Innovative strategies are a must for any company to excel in its operations. But, innovation at work is not as easy as it seems.
An innovation workshop may teach employees many lessons but not practical implementation. A trainer may teach innovation theories but not how to actually start innovating.
Lack of innovation and creativity can reduce the competitiveness of a company. This can prove to be a hurdle in the skill-building and development of employees. This is the reason that many companies seek the services of innovation coaches.
Innovation coaches partner with clients to maximize their ability to innovate. This results in creative ideas and productive outcomes.
Are you interested to know more about innovation coaches?
Then, you are in the right place. In this article, we will cover everything that you must know about an innovation coach.
Who is an innovation coach?
The innovation coach acts as the prime source of inspiration for innovation. The coach helps a company with tools and resources to improve its processes. Such a coach boosts creativity and collaboration.
An innovation coach helps the employees to look outside the four walls. The coach challenges the importance of traditional practices and ways of thinking. This results in the evolution of new perspectives. Such coaches help in discovering creative approaches to meet business goals.
What does an innovation coach do?
An innovation coach helps a company to become more innovative in the following ways.
They create a culture of innovation
Innovation has become a buzzword today. Innovation coaches know what creates innovative company culture and that is:
- Welcoming of new ideas and practices
- Acceptance of failures
- Learning from the process
There are two types of mindsets – fixed mindset or a growth mindset.
- Fixed mindset – Such a mindset is closed or not open to change.
- Growth mindset – Such a mindset welcomes new ideas and change.
Innovation coaches coach techniques that help the employees to build a growth mindset. This helps innovation to thrive.
They celebrate failures
Innovation coaches know that to be innovative one must be creative.
Do you know what kills creativity the most?
Nothing but the fear to fail.
Innovation coaches build a company culture that celebrates failures. Such an atmosphere eliminates the fear of making mistakes. This allows employees to be more creative hence innovative in their approaches.
They make the employees realize their potential
Innovation coaches make use of tools to assess the employees’ level of creativity. Such a coach discover ways to engage the employees in creative activities.
This encourages employees to think out of the box and discover new patterns of thinking. Such regular exercises make them forget what they already know. This boosts the development of thinking abilities.
The emphasize skills over product
Once a company starts defining itself in terms of its products and services, it starts hindering innovation. An innovation coach helps a company to focus more on its strategic skills and assets. Such coaches encourage employees to use their skills to provide solutions.
They arrange innovative sessions
It is easy to get trapped in doing things in the usual ways in which people have been doing it. Innovation coaches help in breaking the cycle. Breaking the cycle sometimes needs moving away from the office environment.
Innovation coaches carry out sessions outside (like, in parks) to encourage free thinking. This way the brainstorming sessions can be more fruitful.
They bring innovative techniques from other players
Experienced innovation coaches can coach various techniques that other companies are using. They can share strategies and processes that are creating efficiencies for others. This way a company can learn new and tested methods to grow.
They improve the behavioral dynamics of team members
Innovation can thrive only when people feel safe. Employees must feel safe to fail to be creative and vulnerable. This can happen only when the company’s culture allows it. The innovation coach helps the managers and supervisors to build a culture wherein:
- Humanity resides at the center of work
- Trust-building takes place
- Learning is a priority
- Creation of Inclusive development space happens
- Elimination of fear of risk and failure occur
They create employee personas
Unleashing an employees’ creativity requires understanding their needs. Innovation coaches create employee personas. This is the same as buyer personas in marketing. Employee personas uncover insights on what employees need to innovate.
Innovation coaches assist the employees to give new angles to their thought processes. By asking creative coaching questions, they understand the employees.
Such coaches conduct sessions to help the employees practice innovation in their tasks. With great coaching tools and feedback, they assess the progress of the employees. Thereafter they suggest measures for improvement.
They invest in knowledge management
Many times companies have a pool of innovative employees and ideas. What it lacks is their discovery. This is a result of improper knowledge management.
Innovation coaches help in knowledge sharing. They ensure welcoming of suggestions and ideas from different departments. The coaches guide the managers to invest in a robust knowledge management structure.
They encourage feedback systems
Innovation coaches encourage effective feedback mechanisms. This helps the employees to rant and challenge the current policies and processes. This also ensures the inclusion of suggestions and initiatives.
