Publish at February 26 2019 Updated September 21 2021

Criteria to Qualify Training as Innovative

When innovation becomes truly innovative

When innovation becomes truly innovative

The definition of innovation according to Everett Rogers is a "process by which an innovation is communicated, through certain channels, over time, among members of a social system." In terms of innovation in training, whether a process is innovative or not can be specified. The dilution of technology in the social fact rules out the simple link between technology and innovation. Technology is so present that it cannot be a sufficient indicator of innovation.

In addition, the observation over time of the adoption of such and such a pedagogical practice engaging the transformation of complex human systems positions us from the outset over long, even very long, times. It is therefore difficult to adopt Everett Rogers' bell curve distributing the numbers over time innovator (2.5%), early adopter (13.5%), early majority (34%), late majority (34%), late adopter (16%).

Working in the field of innovation in training, I often observe proposals for devices that are presented as innovative because they are digital, whereas sometimes they are just a dematerialized transposition of old forms. It's a bit like putting a stagecoach on the rails to claim that the train has been invented. The traveller does have a form of transport that has evolved to allow more speed, but the vehicle, its comfort, its atmosphere, and the relationships with other passengers have hardly changed. Even the flexibility to deviate from the tracks or make an extra stop has been seriously reduced.

This is a bit of what online courses lead to. Old world course modules thrown into LMSs without critical distance in the form of copy and paste. Sometimes even videos of an hour-long lecture by a speaker captured in the context of a lecture hall (yes, I assure you, it still happens) are distributed and this massive distribution is adorned with the virtues of innovation. However, everyone has the intuition that it is possible to go further than a one-way video-whashing of a course to take full advantage of the Internet potential. This text discusses 10 criteria, (there are surely others) for thinking about what might be innovative in training.

Proposed criteria for qualifying innovation in training

1- Formative company/school vs. enabling company

A first criterion would be to think of the company or school first in their power to enable action, creativity, curiosity to emancipate individuals and groups from ready-made beliefs, to get away from the idea that learning means being supplemented by knowledge outside oneself, removed from one's deepest aspirations, unbound from a context. If an online grain or MOOC makes us curious then we are progressing in the essence of learning, otherwise we run the risk of simply moving a printed text or the teacher's word onto an interactive medium, which leaves the listener in the role of a consumer.

2- Inclusion of non-audiences

The ultimate innovation would be to reach out to and respond to the challenge of the non-audiences of education and training. Those who shun or ignore all organized learning opportunities and yet are told by politicians or educators that they would need it. Whenever an educator or trainer achieves inclusion, for example through individualization of pathways (but not only), we are probably dealing with good pedagogical work or even innovation.

3- The openness and hospitality of ideas

The educational paradigm is often marked by scientifically based beliefs. We have to wait for other legitimate words to speak to establish other beliefs as truth. The earth is flat until proven otherwise. It is round until proven otherwise. Its poles are squashed until proven otherwise etc. The hospitality of new ideas, the exploration are not the rule but the exception. Yet it is in the art of encountering what is unknown that intelligence probably nests.

4- Interdisciplinarity and multiplicity of angles

Contemporary science owes much to the specialization of disciplines. We consult alongside specialists, podiatrists, gastroenterologists, pulmonologists, oncologists etc. All these logics refer us to the logos and to the mastery of a specialized language. But does this functional vision of the body cut into pieces where the parts do not communicate with each other correspond to the reality of a living organism where all the functions, all the organs are interrelated? This may seem absurd to you, but this representation is the one that underlies the organization of scientific disciplines, which are thought of one beside the other. All our organs can be taken separately and considered healthy and yet we can be clinically dead. This is what happens to scientific disciplines. All of them on their side say the real, but none of them say the living. Innovation is when bridges are built to bring together different currents of thought. This happens through interdisciplinarity.

5- Mixing of audiences, serendipity

If ideas mix why shouldn't individuals? Perhaps it is because what is sometimes played out is of the order of social status. So I've experienced training processes where senior managers are told in a luxury seminar venue that it's important to all be aligned on the same goal, or middle managers in the same company are told in a mid-range hotel that working together will win the collective and then employees in the head office meeting rooms that team spirit is essential.

