This month’s network

How to innovate

Almost every company follows a cycle that swings between expansion and
contraction (Slice of Life, Training Magazine, June 2001). As night follows
day, after a period of rationalisation, whether of systems or personnel, it
wonders where the next round of growth is going to come from.

The next question is, why aren’t our people more innovative?

The answer is that most big companies don’t allow them to be. They are
idea-killers, not generators. Bureaucratic decision processes, rigid budgets,
reward systems that punish risk taking, likewise career structures, political
infighting – any one of these can kill a good idea stone dead on the spot.

Small wonder that except in a very few cases entrepreneurs would run a mile
rather than join a big firm. With this kind of energy deficit, a few
brainstorming sessions are unlikely to provide useful answers.

Unless the company can turn itself into a "venture engine", in
which generating ideas is part of its business model, periodic drives to boost
entrepreneurial goals and innovation will yield little. People know from bitter
experience that at the first sign of a slowdown, managers will revert to
contraction mode, slashing budgets and head counts.

New projects and peripheral activities – where most innovation comes from –
are the first casualties.

As this suggests, innovation is only secondarily a matter of inventing new
products. It is, above all, an attitude of mind at top-management level.

Simon Caulkin

Red tape binds MAs

The analysis on Modern Apprenticeships (Training Magazine, June 2001)
highlighted some interesting concerns.

Within Birmingham City Council, the Department of Leisure and Culture has
successfully trained and retained eight Modern Apprentices ranging from library
assistants, to horticultural trainees and play workers, over the past three
years. The support from both managers and trainers has been phenomenal, but
what stops the department from carrying on this successful programme is the
huge volume of paperwork that needs to be completed and the bureaucracy that
exists when trying to access the funding.

We have all learnt so much from the process, but find the red tape both
time-consuming and demotivating.

Claire Riley
Personnel officer, Leisure and Culture, Birmingham City Council

Trainer input will make e-learning a success

While e-learning continues to increase in popularity among organisations of all
types, there is a risk that the effectiveness of many e-learning programmes is
being undermined due to insufficient trainer-input in the development and

The best way to launch e-learning programmes is in a classroom session
supported by a trainer, either present or online. This ensures that, at the
first session, learners spend sufficient time to make good initial progress so
that self-starting will be easier next time.

Steve Dineen
CEO and joint founder, Fuel

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