5 ways to fire up your learning innovation

Posted on Jul 03, 2018

360°, VR & AR

“I really want to innovate, but it’s not that easy.”  Does this sound familiar? If so, you are far from alone. 

A recent survey on the topic of innovation in corporate learning has confirmed that there’s a gap between the desire to innovate and the reality.

It’s one of the interesting findings from our questionnaire completed by visitors at Learning Technologies Summer Forum in London:

  • 70% of the 70 participants rated innovation in learning as vital
  • But on average they scored themselves only 6 out of 10  for innovation in their learning today
  • Teams are looking to invest most in VR and applied games in the next few years
  • ‘Emotion in learning’ came top as the learning trend that most excites


The survey participants are right to regard innovation as vital. According to Deloitte, 90% of organisations report that their core business model is under attack; the pace of change is accelerating; and the shelf life of a learned skill is estimated to be just five years. Therefore, businesses that embrace innovative learning will be most able to meet the challenges ahead.

However, the survey also found that although recognising innovation as vital, respondents aren’t currently using it as much they’d like.  So, what can L&D do to introduce innovative learning?

Sponge and our microlearning partner Axonify presented a free seminar at the LT Summer Forum addressing ways learning professionals can fire up learning innovation in their organisations. 

The session outlined ways to take inspiration from five of the world’s top innovators. 

5 lessons in innovation  

1. Elon Musk – Key innovation trait: Experiment

“Start somewhere and then really be prepared to question your assumptions, fix what you did wrong, and adapt to reality.” – Elon Musk.

Elon Musk’s approach is to ask: “What if?” He has a process that takes small steps at a time, to bring his vision to reality. He doesn’t wait for something to be proven.

We used this Musk-like approach to develop interactive 360° video and VR learning. Our interactive VR framework was developed through experimentation and is now being used for a variety of immersive projects.

2. Steve Jobs – Key innovation trait: Focus

“People think focus means saying ‘yes’ to the thing you've got to focus on. But that's not what it means at all … Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.”Steve Jobs.

What Jobs is saying here is: “Recognise the methods that don’t achieve the results you want and stop using them.”

Apply this in learning by using an employee-centred, results-based approach. This means working backwards, so ditch the content-first mentality and use the desired result as the starting point. This principle is at the heart of adaptive microlearning.     

3. JK Rowling – Key innovation trait: Storytelling

“There's always room for a story that can transport people to another place.”JK Rowling.

Storytelling is powerful tool for learning. They have emotional pull. We all have stories in our organisations that illustrate our culture, values and messages.

Emerging technology is opening up new ways to tell stories. As an example, Sponge are creating a branched VR experience for the UK postal service, Royal Mail, to help new staff to be dog aware.  Starring two characters – an experienced postal person and a rookie – it has branching based on real stories. Using VR places the learner at the heart of the stories.

4. Walt Disney – Key innovation trait: Continuous learning

“Whenever I go on a ride, I’m always thinking of what’s wrong with the thing and how it can be improved.” - Walt Disney.

Disney was always looking to improve things. In workplace learning, this equates to tearing up ‘one-and-done’ and creating a culture of continuous learning. Surround the employee with the right tactics that can adapt the experience to best meet their needs. This might include continued reinforcement, motivation, coaching, data and analytics and feedback.

5. Edward de Bono – Key innovation trait: Creativity

“The need to be right all the time is the biggest bar to new ideas.”Edward de Bono.

De Bono says that any new idea must have value, a purpose.  To be creative, he argues, we must push against our routines, judgments and patterns and schedule time for coming up with ideas.

An example of creativity with purpose in learning, is Sponge’s updatable game called GDPR – Sorted!  to teach large numbers of employees about GDPR, and not word-heavy documents.  

Register to get the full presentation slides, and talk to us about your next innovation project.     

5 Ways To Think Like An Innovator

Kate Pasterfield, Head of Innovation at Sponge, and JD Dillon, Chief Learning Architect with Axonify

You may also be interested in