In today’s work environment, learning and development (L&D) leaders who develop a workplace that fosters and nurtures innovation can benefit their organizations significantly.

Companies that cultivate innovation see a substantial return on the effort, including long-term growth and an improvement in their organization’s ability to persevere during times of crisis. Despite these benefits, only 30% of people tasked with leading innovation efforts have developed the skills necessary to support long-term innovation in their organizations. This is hardly surprising since innovation skills are rarely addressed in training.

However, for many executives who understand the organizational value of nurturing an innovative mindset, addressing skills gaps and fostering an innovative culture remain priorities. According to BCG’s report “Overcoming the Innovation Readiness Gap,” the most innovative companies worldwide delivered 3% more return to shareholders from 2005 to 2020 than the market average.

A 2020 McKinsey report found that when organizations that kept their innovative focus during times of crisis, such as the 2009 financial fallout, they came through with stronger business metrics, outperforming the market average by more than 30%. These companies also maintained their accelerated growth over three to five years.

It’s now easier to understand why executives want to address the skills gaps that hinder innovation, but the more critical question for L&D leaders is how to address and meet this need. Our ebook, “Addressing The Skills Gaps That Hinder Innovation,” takes a deeper dive into this topic and expands on the resources and steps L&D leaders and executives need to foster innovation in their organizations. The following are a few highlights.

The 2-step plan to spur organizational innovation

The first step in cultivating innovation skills is to develop a culture that supports it. This includes a top-to-bottom approach, where the leadership team aligns on specific issues and desired outcomes related to innovation.

Typically, this begins with taking stock of the organization’s current culture and innovative abilities. To do so, start by answering questions like:

These can be challenging questions to answer, but an honest assessment will prove beneficial in understanding how your organization views innovation. Once leaders align on the company’s current state of innovation and how they’d like to see innovation progress, the next step is to focus on organizational skills gaps around innovation.

Teachable skills that show a return on investment

The following essential skills are foundational to innovation, and a comprehensive learning platform can help all employees develop these skills. 

Collaboration: Team collaboration is crucial to execute innovative ideas effectively. Learning approaches that involve team collaboration can help strengthen this skill. 

Embracing diversity: When teams aren’t diverse, they miss out on the wide-ranging perspectives critical to making the best decisions. Embracing diversity helps provide insight into different ways to approach problems.

Problem-solving: An organization’s ability to solve problems will lead to more innovative solutions. Strengthening your problem-solving skills is always beneficial, and it plays an essential role in bolstering your organization’s ability to solve complex issues. 

Creativity: Enhanced creativity skills allow you to see problems differently. Empowering employees to approach issues from a different angle gives you an edge over your competitors and influences your organization’s long-term success.   

Analytical thinking: Bolstering analytical thinking skills gives your organization the ability to analyze data, think outside the box, and dig beneath surface-level observations. Analytical thinking and related skills are in high demand, and upskilling in this category is valuable for many employees.

Entrepreneurial mindset: This mindset provides the latitude for creativity and taking intelligent risks to challenge the status quo while using failure as a critical learning mechanism. 

Lean methodology: It’s essential to build innovation with rapid prototyping — trying, failing, learning fast, and trying again. Learning by doing is one of the best ways to enhance skills and promote innovation. 

Curiosity: Being curious about all things and not filtering out the problems that appear too hard to solve are essential components of creativity. Paying attention to unaddressed issues in your industry and finding solutions to these problems will give you an edge in your market. 

Innovation leadership skills: Your organization should seek to develop leaders who empower employee decision-making and creativity, limit bureaucracy, and encourage diverse and dissenting opinions. 

During this journey, it’s important to remember that each of these skills can be taught individually and will collectively build your organization’s innovative capacity.

Take stock of your current culture and target skills to cultivate the capacity for innovation 

Addressing the skills gaps in your organization that currently hinder innovation will improve the problem-solving abilities of your workforce and lead to greater long-term success. Creating a learning culture that helps support this process is essential. 

Download our ebook, “Addressing The Skills Gap That Hinder Innovation,” for more information on the advantages of cultivating an innovative workforce.