Saturday, May 10, 2008

Intelligent innovation

I've been working on the mission, vision, and values statements for Tandem Learning, based on the Rockstar weekly discussions. I thought I was clever and was coining a new phrase, intelligent innovation, to include as part of our mission statement. Turns out, its a pretty established term (so I either heard it somewhere before, or I'm just really smart and behind the times). But since every phrase gets reinterpreted and skewed based on who's using it, I think I should define it for my purposes.

Intelligent innovation as I am using it describes the appropriate integration of new technology to refine process for organizational improvement. As an example, creating e-learning modules out of didactic workshop presentations could be seen as an intelligent innovation, because the organization could reduce the amount of time an employee spent in live training (which is the most expensive kind). Assuming that learning outcomes are equal in both cases, this would be an intelligent innovation.

My example isn't bad, but let's be realistic--nowadays when we talk about innovation in business, we're typically talking about a shift in how people are conducting their work. Mobile learning was the big "innovation" that organizations were contemplating a few years ago (ok, some of them still today) and although some did adopt podcasting and developing their own mobile learning clips, most companies weighed the risk-benefit ratio and decided to pass. Cool technologybut not enough benefit for the investment and therefore, for many companies, not an intelligent innovation (at least not yet...). As a consultant to my clients, I presented mobile learning as an option when I thought that it was appropriate, but frankly, there were few clients who I really saw it as a good option for. It's fun to do new things, but it only makes sense to do them if they will help accomplish your goals.

Virtual world training may go the way of mobile learning, but my guess is that for most companies, the scales will quickly tip in its favor. I see the immediate benefits, the long-term potential, and I don't see this as a passing fad. So, as we define where Tandem Learning will intersect learning and technology, at this moment in time, virtual worlds seem to be where we will start.

That being said, I don't know if virtual world learning will be right for every company. I want Tandem Learning to be the company that people talk to when they want to find out what the best recommendations are to accomplish their organizational goals, whether that is a print-based job aid or an immersive simulation, promoting intelligent innovation when its appropriate. And then I want to be able to do what we recommend.

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