Innovation is a key driver of organizational longevity and growth. By prioritizing innovation, businesses can excel in the market and improve their processes and culture.

According to management consulting firm McKinsey, the onset of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has made innovation more important than ever. McKinsey’s research shows that 90 percent of executives expect the fallout from the coronavirus to fundamentally change the way they do business over the next five years. With these changes, three-quarters of executives anticipate significant growth opportunities.

It’s crucial to foster innovation across departments and at all levels to position your organization for long-term success. A highly effective means of doing so is through innovation training.

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What Is Innovation Training?

Innovation training is a program or course that equips learners to understand and leverage innovation theories, frameworks, and techniques. The scope and content of innovation training can vary depending on the institution.

One example of innovation training is the online course Disruptive Strategy, taught by Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen. In the course, participants learn how to align resources and processes to develop an innovative culture, assess new opportunities and potential threats in their industries, and harness disruption to position their organizations for growth.

Why Innovation Training Is Important

Innovation training is important because it can stimulate strategic thinking that improves team performance and enables your organization to reach its potential. Without a focus on innovation, your organization could hinder its ability to compete with emerging disruptive technologies.

A recent report by PwC found that CEOs cite significant retraining and upskilling as a top priority for their organizations, with 55 percent noting that a lack of skills holds them back from innovating effectively.

If you want to help your organization avoid this pitfall, here are four ways innovation training can help you transform your organization.

Innovation Training Benefits

1. It Enables Your Organization to Fulfill Customer Jobs to Be Done

One of the primary benefits of innovation training is that it can help you and your colleagues better understand and serve customers’ needs.

In Disruptive Strategy, participants use Christensen’s jobs to be done (JTBD) theory to explore those needs and examine why customers choose certain offerings over others. The theory asserts that rather than buying products and services, customers hire them to perform a specific job.

One real-world example of a service that satisfies a job to be done is PayPal, which serves the needs of customers who want an easy way to submit payments online. While other options can fulfill this job, PayPal’s large network of merchants, reputation for security, and convenient features makes it a top choice for consumers.

By engaging in innovation training, you can help your organization identify the jobs that customers hire its products and services to fulfill. Through interviewing and other methods, you can improve your company’s offerings to better serve users’ needs.

Related: Innovation in a Disrupted World: How to Discover New and Emerging Jobs to Be Done

2. It Equips Your Organization to Harness Disruption

A key advantage of focusing on customer jobs to be done is that it prepares your organization to capitalize on disruption rather than submit to it.

According to a report by Accenture, over 60 percent of companies across 20 industries have experienced disruption, and more than 40 percent are highly susceptible to it in the future.

“The way you defend yourself against disruption and commoditization is to organize around a job to be done,” Christensen says in Disruptive Strategy. “Focusing around a job to be done causes you to create processes and integrated ways that your competitors find hard to copy.”

Using lessons and techniques gleaned from innovation training, you can help your organization craft a strategy that takes different customer needs and jobs into account, ensuring it’s well-positioned to respond to new opportunities and potential threats as they arise.

“If you frame the business you're in as delivering something that does the job better over time, it will open up opportunities to use new technologies as they emerge,” Christensen says in Disruptive Strategy. “What your business is about is doing the job better and better, and that clarity doesn't diminish over time because of the stability of the jobs to be done.”

3. It Drives Organizational Growth and Performance

Beyond influencing strategy, innovation training can positively impact your organization’s performance and growth.

Data from Microsoft shows that companies with innovative cultures where new ideas are embraced and supported are twice as likely to experience double-digit growth, compared to those with less of a focus on innovation.

Innovation can bring financial payoff, too. Research by McKinsey indicates that companies adept at five or more “innovation essentials”—such as “aspire,” “discover,” and “mobilize”—experience greater financial returns than less innovative organizations.

4. It Boosts Employee Engagement and Retention

Innovation training can also lead to increased employee engagement and commitment.

According to additional findings from Microsoft, 86 percent of employees at innovative organizations plan to stay in their jobs, compared to 57 percent who work for companies with lower levels of innovation.

In an article for the Harvard Business Review, executives from pharmaceutical and life science company Bayer describe how innovation training and initiatives enabled their organization to transform.

As part of the company’s innovation efforts, it created a network of volunteer ambassadors and coaches who, through training and workshops, aimed to connect and inspire employees to engage in innovation.

The initiative led to a network of ambassadors and coaches across 70 countries—80 percent of whom were actively engaged in their innovation work, even though it was outside the scope of their official roles—and more than 5,000 people participating in innovation webinars and training events.

This example demonstrates the profound impact innovation training can have: Not only can it foster a commitment to innovation throughout your organization, but inform how it mobilizes and aligns its resources.

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Improving Your Innovation Skills Through Training

Innovation training is a worthwhile pursuit that can equip your organization to thrive as its industry evolves. While there’s a range of resources you can use to learn about innovation on your own time, many professionals opt for a more structured approach, such as an online course.

For Robbee Minicola, a senior director at Microsoft and former HBS Online participant, the knowledge and techniques she acquired in Disruptive Strategy helped her be more impactful in her role and drive innovation within her company.

“Within five days of finishing the course, I had a plan of action for a major part of our business and presented it to our corporate executive,” Minicola says. “It applied the jobs to be done theory and caused us to rethink our strategy to get the customer to ‘hire’ us over the competition.”

Do you want to harness the power of disruptive innovation to craft winning strategies? Explore our six-week online course Disruptive Strategy, and learn how you can gain the skills and techniques to assess new opportunities, discover customer jobs to be done, and organize for innovation.

Matt Gavin

About the Author

Matt Gavin is a member of the marketing team at Harvard Business School Online. Prior to returning to his home state of Massachusetts and joining HBS Online, he lived in North Carolina, where he held roles in news and content marketing. He has a background in video production and previously worked on several documentary films for Boston’s PBS station, WGBH. In his spare time, he enjoys running, exploring New England, and spending time with his family.