Innovation, Learning and Motivation

Posted on

The final part of pretty much every strategic planning process is to identify and prioritize a set of goals that will move the organization forward in a specific timeframe to a desired future. While it is easy to define financial, sales and marketing goals, it is a bit harder to define non-financial goals such as leadership development.

To operate successfully in business today, it is necessary to gain a comfort level with risk, to support a culture of innovation, and to encourage ongoing learning. Whether your organization is looking to increase the value of services, launch new products, or improve operating efficiencies, an advantage lies in your ability to unleash creativity.

As you think about what needs to be focused in your organization make sure that you have a plan in place to develop and/or strengthen the skills, motivation and creativity necessary to propel your business forward.


Even with a top-notch team, business leaders struggle with how to get the most from their talent and keep everyone motivated, especially in a tight market

Studies and research show dramatic differences between what leaders think motivate their people and what really does. Non-monetary motivators, such as employee recognition, effective training, a positive work environment and job rotation or career path changes are far more important than cash to most people. The most effective type of motivation comes from within. It goes a long way for most employees to work in a positive environment where everyone can freely express their ideas and they are encouraged to challenge themselves, to grow and to develop.

To better understand the teams I work with, I sometimes use values assessments. More often then not, I wind up surprising managers when they find out how many of the people on their teams thrive on learning as a top motivator.


Peter Senge’s 1990 book “The Fifth Discipline” popularized the concept of the “learning organization”- organizations where people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire. Thirteen years later, his rationale for learning is just as relevant. Organizations must be flexible, adaptive and productive to succeed.

In “Business Think,” authors Dave Marcum, Steve Smith and Mahan Khalsa tell us “What used to be ‘somebody else’s’ job is now everybody’s job.” You have just as much responsibility to think as the CEO. If you’re the CEO, everyone in your company has just as much responsibility to think as you do. Maybe more!

Is your business tapping your team’s commitment and capacity to learn at all levels? An effective learning organization:

Highly values the desire to learn

Develops the ability to think critically and creatively

Devotes the needed resources for these activities

Seeks new and innovative solutions to problems

Proactively seeks change, growth, and development in new

Looks for improved methodologies and innovative tools and solutions


Conduct your own assessment with the following questions:


Are you assertively responding to new opportunities? Is all that needs to get done getting done? Is everyone in the organization inspired, involved and rewarded? Have you developed a meaningful mission and a motivating vision to drive the business? Do you emphasize innovation? Do you have a plan to develop and introduce new products/services in the future? How would you rate communication both internally and

externally? Does your organization score high marks in the ability to deal with conflict, change?

Leadership skills are not just for people at the top. Leadership is a competency that everyone can continually improve. Good leadership skills will help others expand their perspective and encourage initiative.


What percent of time is spent putting out recurring fires? Do you spend the largest portion of time doing the right things? How much time do you spend each day in integrating your long-range and intermediate-range plans into your daily activities?


Do you offer mental stimulation and creative challenges? Is there a forum to help make sense of the situations you as a business face? Do you inspire the creative process by discussing the realities of a situation or problem and ask for help to determine which course of action will best meet the challenges? Do you help people develop ideas into valuable solutions?


When most people think of training, they think of sending employees away from their jobs for two or three days. This is certainly an option, but there are many others. Why not consider:

Substituting a 1-2 hour staff meeting with a workshop.

Launching a new project team with a team skills training.

Using a facilitator to teach team skills while the team works

Incorporating training into a multi-day meeting.

Supporting a company-wide initiative with a short workshop.

Setting up “lunch and learns,” or breakfast seminars.

Asking your clients to join you for some specialized training

One-on-one coaching is another alternative to help individuals grow as professionals and contribute more fully to the success of an organization. Coaching can be time effective and have both a strategic and an immediate impact by providing “just in time” leadership learning. The opportunities for ongoing learning and development may feel at odds with current resource constraints. If you would like some guidance in putting together a cost effective strategy for your organization, we would be pleased to help.