, be very careful about certification.  While everyone wants a nice certificate or diploma to hang on their wall, there's little agreement about what constitutes an innovation "certification".
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posted by Jeffrey Phillips at 6:06 AM


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