I remember having a twitter conversation with a couple of members of my network a while ago about innovation. I can’t remember the exact exchange but I remember feeling quite dejected and disappointed by the replies. A comment on Assumed Constraints & L&D Thinking by David Goddin aka @changecontinuum  brought the memory back to me but thankfully this time there were no feelings of disappointment.

Explaining the context of the conversation will probably help here and I won’t mention names but I tweeted that I was enjoying doing different things at work and used the word innovating. A couple of replies came back that developed in to a conversation that concluded that what I was doing wasn’t innovative or innovating it was merely using the ideas and methods of others and regurgitating them in my own organisation.

Being that these comments were from L&D practitioners on Twitter, it kind of burst my bubble and for about 10 minutes dampened by spirits and enthusiasm. Oh well, I wasn’t innovating but I was putting new ideas in to practice and changing the way things were being done……hang on, what’s the definition of innovation again?

Wikipedia explains innovation to be;

Innovation is the creation of better or more effective products, processes, services, technologies, or ideas that are accepted by markets, governments, and society. Innovation differs from invention in that innovation refers to the use of a new idea or method, whereas invention refers more directly to the creation of the idea or method itself.

On a side note, I have to say I’ve always fancied being an inventor, ever since the age of 7 when I first watched Dr Emmett Brown invent time travel in Back to the Future.

Sadly the desire did not transfer in to ability so the dreams of being a crack pot inventor disappeared faster than the Delorean when it hit 88 miles per hour.

Anyway back to the case in point and David mentions the Diffusion of Innovation (shown below) in his comment

David goes on to say

I think what we’re seeing at the moment is the movement of innovators and early adopters. The two big “unknowns” for me are what is the tipping point (after which there is relatively rapid adoption) and which technologies (& beliefs?) will fail.

Personally, I think the tipping point is going to be very difficult to measure, because of my interest in community based learning I’m going to suggest that the huge rise in social enterprise platforms or social bolt-ons is evidence that online collaborative tools have reached an early majority. But early majority of whom, learning providers, learning technology companies or of normal employees adopting their use?

My own experiences of networks have shown me that adoption takes time and trying to change the way in which people work and share information is a challenge regardless of the tools available. To bring this to life, I had a conversation with a colleague today around setting up an online community and we laughed at how 3 years ago I was really pushing this platform for use across our own L&D team. Well it’s taken 3 years to get to the late majority phase within my own team of learning professionals; we are only now working with early adopters to develop communities across other areas of our business.  The technology is only the enabler and what we are in fact talking about is changing the mind-set and the culture of an organisation and its’ people in order to transform the way they learn, communicate and ultimately work.

If it wasn’t me it might have been someone else but the point is something new was introduced in to our organisation, a new idea. A need was established, the idea was developed and we tried something different – the innovation was to see an idea and apply it in an organisational context and do something that had never been done before.

If you are in L&D and you are bringing new ideas, tools and methods in to your organisation that haven’t been tried before then in my mind you are an innovator, look at the Diffusion of Innovation curve and find and work with your early adopters and get to that magic tipping point.

If L&D ARE the agents of change then surely we MUST be innovators and recognise this as the first step to main stream adoption. In fact don’t let anyone ever tell you that you are NOT an innovator…be bold, be brave

….and go forth and innovate.

Do you agree, are L&D innovators or just regurgitating other peoples’ inventions ?

Can you share any examples of where you have been an innovator (or even a laggard)?

What’s your next innovation and what’s the plan to reach the tipping point?