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Popular L&D practices could be thwarting innovation, CIPD warns

Some of the most popular learning and development (L&D) interventions could actually be thwarting innovation, according to a report published today by the CIPD.

The research found that regardless of a company's approach to innovation, collaborative forms of learning and systematic approaches to knowledge sharing are the keys to successful innovation. 

The survey analysed more than 700 responses to the CIPD's 2012 L&D survey and identified five different profiles, which describe an organisation's approach to innovation:

  • Distributed innovators: innovation is pushed down through the organisation to project teams, with high employee involvement and managers encouraged to promote innovation
  • Reluctant innovators: innovation is not seen as crucial to the organisation's future
  • Technical innovators: innovation is seen as the focus of technical specialists and project work
  • Open innovators: innovation is based on improving processes with product design and development, with high manager and employee involvement
  • Managerial innovators: innovation seen as a key priority driven by managers but with some employee involvement and external collaboration

Across all five innovation profiles, many of the highest rated L&D practices in the survey were perceived to frustrate and block innovation.

The least effective methods of L&D for innovation were found to be in-house development programmes, internal knowledge sharing events and internal coaching, suggesting insularity and staying in your own territory are not conducive to innovation.

Collaboration within, across and outside the organisation was found to be the best way to develop an innovative culture, with job rotation and shadowing cited as the most effective L&D practices.

Dr. John McGurk, learning and talent development research adviser at the CIPD, said: "Formal education courses may be slightly out of vogue as a learning and development intervention, but for an innovation focus they may be crucial.

"External conferences, workshops and events are also important as they allow employees to 'bring the outside in'."

He added: "We concluded that those organisations identified as 'open innovators' and 'distributed innovators' could be described as role models, as they are most likely to display most or all of the key behaviours that drive innovation.

"These include treating innovation as part of business as usual, harnessing employee involvement, adopting a systematic approach, and embedding internal and external collaboration and networking. However, an organisation's approach to innovation depends on its size and industry sector, with SMEs more likely to be 'managerial innovators' for example."