16 januari 2017

Innovation is growth

I don’t think I’m alone in feeling that our digital world is spinning faster and faster. For me working in the education industry this might be closer to heart than for most, when everything I do is trying to find solutions for helping our clients with their struggles.

When I started at Informator way back in 2004 it was still pretty simple. Microsoft (Oracle, IBM etc.) released a new version of an old technology that everyone needed to update sooner or later and there we were with a fast solution to help integrating new skills. And if we didn’t help, one of our colleagues in the training industry would because we pretty much offered the same courses. The years went by and not much changed until some 3-4 years ago when everyone started talking about disruption, new thinking and the software industry began sprinting instead of enduring the endless marathon to the supposed finish line.

All industries were struck by fast moving newcomers and all of a sudden (almost) everyone realized the need for change rather than pressing harder in the same tracks you’ve been successful with before. The time to start was yesterday, adopt or die was suddenly not just an expression as we clearly can see when international giants all of a sudden starts reducing to zero market share. For us at Informator we had to decide quickly, would we settle with being one of the best in what we do or would we have to look at new ways of delivering training!? We chose the latter and then the really hard work began. Change isn’t easy, change isn’t for everyone but change is however necessary to always be the preferred choice and that is where we were heading!!

I and many with me would say that the mental part is the number one place you have to start and also an agile way of working and a transparent chain of command or rather self-governing teams and continuous improvement. When our journey started with a real mission, a true set of values (in actual use every day) and a company united in these ideas that was the re-birth of our company back in 2013! Instead of trying to deliver what we assumed was an industry standard, we started evolving with our customers and delivering training in a format they requested. We looked close on what our core values were and realized that Informator always had been the training supplier for the entire software industry. These days however IT is everywhere and there are so many roles that require so many different new skills that we have to see the bigger picture and team up with other great companies that help us deliver an even more fulfilling menu of courses. We chose to think outside the traditional box and teamed up with companies like Promote that give us the opportunity to deliver training in a more efficient way and other creative ideas as reaching harder into the technology box and starting delivering live courses via Remote Cloud Access in ways never seen before. I am fully aware that this merely the start in our journey on continuous improvement and I’ve come to embrace this fact.

I’ll give you an example from the journey I told you about in the first question. As a training supplier we have some 800 unique courses in our portfolio and even if most of them involve a computer, some of them is more theoretical and delivered in training rooms without computers. I came up with the great idea that we should include a tablet (iPad) in the prize for all these courses, both as a way of giving everyone access to our Training Cloud, but of course as a differentia towards our competitors. This had never been done in Sweden and we gained a lot of great PR and new clients, but my calculation on the actual cost was off and when our dealer raised the prizes the whole thing became quite cost fully. This combined with the fact that I had missed anchoring the concept with our sales people and few of our teachers actually understood what extra the tablet brought to the course led to a quick decision late December that I stopped the whole thing and called it an “autumn campaign”. Today we use the concept of bring your own device instead and the result is as good but with a way lower cost.

Another incremental innovation in my industry sector (competence development) could be as we are doing right now, listening to our clients who are saying that time constraints is the number one reason for not taking a class room training. Our ways of helping our customers to new skills via remote training, blended learning and other tools is an innovation that makes the journey softer, but it doesn’t solve everything.

The number one priority for us right now is to lead the way of finding true learning transfer. By this I mean a way of actually making sure that the new skills sticks and come to use as much as possible. Succeeding with learning transfer mean we have to educate both our staff, our teachers as well as our clients who are used to deliver and receive training in a fashion that has been standardized for many years.

An impossible innovation?
This is without a doubt the hardest question to answer as I live to find answers to “impossible innovations”. I would say that getting 100% of all our teachers onboard with our new ways of delivering training is impossible as the majority of them are leading experts in their own area and also has 20-30 years of teaching under their belt. They “know” how everything is supposed to be and frankly the only answer I see is replacing them with a bit more open minded people and I refuse to see this as my only option!

Remote Training, a case study

Last year I attended the IMD training ”Being Innovative” and one of the assignments was to use the Rogers Virus Model for Analyzing and Predicting Innovation Success. I chose to take a closer look at Remote education, our way to deliver training on a distance that has proven to be a great success for Informator in Sweden over the years. I'd like to share my analysis of its performance according to the 3 dimensions of the Virus Model.

1) First Infection - Referring to Rogers’ model: benefit-to-cost, simplicity, compatibility, trialability, observability, what is the likelihood of first infection?

I chose a successful innovation for Informator since six years, using live remote class training. Looking back, we might have had faster adoption if we’ve also had offered some sort of trial. It would have been fairly easy to offer some free remote seminars or something alike that would had given our customers a chance to actually get a firsthand look at the service.

We got the simplicity (just turn up in our premises as usual and our technicians has taken care of all IT-stuff), benefit to cost (same learning, less cost for travel), compatibility (no need for you to buy new hard/software) and pretty good at observability (we could have lift this part up better with testimonials and such from pleased clients). First infection without a doubt, was the benefit-to-cost!

2) Staying Power of the Idea: To what extent are “hot-button issues” addressed? Has the project/team been branded? What about durability, “stickiness”? What is the likelihood of infecting over and over again?

Hot-button-issues are addressed regularly, time-restraints is the number one detail when our clients don’t attend training/classes. Working with modern ways of delivering training when, where and how our clients demand is the number one priority!

The project team consists of some thought leaders from various departments, but hasn’t been branded as a specific team. Maybe we should be clearer when communicating this. As the remote class training has been successful when delivered to and from our own class rooms, we have worked hard to take it one step further and now offer Remote Cloud Access where the clients can participate live from where ever. This is our way of taking the innovation one step further and even if the possibility has been there for many years, the tech for actually delivering seamless live education has been less satisfying. Now it works and we work hard with this offer.

As more and more clients use remote training in some way, we do see a bigger demand for this and our costumer managers also gain confident in also speaking more about these values rather than just focusing on our products.

3) Infect the Right People: To what extent have opinion-leaders, trendsetters, highly-networked actors been addressed? What is the likelihood of creating a pandemic?

Over the last years we have spent more time networking and marketing our ways of delivering training in a modern way than just focusing on products that might be similar in comparison with our closest competitors. Key players as me and our CEO has addressed the topics as speakers on conferences and discussions with both our staff, our partners as well as our direct clients. We use the tools we talk about to prove why instead of just talking about the possibilities.

We also work close with organizations as EdTech, Swedsoft (IT & Telecom companies in Sweden) to raise the discussions from a technical platform to a higher level of understanding the best ways of gaining learning and development. Remote Training is for sure a pandemic when it comes to our line of business!

Looking at the bullets benefit-to-cost, simplicity, compatibility, trialability, observability and so on it does make all the sense in the world that all of these are key factors in rapid success and that all is necessary for fast and successful adoption. Even so, sometimes one or two factors might be missing and the end result will still be success. What I’ve learned here is that if all factors are in there from the beginning the adoption most definitely will take less time.
Before this exercise I wasn’t aware of Roger’s model, but the various key moments still feel pretty obvious to me and when reading more I can see the bigger picture. This is definitely something I myself will work harder on in upcoming innovations!
Read more about Remote Training:

Read more about Rogers Model: