Learn to Innovate, Lead, and Embrace Change

There has been a century of expected compliance by workers to do their jobs a certain way, so we are all expected to keep up! The new model for employee development will be a recognition that each person offers a set of special and different skills that can’t come through compliance with routines and standardized processes.


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These ideas and others that follow in this article were presented by Seth Godin, entrepreneur and author, who talked about innovation and embracing change in the workplace in his keynote session, Dancing on the Edge of a Revolution, at the 2019 ATD International Conference and Exposition in Washington, DC on Tuesday, May 21. ATD is the Association for Talent Development.

Godin clarified the difference between key concepts for learning that will help change the mindset of management toward innovation and change.

Development is different from training. Development is the general persistence of people over time to make change. Training promotes compliance with a norm, a routine, or a set way of doing things.

Godin explained that the mindset of industry is that productivity goes up when people comply with a certain way of doing things, often brought about through training. The boss wants more, but people hold back their best and true qualities to make sure they are complying with expectations.

We hold back because we’re worried that we are an impostor; we can’t do the job. Compliance with doing things a certain way through training has worked well for industrial growth until now, but the development of skills that are transferable to any workplace will bring about innovation and change to do better.

Learning is different from education. To learn is something each person chooses to do. Education is something that is directed at and done to people.

There is a combination of skills needed to be ready for change and to innovate. Many call them “soft” skills, but they are real skills that are learned and can be taught over time to people that are willing to learn: generosity, ability to coordinate, negotiation, empathy, trust, managing time, speaking well, and others. They can’t be learned and practiced quickly in a series of onboarding or training sessions.

Leadership is different from management. Management is to tell people what to do. Leaders that encourage innovation say, “I’m not sure exactly where we are going, so who wants to come with me?” So be an impostor and get rid of the feeling of being a fraud. We are all “impostors” when we agree to follow someone or our own instincts that tell us to take a chance.

Set a new path with the intent to build something. A new idea or innovation often brings fear and tension to the table, which requires leadership to bear fruit and not management. In this era of rapid change, playing it safe in business is riskier than trying something new.

Innovation, Leadership, and Change

Leadership in an innovative climate brings uncertainty, but it also brings freedom to act and produce in new ways. It’s like art—try something new that might not work. Under this new system, good-paying, well-established jobs are disappearing, to be replaced with those who use available tools to make new things.

The questions for each person to answer will be: are you making art, or are you making copies? Are you waiting for authority, waiting for a map to tell you what to do and where to go? The old way to think is “failure is not an option.” Each of us will need to think, “fail many times to find what is new.” Ships were invented and improved by people who learned from shipwrecks.

People like to do what other people are doing. It’s natural. “People like us do these things.” Godin illustrated this by asking the audience of over 5,000 people to clap in rhythm. At first, the clapping was chaotic, but it took less than 5 seconds for the crowd to clap in unison. No “boss” needed to orchestrate it.

Godin encouraged everyone to be ready to change. Think to do better, instead of more.

Follow Godin at https://www.sethgodin.com/

Dave GaltDavid Galt is the Senior Legal Editor – EHS Training at BLR. Dave coordinates the development and maintenance of all environmental, health and safety training content for the BLR portals and other training products to help businesses comply with OSHA, EPA, and DOT rules. He writes feature articles and presentations about EHS training, workplace safety, and the business value of EHS programs. Dave has presented at ASSE national and regional conferences, NSC, AHMP, and NAEP about EHS training and promoting the business value of EHS. Before joining BLR in 2001, he spent 15 years in the environmental regulatory field as a lobbyist and policy analyst.

Dave serves on the National Environmental, Safety and Health Training Association (NESHTA) Board of Directors. He earned his master’s degree in environmental management from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies in 1997.

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