Can Innovation Be Taught, or Do Some Companies Just Have It?

Young businesswoman giving a presentation while her colleagues are listening to her

Some argue that being innovative is innate. We believe that any organization is capable of achieving their innovative potential.                                     

Carter Liebscher|
December 20, 2019

Writing for Vogue Business, Maghan McDowell asks if innovation is an innate trait or if it can actually be taught. The argument that some companies just have it seems to be, “If a company is innovative, it’s in their DNA—and you can teach genetics, but you can’t change them.”

That’s true to an extent: As we’ve seen in the past and continue to see, traditional companies are lagging behind younger companies with a seemingly innate sense of agility. Traditional companies’ initial innovative success may have been due in part to timing—market timing, taking advantage of the then-cutting-edge technology, cultural relevancy.

This begs the question: Is innovation an innate characteristic, or is it a matter of luck? Is being innovative a tenuous mood and mindset that leaves when just when your company is starting to lead?

As innovation experts, we believe that it is a mindset, one that can and should be at the forefront of your company’s mission. A permanent practice that perhaps harkens back to early innovative success but updated for a changing market.

With 2020 approaching—a new year, the beginning of a new decade—many organizations are looking to make some adjustments to their business models. Maybe not complete model overhauls, but a reorienting of values. In other words, a renewed emphasis on learning.

Which brings us to the big question: Can innovation be taught?

Resoundingly, yes! It’s not a simple yes: It requires a significant amount of time and focus on cultivating a Culture of Innovation, which will create the space for experimentation and creativity. You can’t school your employees on workplace agility without allowing the space to deviate from norms and traditions.

There’s no better time to start laying the foundation for innovation than 2020.

How are you learning, perhaps teaching, innovation at your organization? Are you paying any attention at all?

For more insight into how you jumpstart your innovation efforts, we’ve put together a roadmap showing the actionable steps any organization can take to achieve innovation success.

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