This may seem like an odd pairing, so bear with me. I believe that we want to find ways to support organizations moving in the direction of innovation and learning cultures. Of course, I’ve been on a pretty continuous campaign for this, but I’m wondering what other levers we have. And, oddly, I think competencies may be one. Let me make the case for competencies and innovation.
So I’ve gotten involved in standards and competency work. Don’t ask me why, as I have no better answer than a) they asked, and b) the big ‘sucker’ tattoo on my forehead. Of course, as I’ve said before, the folks that do this stuff (besides me, obviously) are really contributing to the benefit of our org. Maybe I felt I had to walk the talk?
In the course of the one that was just launched, we identified a number of competencies across the suite of L&D activities. This included (in addition the more traditional activities) looking at how to foster innovation. This means understanding culture and the change processes to get there, as well as knowing how to run meetings that get the best outputs. It’s about being prepared for both types of innovation, fast (solve ‘this’ problem) and slow (the steady percolation of ideas).
Thus, the necessary skills are identified as a component of a full suite of L&D capabilities. And the hope, of course, is that people will begin to recognize that there are parts of L&D they’re not addressing, and move to take on this opportunity. I hope that it’s becoming obvious that the ability to facilitate innovation is an organizational imperative, and that there’s a strong argument for L&D to be key. This is on principle, and pragmatically, it’s a no-brainer for L&D to find a way to become central to org success, not peripheral.
However, leaving that to chance would be, well, just silly. What can we do? Well, two things, I think: one is to help raise awareness, the other is to provide support. A suite of skills aligned to this area is a ‘good thing’ if it known and used. Working on the know has been an ongoing thing (*cough*), but how can we support it?
Again, two things, I think. One are examples where people have put in place programs where they’ve oriented themselves in this direction and documented benefits. The other is to provide scaffolding; support materials that help folks implement these competencies. And I believe that’s coming.
“Systematic creativity is not an oxymoron” (I may need to make a quip post about that). And this is an example. Think of brainstorming, for example. It can be useful, or not. When done right, the outcomes are much better. And similarly in lots of ways, the nuances matter. If we define, through competencies, what suites of knowledge matter, we bring awareness to the possible outcomes. And the opportunity to improve them.
It may be an indirect path, to be sure, but it’s a steady, and real one. In fact, to say “we want to innovate, but how” and have a suite of specific sets of knowledge on tap to point people to, is pretty much next to the fastest path. Showing people the benefits and the path to obtain them is key. It’s even self-referential: let’s innovate on making innovation systematically embedded in organizations! ;) So, keep on experimenting!