As the US moves into a phase where being innovative and entrepreneurial is becoming more and more critical in the face of the leveling field of worldwide competition, we look to two key elements that will help drive us there:
- willingness to break rules
In the article Rebellion of an Innovation Mom, by Anne-Marie Slaughter, we learn about creativity and innovation and how we may be stifling it as parents if we aren't careful. This can also be transfered to the corporate learning environment.
Looking at creativity, Slaughter tells us that what is critical for nurturing creativity is "random association and connection" and down time that allows the brain to "run and turn over seemingly disconnected bits of information, images, and ideas." Experts suggest that allowing for periods of randomness to our lives allows this to happen. Too many of our e-learning courses are built to hold the hand of the audience and force feed them information. We rarely allow the audience to try and make sense of disconnected information and reflect on how things fit together. Shame on us. And by the way, an added benefit is that reflection is an important element of retention.
Being entrepreneurial means developing something that doesn't already exist, whether creating something completely new, or transferring an idea that works in one space to another. Often this requires the entrepreneur to defy conventional wisdom. Slaughter says that to nurture the willingness to "persevere in the face of deep skepticism or outright opposition" it is critical that people are in some way "rewarded for breaking the rules, not meeting our expectations by jumping through an endless series of hoops." Tying this to the corporate learning experience means allowing more autonomy in learning. Holding the audience to certain required performance standards, but allowing them to break the learning rules sometimes and explore.
Slaughter also touches on competition and cooperation. Competition "is important for later success of any kind, conventional or entrepreneurial," but cooperation and collaboration are what drives a key part of the creative process called the verification or revision stage. Verification and revision often comes from "tossing ideas around among members of a trusted group, as does the courage to launch something new."
Creativity, willingness to break rules, cooperation . . . The new competitive business world requires a workforce that can make quick, creative, effective decisions at the edges of the enterprise. Nurturing creativity, a willingness to break rules, and collaboration are three steps to achieving this. After all, this is the age of the Learning Democracy.