Learning and Innovation

The Art of Innovation
Connecting Learning and Innovation

learning and innovation

Learning and innovation are two linked strategies for successful family businesses.

As part of our Family Business Assessment we consider how well a family business does in adapting learning and innovation strategies. As part of their strategic planning process, how practiced are they in dealing with the factors of innovation? Do they plan for change (aggressive) or merely react to it (passive)?

More and more clients are talking to us about our Family Business Innovation Program Family business owners who understand that the key to a successful organization is how quickly that organization can adapt to change. While there are many factors of innovation, in successful family businesses, being able to understand future trends and how those changes will impact the family business is critical. We think learning and innovation in a family business is crucial – so important that an innovation strategy should be included in the succession management process http://www.family-business-experts.com/succession-management-process.html

Micro innovation management tends to be more focused on improvements in efficiency and effectiveness within a family business. New technology, improved materials, improving channels of distribution are all factors of innovation.

Macro innovation management has to do with understanding social changes that impact values and ethics. Successful family business entrepreneurs seem to have a “sixth sense” about reading trends and anticipating future changes that will affect their family business. It is one of the key factors of innovation in most family-owned businesses.

Our world is changing – and these changes are occurring rapidly – one writer suggests it is occurring at “warp speed”. There are many “futurists” that have gained credibility over the past few years – experts at reading their crystal balls regarding future change.

One man who is practiced at being a futurist is Bill Draves. He believes these nine changes will alter our lives in the next 10 – 15 years. Most of them are already under way, he says.

Most People Will Work From Home – Organizations ranging from Best Buy to the federal government are moving more employees into telecommuting, because people who work from home work longer hours and are more productive.

Virtual Offices, or Intranets, Will Replace Physical Offices – In an office, managers supervise how employees spend their time, and that is really dysfunctional, because businesses are really interested in results. Bosses will switch from supervising activities to supervising outcomes, which is far more efficient.

Networks Will Replace The Organization Chart – In the old pyramid, which was based on the factory model, information was limited to the top brass. But with a network, relevant information and decision-making power is shared across the organization, increasing efficiency.

Trains Will Replace Cars – In Europe you can now take a train from Paris to London (a seven hour drive) in just two hours. The United Kingdom is going to spend $20 billion on trains in the next 15 years and Toronto is devoting $6 billion to a light rail system. Trains will be equipped with wireless access, allowing people to work and travel at the same time.

Suburbs Will Decline – As knowledge workers become more acutely aware of the value of their time, they will want to live within walking distance or biking distance of shops, stores and light rail systems. Poor people will move to the suburbs. In fact, as of 2007, more poor people are living in the suburbs than in cities. This shift will have an environmental payoff: the Baltimore Sun recently reported that simply eliminating suburbs would reduce driving by 20-40 percent.

New Social Infrastructures Will Evolve – In particular, new systems of health care and continuing education are needed because people will change jobs yearly in this century. People will need to receive continuing education no matter where they work or how often they change jobs.

Values and Work Ethics Will Change – All of our values are for the factory – showing up on time, putting in long hours, and getting your work done. Now, because time is so valuable and because knowledge keeps expanding, we need to work faster and smarter. In the last century if you were learning with others, it was called cheating. In this century, we value collaborative learning because people are more productive when they work with others.

Half of All Learning Will Be Online – All subjects, even those such as music and ballet, can be enhanced with an online component. Online learning will do for education what the invention of the tractor did for food, making learning opportunities cheaper and more readily available in a wider variety of options.

Technology Will Replace Buildings – Higher education still has this “edifice complex” – we are still spending too much money on buildings. In this century, technology expenses have to exceed building expenses, or individual institutions are in real danger, because buildings are simply obsolete – they are just a cost.

Learning and innovation strategies for your family business can be examined within the context of these predictions of macro trends. As an example, let’s address point number one – Most People Will Work From Home. Telecommuting is no longer a new word – it is one of the key factors of innovation for many businesses and organizations. It is a proven strategy. How many of your associates telecommute? What “thinking” in your family business acts as an impediment to the strategy of your associates working at home?





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