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A ten point plan for successful innovation

Innovation is any new idea, device or method that replaces another. Despite being a simple concept, it is incredibly hard to do. We are hard-wired to take the path of least resistance, and the path of least resistance is usually to leave things as they are and muddle through.Successful, mature companies and organisations find it especially hard to adopt changes. As the Harvard Business Review puts it:

“Mature corporations are designed to execute on the science of delivery — not engage in the art of discovery. They’re bad at innovation by design: All the pressures and processes that drive them toward a profitable, efficient operation tend to get in the way of developing the innovations that can actually transform the business.”

How Big Companies Should Innovate, HBR, Oct 2012

For those hardy L&D professionals who have an innovation in mind and are not put off, Learning Pool has assembled a ten point plan to help increase the chances that your learning innovation will ‘take’ in your organisation. These are taken from our recent webinar entitled Practical Innovation in Learning & Development. Change happens faster and more successfully when a powerful person in the system supports it. You may not be the top dog in your org or team, so if you are interested in driving an innovation, the very first thing to do is to get a “power person” championing the product or process change. There are all sorts of process models, but the one used in our Practical Innovation webinar is a simple one we like – we use with permission from a Dutch consultancy It is useful because of its simplicity, allowing it to be applied to all sorts of situations:

Like Churchill, a lot of quotes get attributed to General Eisenhower, but we have good evidence he did actually say this:

“Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.”

What he meant was that even if the plan does not survive contact with reality, the exercise of thinking through the options, the process, and the contingencies is an invaluable exercise.

To see the process model, simply watch the webinar recording:VIEW THE RECORDINGA stakeholder is anyone with an interest or concern in what you are doing. Some stakeholders will be happy to just be informed and get involved in exceptional circumstances. Others will be all over your project like a rash. The best approach is to over-communicate with this group.

Governance is how your project is managed. Typically the key people in the governance structure are the product/project owner and the product/project manager. There might be all sorts of titles around these two roles and sometimes they are held by the same people. But best practice would be that the project owner/sponsor is someone outside of the day-to-day elements of its delivery, and the project or product manager will be the person responsible for the delivery.

When you come to work you like to know what is expected of you. As outlined in the webinar, RASIC is a useful model for systematising that. It also helps the product/project manager manage the stakeholders. For example, if you are “I” against a task and you start behaving like you are “R”, the project manager is easily able to pull you in by referring you to the RASIC chart.

The cardinal rule is that at a task level each row should have only one R.

To explore the RASIC model, simply watch the webinar recording

You do everything right, you have your sponsor, you have your stakeholders, you have your process. Everyone is excited. Then you start to do things and it all goes wrong.

You pitch into the “Valley of Despair”, where all those resisters start vocalising again. It is your process (Rule 2) that gets you out of this. And the better your process the shallower and shorter your Valley of Despair will be.

People are on your stakeholder map because they have an interest in the outcome. Often they have expertise, experience, and the authority to help you. Leaning on them in times of stress can be a good strategy.

If things are going wrong your champion probably has the power to knock heads together. But you should use this power cautiously. It can be a divisive step in a project to call on your product champion to step in and resolve something – people can feel undermined. So only use your champion if you absolutely cannot work out how to get out of your Valley of Despair!


You often hear people complaining that no one ever thanks them. We tend to be so bad at this, thinking that the satisfaction is in doing a good job, not celebrating the fact. It can be great for morale in a team to pause at success point, get the doughnuts in, and make a point of celebrating the success.

We are all L&D professionals, so we should be committed to learning from what is going well and what is going badly, and feeding it back into the project. Create a feedback loop into your plan, and always change the plan when the learning tells you to.VIEW THE RECORDINGIn this case, the 10 rules come with a bonus rule – one about testing your assumptions. This is significant enough to merit its own blog post – which you can read next week here on the Learning Pool blog.

In the meantime, prepare yourself for thinking about testing your assumptions by watching the webinar recording, in which we start to touch on the important concept of a minimum viable product.


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