associates working in an office
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

How to Train Start-up Employees to Be Innovative

Innovators aren’t born that way. Creativity is a skill that you can cultivate in your employee’s overtime. Just like you can train your employees in software, training innovation is something more start-up businesses should consider.

How to Train Start-up Employees to Be Innovative

With the right strategy, innovation can play a central role in your long-term success.

Innovation is less about sitting still and listening, and more about doing. Innovation requires challenges and answering those challenges with ideas.

Whether the idea is good or bad, it ultimately doesn’t matter. What you want to do here is to encourage employees to be idea generators.

Anyone can judge, but not anyone can generate ideas. The more ideation you have going on, the more likely you will stumble upon a profitable innovation. In the following guide, we will walk you through how to train start-up employees to be innovative.

Provide Positive Feedback

Make innovation a positive act in your start-up. Encourage people to bring ideas forward. Reward them with positive feedback when they do. Emphasize how important it is to create a positive feedback loop.

If employees don’t feel like it’s a safe space to bring ideas forward, you will not get very far with the brainstorming process. You’ll have people dropping out from the training and not feel interested in future innovation.

Ultimately, a culture of openness and acceptance is essential for training your employees to be innovative.

Define the Purpose of Innovation

Innovation doesn’t just fall out of the sky. It’s often in response to a problem. In some regards, innovation is like another form of problem-solving. Contextualize innovation in this way for employees.

Focus the ideating and brainstorming processes on specific areas of your business. This way, the ideas being generated will have context and connect to your business goals.

The best innovation revolves around the customer. Also known as a human centered design, you want to focus your innovation process on the end-user. In other words, focus on what matters most to the customer.

Every time you come up with an idea, keep thinking about the end-user and what the solution would mean to them. This optimized customer experience is what makes design thinking so unique from other problem-solving processes.

Teach Teamwork

Teams made up of people with varied skills are those that lead the world in innovation. Teamwork is a necessity in innovation because no single person has all the answers.

The leaders perceived to be true innovators of our time are backed by massive teams of people.

No matter the size of a start-up, you do not want team members competing against one another. You also want to avoid problems between team members, especially if they sabotage the potential success of your business.

Remind your employees that your company is working together as a team. One individual’s success means everyone in the company wins. Cultivate a culture of teamwork so that everyone will support each other’s innovative endeavors.

Critical Thinking

Innovation is like a two-part phase. The first phase is generating ideas, while the second phase is testing those ideas. At the ideation phase, you want no judgment. At the testing phase, you need to engage in critical thinking.

During this phase, determine whether an idea is worth pursuing, how financially feasible it is, and what the subsequent problems are.

Critical thinking allows you to approach a problem and its solution from multiple perspectives. Companies like Facebook have succeeded because their culture promotes critical thinking and creative problem-solving.

Accept Failure as a Reality

No one has a perfect record in business, nor should that be expected. In training innovation, celebrate failure as a part of the process. For a lot of us, we may generate dozens or even hundreds of ideas before touching upon something useful.

There is no expectation to perform perfectly in innovation. If your employees aren’t afraid of failure and they accept it, they’ll innovate and innovate with terrific success.

Design Thinking Workshops

Design thinking is a five-stage process. Empathize with your customer. Define the problem. Brainstorm and ideate. Prototype ideas. Test ideas.

Why design thinking works in teaching innovation is because it’s not instructing someone how to be innovative.

Design thinking is a process through where innovative ideas are guided and cultivated gently, becoming more effective or purposeful along the way.

Assign Time and Space to Be Creative

Be ready to capitalize on innovation training. Every start-up company is different. You might assign a half-hour every month or every week for employees to innovate, ideate, or engage in innovation challenges.

The last thing you want to do is give the training and never use it.

Companies like Google give their employees 20% time to be creative. You can replicate that same strategy with your start-up business. Communicate to employees how much you value innovation, designating time and space for them to be creative.

Ask for Employee Feedback

There may be something preventing employees from being innovative. You want everyone at your start-up company to feel empowered and that their opinions matter. Ask for feedback.

Discuss how they think innovation is perceived and handled at your company. The input will help you fine-tune how you train employees.


It could potentially open your eyes to why innovation isn’t happening at a healthy pace, and you can make the necessary corrections.


Some other articles you might find of interest:

Make your business rock with these business plan writing skills:Startup’s Guide to Write a Business PlanWould you like to know how investors value a startup?How Do Investors Value a Startup?

Join Our Small Business Community

Get the latest news, resources and tips to help you and your small business succeed.