Innovate to Thrive (Part 7)…Training & Coaching

Proper hiring, training and coaching is the way to create, reinforce and enhance company culture and mindset.

This attitude needs to come from the top and, in our most admired firms, frequently represents the ethos of the founder. Human resources can work magic for your New Product Development (NPD) efforts (Innovate to Thrive NPD see Part 3) , by helping you slot the right people in the slots that suit them – and you.

Ongoing reinforcement of this attitude and spirit is essential, to help employees understand their place in the NPD team, and give their best. Continuity is the key, while training helps your team constantly improve its skill set, through new techniques in ideation, process experience and intra-organizational communication of best practices.

Innovative companies, by the way, are not necessarily created by establishing a discrete – Department of Innovation.On the contrary, it’s important for the company to be innovative. These are organizations where being open- minded is a positive attribute, not a threat. In many industries, such as fashion and personal care products, the key company driver is – innovation. That is the common denominator and it is frequently the mantra of the company founder, who creates, maintains – ok, demands – that unique culture. I have frequently found category leaders that develop Centers of Innovation and train, and retrain, executives on project management basics.

And the basis of this successful innovation? A natural curiosity, open- mindedness, an ability to see the big picture – combined with hard-headed business acumen. Or, and it bears repeating, a left-brain/right-brain approach.

Continuous Training and Coaching is Essential to Innovation

In order for any company to meet its goals and to achieve sustainable Innovation , proper training and coaching is an essential though often overlooked imperative. But how can a New Product Development (NPD) team represent the philosophy of its organization if the attitude, culture and processes are not continually reinforced? Proper hiring, training and coaching is essential to finding and keeping the right people for the right job – and having them trained in their role and processes on the NPD team in order to perform their personal best.

Training and coaching doesn’t stop after the initial phase. Continuity is key. New techniques, processes and best practices should always be shared to foster a constant culture of Innovation. From top to bottom, from executives to managers to newcomers, everyone must be included in training and coaching programs to be on the same page and for the New Product Development process to go as smoothly as possible. In fact, even the trainers and coaches themselves need ongoing training and coaching to prevent their practices from going stale. Sustained Innovation is a constantly evolving process.

It is not without reason that Whirlpool Corporation established that the “How To” training is the most important need for corporate Innovation to succeed, from top to bottom. At Whirlpool, innovative thinking is considered the responsibility of each of its 80,000 employees. They continue to be the primary source for new ideas that meet consumer needs. It’s such an important part of their culture that they have a corporate initiative in place to sustain the commitment company-wide.

To reinforce and enhance a creative company culture and mindset, effective training and coaching must not be forgotten. Any company that wants to stay in business needs a sustainable Innovation program. Here are some Training and Coaching tips to help your product development process:

– Share the Joy: As well as the frustrations – communicate what is working and not working.

– Pick the Right Coaches: Not everyone has the psychological makeup to be the coach.  Knowledge is key, obviously.  But the coach needs to be able to motivate, mediate, and create camaraderie and a sense of selflessness.

– The One-On-One Touch: Individual coaching provides the privacy and attention that breeds success.  I’ve found that discussions regarding areas for improvement are received and acted upon much better in a private session, away from peers listening in.  This can be especially critical with new employees and/or team members.

– Basics First: Make certain project management basics are taught, applied and re-taught.

Category: Innovation


About the Author: Robert Brands

Robert F. Brands is President and Founder of, Author of "Robert's Rules of Innovation" (Wiley, March, 2010), Innovation subject expert and speaker. Brands' hands-on experience in bringing innovation to ma…

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