Recognition can boost your company’s innovation & learning

What serves as rocket fuel to any company’s future success? While your initial response may be “customer satisfaction or even profitability”, if you dig deeper, there’s an even more intuitive answer. That answer is “learning”.

By: Sinead Healy on

Most organisations have company values based around innovation and learning, after all in the current climate having a workforce who come up with new ways of working and learning new skills can only be a good thing. 

To quote Dr. Arie de Geus, the former head of strategic planning for Royal Dutch/Shell Oil,

The ability to learn faster than your competitors may be the only sustainable competitive advantage.

Innovation by definition means learning something new, either in the way you do things or what you do.  Applying what you have learned is the only way to break new ground. 

When we think of learning, we often think of courses or books however not every form of education requires a classroom.

Here’s some tips on both how to “continuously learn to innovate” and how to spot and recognise people who are doing it! 

Re-consider “learning” 

People who continuously learn are great listeners.  They listen to alternative viewpoints to increase their understanding. They do their homework and ask a lot of questions before making a decision.  They seek feedback and embrace candour, so they can really hear where lessons can be learned and where things can be improved

Value Failure

In order to learn, you often have to fail. As Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” So, a culture of continuous learning encourages experimentation.   Failure is at work is rarely life-threatening and innovating can mean frequent experiments to figure out what’s the right approach or where it is that your customers are going to get value, and what the right path is towards growth or efficiency. 

So, embrace failure if it leads to greater knowledge, and celebrate derailed attempts that help us understand more about how to succeed down the road. By doing so, you’ll sustain a competitive advantage by building a culture of learning that empowers people to make the business stronger every day through their own growth and increased understanding. 

Comfort with Confusion 

Innovating requires us to work in the realm of the unknown.  Where things don’t always work very well and don’t go to quite according to the carefully laid out project plan.  The more you break new ground and disrupt the current way of working the less it makes sense in current context.  So, when bringing about change you need to get comfortable with a level of uncertainty and make sure you have the right support around you.  You need the early adopters, people who are willing to give it a go, the “we’ll figure it out” types who can handle a bit of confusion and still keep a smile on their face.

Sure, it’s great when people come up with a truly world changing innovative idea, but let’s be honest they are few and far between.  In the meantime, re align your views on innovation and you’ll find a whole group of people like these to recognise:  

  • Know someone who’s takes feedback like a champ?  Or who asks lots of questions and solicits views to increase their understanding – let them know it’s a valued skill
  • Shout out to the experimenters, take a minute to encourage people who are trying new things even if they’ve not quite figured it all out yet. 
  • Appreciate the people who support your change efforts and don’t get too flustered whilst working in the grey