Drawing out innovation - big and small

March 19, 2018 Vincent Belliveau



We are experiencing a monumental shift with systems involving entirely new capabilities for people and machines – some even call it the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ due to the phenomenal impact across all sectors. These sweeping advancements in technology will require people to augment their current skills and develop new ones to meet the demands of the future workplace. It’s not just proficiency skills, but social and managerial skills too that will impact on how everyone works together.

This so-called revolution isn’t something that is happening in the future either – it’s happening now, with almost all organisations undergoing digital transformation. In a 2017 IDC and Cornerstone study, 84% of respondents said they worked for a European organisation which was either digitally  transforming or about to. However, the study also found that two of the top three barriers to digital transformation involved people – with 43% citing cultural resistance and almost a third (28%) not able to keep critical talent and skills.  

As digital transformation disrupts us all, leaders must learn to understand and navigate the Skills Economy. Those wanting to survive and distinguish themselves in the workplace of tomorrow must start today by installing a culture of curiosity and learning.

Trust is a two-way street

To encourage innovation and curiosity, an organisation needs to be transparent, encouraging and creating an environment in which it can thrive.

As much as an employee should trust its employer, an employer should trust its employees. We have all experienced micro-management in our lifetime and know that this type of ‘over management’ is destructive and suffocating. Some freedom to work autonomously and collaborate with colleagues has huge benefits to an organisation – namely growth.

In a Freakonomics podcast episode on CEO problems, Mark Zuckerberg talks about trust and freedom at Facebook, “One of the basic strategies of our company is to learn as quickly as we can. The best way to learn is to basically try things out and get feedback. So, we built this whole framework that allows people within the company, any engineer, to change some code, create a new branch of what Facebook is, and ship that to some number of people. A huge part of how Facebook works is giving a large amount of freedom to our engineers at the company, and to people who use the product to make with it what they will.”

So, aside from transparency and trust what are some areas to focus on when implementing a learning strategy in your company?

  1. Time
  2. Innovation
  3. Curiosity

Time for curiosity and learning

Money isn’t the primary constraint to learning, time is. Ensuring employees have time to develop and learn new things is one of the most impactful decisions an organisation can make. Defining how much time each employee has to learn and develop will vary depending on the company’s culture and needs. What is important is that managers see the long-term benefit of learning and agree for their team to ‘not work’ knowing it’s important for the business.

HR and leaders in learning must also be aware of the ‘Attention Economy’ which is essentially treating people’s attention as a scarce commodity. It’s mainly used in the context of social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and marketers needing to find ways to keep your attention for longer. Every second of your attention is money!

When brands and social sites are vying for your attention that way, it’s no surprise that people’s attention spans are shortening, and that they expect to be ‘entertained’.  

So, whilst it’s important to set aside dedicated time to learn, employees should also be given access to learning content anytime, anywhere so they can get the right knowledge as and when is best for them. Moreover, some learning content may need a make-over in its format and how it is delivered. Organisations are beginning to move from a learning library to learning content subscriptions that mirror how we digest other forms of content. For example, services like Cornerstone Content Anytime take cues from Netflix in the way it surfaces and recommends relevant learning content to an employee. 

Innovation comes from curious places

Organisations should invite the whole workforce to be curious and reward this behaviour. Encourage employees to have a sponge ‘mentality’ and for them to:

  • Absorb knowledge
  • Gain insight
  • Learn from everyday experiences

This can only happen if the learning process is transparent, clear and open to all.

Case in point, Maersk just recently implemented a new learning strategy that helps their employees access important training courses and collaborate with their peers, no matter their location – office or oil rig. The ease of access and the plethora of content has helped the organisation foster a culture where employees not only complete their assigned training in time, but also actively seek relevant learning courses and materials on an ongoing basis to advance their own careers.

Curiosity doesn’t always kill the cat

Curiosity is a powerful trait. And for organisations, it leads to innovation. Learning intersects work all the time – from day one, as we work, we learn. Building the right environment is essential – it has to be an environment of trust where new thinking is rewarded.


To win during this Skills Economy, organisations must allow people to learn on the job and give them time and proper technology to access interesting content, share knowledge and stay curious.


Originally posted on UNLEASHgroup.io.


Previous Article
Shout about your training to attract top talent
Shout about your training to attract top talent

A recent survey by totaljobs found that 67% of UK workers are planning to quit their job in 2018, indicatin...

Next Article
Artificial intelligence and recruiting - where will it go in 2018?
Artificial intelligence and recruiting - where will it go in 2018?

Artificial Intelligence began to really make an impact for businesses in 2017, with HR departments particul...