For creating a company culture and mindset focused on innovation, it starts with proper training and coaching from the high ups of an organization. Team members need to be trained and coached to constantly improve their skill set, and this attitude should be continuously reinforced. It's important for the entire company to be innovative, and not just a designated "Department of Innovation."
Successful, sustainable innovation depends on a natural curiosity and open-mindedness from all members of an organization. To gauge your company's training and coaching program, ask yourself:
Do you coach champions and project leaders?
Do you have standardized project management in place?
Do you constantly look for new ways to improve your products and processes -- even the successful ones?
Do you share best practices among teams?
Setting these frameworks into place can help motivate your organization as part of an ongoing training program. Here are some tips for developing an effective training and coaching system.
• Pick the right coaches. Not everyone has the psychological makeup to be the coach. Knowledge is key, obviously, but the coach needs to be able to motivate, create camaraderie, and evoke sense of selflessness.
• The one-on-one touch. Individual coaching provides the privacy and attention that breeds success. I've found that discussions regarding areas of improvement are received and acted upon much better in a private session, away from peers listening in. This can be especially critical for new employees and/or team members.
• The coach's creed. The ideal coach has to have self-discipline, superior skill sets, a wide and deep understanding of the innovation program's goals, and first tier communication skills, in order to address both group and one-on-one situations. A coach with these skills can quickly develop acolytes that, in time, become coaches themselves. And that is the dream scenario: the coach/leader who ultimately cultivates future leaders.
This should all be part of an ongoing process, and don't forget to train any newcomers to the organization. For more tips on training and coaching, see "Robert's Rules of Innovation: A 10-Step Program for Corporate Survival."