Tackling innovation is on top of the agenda for any organization that wants to stay alive in a world defined by complexity, speed, and brittleness. So how do we teach innovation in a way that gets people going? Get inspired by Think Beyond Impact Partner Jason Durkee and a project he realized recently.  

In this article, you’ll dive into the program of a Japanese car manufacturer, covering  

  1. Why Development design & network better be close   
  2. Initial situation: Innovation need in car manufacturing   
  3. Starting from solid grounds – The content structure   
  4. Design ideas to overcome application obstacles   
  5. Real-life transfer design example & loop approach   
  6. Program results   
  7. Core takeaways for your programs 

Why development design & network better be close   

Phase 2 of the Dynamic Loop Methodology is designing an effective performance experience. Phase  3 is networking or ensuring that the learning actually gets used on the job and leads to meaningful results. In practice, these two phases often happen simultaneously.  

A couple of reasons are:

  • Communication and implementation structures for learning transfer and behavior change (Phase 3) must be carefully designed together with the learning program itself.  
  • On-the-job application and learning transfer are much easier to maintain when they are supported by a learning infrastructure.  
  • Put more simply: to design programs for the impact you need to design learning transfer and application into the program. And extend the program until at least some results are achieved so you can support learners, ensure results and evaluate easily. Here’s an example of what that looks like in practice. 

Initial situation: Innovation need in car manufacturing  

This case is taken from a large Japanese car manufacturer. Forces like sustainability, digitalization, globalization, and changing attitudes about mobility made it critical that car companies innovate effectively. While research and development departments have been focused on innovation for decades, manufacturing departments have traditionally focused on quality, precision, standardization, planning, and cost control more than innovation.  

This program is an attempt to help high potentials in the manufacturing department develop and apply creative thinking skills and innovation muscle to lead the company in this challenging environment.  

Starting from solid grounds – The content structure  

The learning element of this program is traditional, full-day sessions once each month for four months. The content is also straightforward:  

Neither the content nor the program design is special. However, the focus on learning transfer and the ‘looping’ design are interesting.  

Design ideas to overcome application obstacles 

Innovation requires risk-taking and making mistakes. Unfortunately, in this very case – and probably in many other organizations as well – client culture rewards careful planning and risk avoidance. It also punishes changes, ideas, and mistakes. For that reason, participants feel incredible pressure to follow orders and are afraid to use their new innovation skills on the job.  

Here is a list of the reasons participants cite for hindering them to use learned skills on the job. Plus: A view design ideas to overcome these problems.   

Real-life learning transfer design & loop approach  

Here is a visual that shows how all those items are integrated into months 1 and 2 of the program above. By involving managers, using learned things on the job immediately, and supporting applications, participants get the support they need to take action and have few excuses not to. 

This cycle is looped or repeated in the course of the program and the participants gradually build confidence, gain valuable experience and get results. Every participant has a personal action plan, is supported by individual coaching, and shares with the entire cohort at each session. In this way, the program changes to meet individual needs in real-time. This is the essence of Dynamic Loop DesignDynamic Loop Method for me. 

Program results 

Of course, the results vary dramatically depending on the action plan of the participant. But here are some results achieved during the program at hand. What’s exciting is that none of these would have been attempted without the training. 

Participants and/or supervisors reported as program results:  

  • Reorganized plant layout to optimize the space and save 1 million JPY/year 
  • Reduced error rate of welding from 10% to a target of 0% 
  • Developed a system with no extra cost that reduced 5.600 hours of labor a month to less than 100 
  • Eliminated material damage by developing a preventative maintenance schedule that identifies parts that are likely to fail before problems occur 
  • Made concrete plan to realistically achieve 2040 targets on factory automation, factory inventory, and factory labor by 2030 

In addition to these results, the participants learned new skills and gained confidence from successfully applying this learning already on the job. From that solid base, they should be able to further contribute over time. 


Take-aways at glance

Moving away from car manufacturing and innovation skills, here are some general tips to design for Dynamic Loop phases two and three. 

  • Consider learning transfer and application problems early* 
  • Design strategies to overcome transfer problems into the program** 
  • Get participants to apply their learning immediately, during the program 
  • Gather information about what’s working on the job in real-time 
  • Adjust the program to drive performance and improve results 
  • Extend the program long enough to get meaningful results and integrate evaluation into the program 

*For help assessing transfer problems read further here 

**For research-based learning transfer strategies see What Makes Training Really Work: 12 Levers Of Transfer Effectiveness by Ina Weinbauer-Heidel and Masha Ibeschitz 

Meet the author

Jason Durkee has been a learning and performance expert for more than 25 years. He is dedicated to helping business people innovate, communicate, work across cultures and transfer learning into action and results.

In 2003, Jason founded Idea Development, which soon became a trusted source of cutting-edge learning and development know-how and learning transfer expertise in Japan.

He is also the co-founder of Practical Training Transfer (PTT).

Jason Durkee, Learning and Performance Expert

The Dynamic Loop Method

A holistic, flexible, hands-on and highly effective approach to realize people development measures that actually make a difference.

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