In today’s rapidly evolving business landscape, innovation has become an indispensable catalyst for success. Organizations across industries increasingly recognize the need to reinvigorate their businesses to remain competitive, drive growth and stay relevant.
In this dynamic environment, executive education programs that specifically focus on fostering and harnessing innovation have emerged as a helpful resource for professionals aspiring to steer their organizations forward.
These programs, designed for experienced professionals and executives, go beyond traditional leadership development, equipping participants with the tools and mindset needed to navigate disruptive forces, and seize emerging opportunities.
By immersing executives in dynamic learning environments, innovation-focused executive education programs foster an ecosystem that encourages collaboration and experimentation.
“Rarely is it possible for the innovation process to be driven by an individual executive. At some point collaboration will be required, as will the skills and behaviors that relate to helping others come along for the ride,” says Russell Miller, Director of Learning Solutions and Innovation at London’s Imperial College Business School.
Imperial runs “Innovation: A Design Thinking Approach”, a program which is focused on applying design thinking -- a problem-solving approach that places the needs and experiences of users at the center of the design process -- to business situations.
Miller says there’s a component of innovation in all of Imperial’s executive education programs, such as the “Digital Transformation: 5 Game-Changing Technologies for Business” course. Others have a sector focus such as the Executive Health Innovation Management program, or look at how innovation can help tackle wider societal challenges, such as climate change.
Increasing demand for executive courses on innovation
The proliferation of such innovation-focused programs has gained significant momentum in recent years. “We have seen increasing demand for executive courses in innovation that span many different areas, which reflects the importance that all organizations – including corporations, NGOs and governments – place on effective innovation,” says Professor Jaideep Prabhu, who teaches innovation topics at the Executive Education division of Cambridge Judge Business School, in the UK.
Programs being offered in upcoming months include those that focus on digital innovation and transformation, innovation for senior executives, managing innovation strategically, and innovation in venture creation. That includes the "Managing Innovation Strategically" course.
Drawing on the latest research, real-world case studies and insights from industry speakers, such executive courses empower participants to challenge the status quo, envision new possibilities, and cultivate an organizational culture that thrives on innovation.
“Managers need to have the freedom to think big without fear of failure, knowing that effective systems are in place to select and implement only those projects that have the best chance of success in helping the organization and society,” says Prabhu, explaining the core drivers of innovation involve combining creativity with efficacy in devising new products and services.
Whether in business or many other areas of society, he says the biggest challenge to innovation often lies in inertia – that it may seem easier for an organization to do things in the same way they have long done things. “Executive education can help managers identify such barriers and bring the organization on board in moving beyond these roadblocks to innovate for the future rather than rely on past glories,” he adds.
Such programs often explore the concepts of innovation management, disruptive technologies, an entrepreneurial mindset, design thinking and strategic decision-making. Through this exploration, participants develop the skills necessary to identify market gaps, leverage emerging trends, and translate novel ideas into tangible business outcomes.
Varied program goals and learning outcomes
The courses draw participants with different learning goals. “Many of the companies that request a program are leaders in their sectors and areas – and in order to remain in that leading position, they want to help their top executives continue being innovative, reinventing themselves, and trying new ways of doing things,” says Alba Funosas Vela, Director of Special Projects at IE Executive Education in Madrid.
“In some cases, the abrupt changes in markets (consumer demands, new players) coupled with the acceleration of external factors (such as the pandemic) have introduced the need to reinvent their models and work on new ways of doing business and collaborating with partners,” he says.
Some companies are already open to new ways of doing things. “In such cases, executive education helps enhance and reinforce this mindset with methods, models and examples, which helps to overcome the blocking points they might encounter,” Funosas Vela says.
Some companies are working on a bigger, more encompassing transformation of their culture and purpose. “For those leaders, the program will work in layers, starting with awareness of their culture and need for innovation, and then building on the transformation to a more innovative mindset,” he continues.
One such short course at IE is “Innovation for Growth”, which explores a framework for making strategic planning more robust. It is likely that similar programs will continue to expand in popularity and impact moving forward, amidst an increasingly volatile business environment.