Learning Is the Key to Innovation

The world is constantly changing – whether technologically, socially or in terms of business models. To keep up with the change, companies need to keep innovating. Technical education and training are essential for a sustainable development and they are the driver of innovation. Only if today’s and future employees have the relevant skills, they can shape solutions and innovations for the future successfully. And this is key to ensure employability and the continuation of the business.

That’s why companies should continuously keep an eye on which technical, methodological, and social developments require up-skilling or re-skilling of their workforce. To survive in this process of change, it’s no longer enough for employees to have learned something once. Lifelong learning is indispensable for success, as specialist knowledge is becoming outdated ever more quickly. Additionally, innovation requires companies to work with immature technologies on new business or user problems. This can best be achieved by deploying agile working methods. Hence, methodological and social skills are becoming increasingly important. These include, for example, the ability to cooperate, communicate, be creative and think critically. Lifelong learning and social skills also create opportunities for employees to grow into new roles – something that increases the attractiveness of the workplace, but also requires a new level of flexibility and openness for change.

How should learning happen?

The way people learn or teach will become key for developing and maintaining competencies in the future. Self-organised learning is an important way to establish a learning culture in a company. This is becoming more relevant as recent years the heterogeneity of learners has increased significantly. There is no longer a “one size fits all” concept for learning. Therefore, training and development opportunities should be effectively and tailored to individuals at the same time. Learning formats such as videos, quizzes or animations help to support self-organized learning. In addition, learning opportunities need to be available independent of time and location addressing different learner preferences.

In everyday work, microformats with so-called learning nuggets support individualised learning. They consist of small learning units with a clearly defined goal. These learning nuggets can be used as parts of larger modules. This supports a fusion of learning and working. For example, if a production line is facing a standstill and an operator has nothing to work on, they can take a training spontaneously proposed by a trainer close to the shop floor. This is where the role change become clear: The employee actively shapes his learning process while the trainer accompanies the working and learning process as a coach. To achieve this, the previous stereotypes at schools, training centres and in the business world must be rethought.

New structures for an innovative future

To drive innovation and change in business, we need to promote lifelong learning. For this, the use of new learning models is of great importance. Hence, we need to rethink existing structures, create individual and flexible learning opportunities that employees can use in embedded into their everyday work – as learning is the key to innovation.

Written for OEB21 by Dr. Hans Jörg Stotz, Member of the management board at Festo Didactic, a world-leading solution provider of technical education and training with strong industrial DNA. He will be speaking at OEB in the session “Learning is the Key to Innovation” on Thursday, December 2.

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