They redefine incentives
Talking and carrying the innovation culture as a slogan doesn’t bring benefits. Innovation coaches assist in finding ways to reward employees for their contributions.
Incentives and bonuses encourage employees to bring in innovation. Innovation coaches know that building great ideas need investing in people.
What is the difference between innovation workshops and innovation coaching?
Innovation workshops are innovation training that lasts over a few hours.
Innovation coaching lasts for a longer period. This involves many coaching sessions that focus on a gradual transformation. Such a program provides clients with tools and techniques to grow innovation capability.
What skills do you need to become an innovation coach?
If you want to become an innovation coach you must develop the following skills:
- The ability to identify and encourage curious minds
- Motivating and team-building skills
- Command over new tools, technologies, and processes in the market
- Creative ways to challenge the exiting processes, traditional mindset, and assumptions
- Great questioning, listening and analyzing skills
- Communication skills (verbal and non-verbal) etc.
- Ability to build rapport with the team
- Ability to provide concise, actionable and neutral feedback
What steps you must follow to become a successful innovation coach?
Below are some steps that you must follow to become an innovation coach that companies die to hire.
Start by knowing yourself
The first step to begin your journey as an innovation coach is to get self-awareness.
Why do you want to become an innovation coach?
How would you describe your coaching business plan?
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Why do you think you can coach individuals for having a growth mindset?
Your objectives must be clear in advance. This will help you to avoid any hurdles in your path.
Fix your target audience
Who do you want your target audience to be?
Do you want to coach employees of a startup for innovation?
Do you want to target an established company? What should be the domain of your ideal company?
Think where your skills lie. If you feel that you have the ability to assist a startup then choose it. If you think that an established company has more scope of lacking innovation then go for it. You may want to target companies who are into logistics, e-commerce, etc.
Your choice will depend on your skills and experience. To develop innovative capabilities, first, you need to have it in yourself. This will only come when you are comfortable with a set of target audience and field of domain.
Study the market
In which areas do the companies need innovative abilities the most?
What are your competitors’ strategies?
How are they pricing and packaging their coaching services?
Make a comprehensive study of the market around you. Analyze how should you set up a robust coaching process and approach.
Develop a coaching process
Your coaching process will play a key role in differentiating you from others.
For developing a robust coaching process, you must follow the below steps.
- Create an ultimate coaching business plan
- Select a coaching business model that suits you the best as per your target audience.
- Plan how will you conduct effective coaching sessions
- Plan the marketing strategies (both offline and online)
- Establish a solid feedback and referral system
Apart from this, the below five steps will help you to create a successful coaching process.
- Establish the focus – Don’t let your external environment ruin your spirits or confidence. Keep an optimistic approach. See your hurdles as opportunities. Try to bring out the best of anything that comes in your path.
- Discovery – Discover yourself and your prime aim. What gives you life and vitality? What are your short-term and long term goals?
- Dream – Never stop dreaming. Visualize for a bigger picture. Explore possibilities and envision results.
- Design – Design your ideal strategies. Design the key results and methods to remove barriers.
- Deliver – Take action. Check what is working and what is not. Analyze why things are not working and what should you change in the approach? Also, figure out what support you need.
Nurture trust in your coachee
The establishment of a bond between the coach and the coachee is vital to get results. And, the foundation od the client-coachee bond is trust.
You should focus on gaining the trust of your coachee. You must answer the following questions before you take sessions.
- How do I encourage a growth mindset?
- When and how did I last celebrate risk-taking by others?
- Why would someone trust my coaching approach?
Answering the above and similar questions will boost trust-building. In this way, your coachee can become comfortable in sharing things with you.
Become a deep listener
What are the coaching questions that you ask to get hold of the present situation?
How do you gain insights about the coachee through your coaching questions?
How would a friend of you describe your tendencies during a conversation?
What do you keep in mind while building conversations?
Answering the above questions will reveal your habits and abilities as a listener. Active listening is the prime job of any coach. As an innovation coach, you should not only listen to what can be heard but also what is unheard of. An innovation coach must have the skills of an emotional intelligence coach.
Boost a solid feedback mechanism
Feedback is an important element of building a direct engagement with the client. It also helps the innovation coach to hold the client accountable for his/her actions. Along with that, feedback is also vital to assess clients and show the scope of improvement.
