“Business innovation is not airy-fairy nonsense, it’s the competitive edge”

INNOVATION is key to local and national skills agendas writes Sara O’Brien, commercial director at KF Training, which means empowering staff at all levels.

Much has been said about the need to tackle industry skills shortages in key industries such as engineering, manufacturing and construction.

These three sectors are genuine drivers of economic growth and it’s vital that companies ensure they have access to the requisite technical skills to drive their businesses forward and make them more competitive.

“The crux of the challenge is to work out how to harness creativity and empower staff to find solutions without fear of failure. It’s a cultural change that many businesses have either failed to address or, if they have addressed it, failed to get right.” 

But there’s an equally pressing issue to be dealt with – one which affects every single sector of the UK economy. Many companies miss out on fantastic business opportunities because they don’t have innovation embedded at the heart of their culture and operations.

This needs to change if Britain is to become more competitive in global markets.

Some companies don’t really understand what innovation is. It’s not just about installing the latest technology in the business, brushing up on new legislation or investing in cutting-edge machinery to increase productivity. It’s about getting staff at all levels in the business to adopt a more entrepreneurial approach to problem-solving.

It is, as the Oxford English Dictionary puts it, ‘the action or process of innovating’, a mind-set that staff should be encouraged to adopt when going about their day-to-day activities.

Not all companies find this an easy topic to address. There’s a certain intangibility about the concept of innovation, one which some business leaders have disregarded as airy-fairy nonsense. But those who do so are at risk of losing out to competitors and getting left behind.

As a starting point, company MDs and CEOs can ask themselves and their staff a series of basic questions. What is innovation? Does our business encourage it enough? Does the workforce and management team understand what innovation is? How does our company ensure that innovation permeates all levels within the business?

The crux of the challenge is to work out how to harness creativity and empower staff to find solutions without fear of failure. It’s a cultural change that many businesses have either failed to address or, if they have addressed it, failed to get right.

Focusing heavily on innovation will allow companies to bring new and higher level skills within their business, become more adept at problem-solving and, ultimately, be more competitive in the marketplace. Arguably the most famous British entrepreneur to manage this is Sir Richard Branson, who on a daily basis challenges staff to question common assumptions and ways of doing things.

“Some companies don’t really understand what innovation is. It’s not just about installing the latest technology in the business, brushing up on new legislation or investing in cutting-edge machinery to increase productivity. It’s about getting staff at all levels in the business to adopt a more entrepreneurial approach to problem-solving.”

Not everyone will be as successful as Sir Richard, of course, but they can take a leaf out of his book by putting innovation at the forefront of their agendas.

At KF Training our innovation team can start companies on that journey by offering a choice of programmes from short, punchy one or two-day standard or bespoke workshops to 12-18 month partnered programmes with work-based projects.

Embracing innovation is well worth the effort as it can help staff think outside the box and look for alternative ways of approaching tasks – quite often with spectacular results.

Just ask Sir Richard Branson.

CONTACT:

Based in Peterlee, KF Training delivers business-focused skills programmes and consultancy services across the North East, North West, Yorkshire and Cumbria. For further information click here, call 0191-518 6830 or e-mail info@kftraining.co.uk.

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