At each stratum almost the same speech but mostly avoiding mixing. The real innovation is the mixing of audiences. It is the possibility of meetings and openness and when in addition to suppliers, customers, all stakeholders are invited to learn together a serendipity effect occurs and new possibilities are born. "We learn alone but never without others" is an educational adage popularized by the Apprenance team of researchers at Nanterre. Innovation is when a device declines in concreto the idea that every pedagogical act is a cooperative act, and that one can hope moreover for a strengthening of democratic links by the effect of a cooperative impregnation in its way of thinking and acting.

6- Change of purposes: learning for the community rather than for oneself

Practitioners and researchers have long believed that organizations learn. They invented for themselves, often with the complicity of large corporate universities, anthropomorphic models of the firm. But after more than 40 years of research, nothing conclusive has helped these old giants to mutate. They are even like dinosaurs in danger in the face of Internet companies. The real innovation is to learn for oneself and one's work community and not just for one's career.

The learning organization is the one for which employees learn and therefore has developed resources to create this culture and to increase a learning together. Collaborative digital tools are a great help to circulate information, to make actors meet, to learn collectively. But they require a quality pedagogical intermediation.

7- Flow rather than stock of knowledge

The vision of knowledge as a stock to be passed from the warehouse-full-master to the warehouse-empty-student makes us believe that there is a transfer of knowledge from a point A to a point B. The other is an empty body to be filled. There is a lack to be filled in order to obtain a desirable form. The other is a handicap to be completed. This description is modernized with the fable of online content that would be self-sufficient in building a learning framework.

On the contrary, e-learning professionals know that a lot of intelligence has to be devoted to make online resources play their full role. Even more so, learners choose to consult all the online resources that seem useful to them. They are opportunistic and circulate in the networks gather information and grapple in just in time data that they produce and enrich.

8- Posture oriented towards the projection of oneself into the future

Training is too often thought in terms of immediate and utilitarian concerns. In an adequationist view a leader decrees that such and such skills are missing, and he builds systems to fill a social gap, and then he organizes training prescriptions. But is the individual only driven by social needs? Is his or her desire for the future taken into account? The real innovation is to manage to bring together an unfinished rather than a finished offer.

Traditional training courses are designed from A to Z by a trainer who has put all his art into organizing a progression from difficulty to difficulty, exercises, activities in order to achieve an objective. Doing this work he learns his material. By training he trains himself. To imagine an incomplete pedagogical gesture is to place the learner in the situation of having to consolidate by his initiatives the pedagogical activity which is intended for him. A pedagogical framework to be built or finished is a good way of triggering the autonomy essential for learning. Leaving room for the learner, accepting a part of emptiness and uncertainty provokes the desire to engage and forces one to investigate because everything is not played out in advance.

9- Open questions and evolving content

Data abound. Humanity has increased its ability to leave traces tenfold. Infobesity lurks. What is valuable is less the data itself than the ability to question its meaning and build new hypotheses to evolve it. The questions that the learner or the trainer asks are precious because they are so many ways of questioning and constructing reality or understanding reality in the process of being made.

All the pedagogical innovations that rely on open questions help to build a critical mind while placing the learner as a builder of his or her knowledge and not just as a receiver of data with a weakening validity period. It is always innovative to renew the ways of learning to think with the ideas of tomorrow rather than only with the methods and certainties of the past.


These criteria certainly deserve to be debated completed, equipped to describe. In addition, it is necessary to be attentive to what takes the place of local discovery, fashion effect, intelligent DIY. Integration into a context and modesty are essential to claim to be innovative. In fact, it would even be better to abandon the idea of innovating and promote the idea of diversifying.


Wikipedia - Everett Rodgers

Sietmanagement - The Diffusion of Innovations Theory. Rogers' Phases of Adoption

Cristol, D (2014), Innovating in Training: Energizing Corporate Learning Paris: ESF.

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