Ask the following questions to yourself.
- How consistent are you in providing critical feedback to your clients?
- How do you measure whether your feedback is actionable and specific?
- How would others describe your feedback and its impact on the clients?
Figure out how you can encourage your client to become curious. Curious to know the alternative ways. Curious to bring in methods that none used earlier.
Curiosity is the building block of innovation. Until your clients are curious, they will not find a need for challenging the current way. And, until that happens, new ways will not appear. A growth-state mind is always curious to find:
- What is happening?
- Why is it happening in this way and not in any other way?
- What process does it follow? Why this and not any other?
- Can it happen in other ways? Can the alternatives be better than usual? etc.
Communication is the key
Sometimes we are so used to our usual ways that our minds stop thinking in a creative way. The only thing which can remove this stagnation is constant communication. An innovation coach must communicate in an efficient way to identify the hurdles.
Figure out the different ways of communicating with the clients. This can be via one-to-one coaching sessions, emails, zoom, skype, etc.
Select the mode depending on the type of information that you are sharing and the recipients.
How can an innovation coach benefit a company?
An innovation coach can benefit a company/team in the following ways:
Innovation coaches act as thought partners
Building a curriculum from scratch and planning lessons can be difficult. An innovation coach can bring novel ideas during the curriculum design process. This can boost novelty in workplace training.
Innovation coaches can help with:
- Bringing effective technologies in the business proceedings.
- Giving feedback to highlight where innovation is lacking.
- Uncovering the possibility to see things in a different and unique manner.
Innovation coaches act as co-teachers
Inviting innovation coaches to help in incorporating 4 Cs:
- Critical thinking
The level of engagement and learning rises in the presence of an innovation coach.
Innovation coaches are coaches
Innovation coaches introduce innovative strategies
Companies that introduce innovative strategies outperform their competitors. Innovation coaches can transform a company into a future-proof, customer-centric organization.
Innovation coaches act as a mirror to show the real picture of a company. They run an effective diagnosis of the current innovative capabilities of the company. In this way, the company can know where they stand amongst others.
Building an innovation strategy
Innovation coaches collaborate with decision-makers and build key innovative strategies.
Developing an innovation culture
Innovation coaches guide the company on how to develop an innovation culture. This involves developing innovation capabilities during tasks and in methods of communication.
Finding corporate partnerships
Innovation coaches can help companies leverage partnerships. They can also assist in exploring and discovering fresh opportunities.
What do people consider while hiring innovation coaches?
Is the innovation coach an innovator?
Companies look for innovators who have themselves received innovation success. The only one who has been an innovator hismelf/herself can become an innovation mentor. Your prospects will likely check your background before they hire you.
Who else the coach is coaching (or has coached)?
Companies consider this to make sure that the coach has experience in their industry. A great innovation coach has a dedicated and loyal following. The community of innovation coaches can bring great benefits to companies.
What gives an edge to the innovation coach?
Is it the coaching process or style? Are there innovative techniques and methods used? What else the coach has to offer beyond a great personality? Are these relationship skills? Experiences? Tools or tricks?
Your prospects will consider ways in which you are better than others.
Is the innovation coach a fit for the company?
An innovation coach may have much to offer but the might not be a company fit. Companies look for hiring a coach whose philosphy/approach they can translate.
How much does an innovation coach earn?
While executive coaching is very popular today, innovation coaching is still new.
Many companies have now started realizing that an innovator can create a great impact.
According to Comparably:
“The average Innovation Coach in the US makes $125,000”.
Additionally, the salary ranges for coaches range from $100,000 to $150,000, with a median salary of $125,000. The middle 67% of Innovation Coaches makes $125,000, with the top 67% making $150,000.
Do you need any training or certifications to become an innovation coach?
A simple answer to the above question is NO.
But in case you don’t have one, ensure that you have relevant expertise and experience to compensate. In the end, what matters is practical knowledge.
Still, many companies do prefer having credentialed coaches. The reason behind this is to ensure credibility. Whether you go for coaching certifications or not, is your own choice. Here are some upsides and downsides of certifications that can help you to decide.
Also, have a look at these top institutions to get coaching certifications from.
Take care that client testimonies and your personal experiences will always matter more. Thus, focus more on honing your skills and building your client list rather than earning a piece of paper.