Innovate or Evaporate

The importance of innovation

I was recently asked just how important innovation is to business success in a down economy. I unzipped my jacket and flashed my favorite T-shirt, which reads "Innovate or Evaporate."

Innovation isn't a line item in the R&D budget. While we've been busily trimming costs to meet reduced revenues, too many of us seem to have cut innovation, too.

It doesn't have to be that way. Here's a great way to continue innovation without breaking the budget: e-learning. The challenging last year has seen training budgets cut in many organizations. E-learning can be one way to continue employee training without breaking the bank.

E-learning offers many benefits:

  • Convenient. It's available 24x7 from home, work or the gym.
  • Efficient. Considerably less expensive than classroom-based training, it can be tailored and even broken into shorter parts to fit your employees' schedules.
  • Auditable. Your employees can track their own progress through the course. In addition, many e-learning tools allow an employer to audit staff performance.
  • Self-paced. Employees can return to the same sections over and over, until they're clear on concepts.

But e-learning isn't for every organization, and all e-learning isn't created equal.

Organizations must be ready to adopt a new learning paradigm. Top management must embrace and support the shift and actively involve themselves in developing the e-learning solution. Self-paced learning is very much active learning and it requires that the learner motivate himself or herself.

The lower costs of e-learning make an obvious case for most decision-makers, but the less quantifiable aspects may be even more compelling. Additional training can improve the quality of customer service, allow managers to bring outsourced functions in-house and encourage employee retention. Several studies have shown that technology employees tend to place skills training at the top of their list of desired benefits and will even opt for lower compensation if offered excellent continuing education.

Now, you can purchase or produce online courses that are inviting, engaging and effective. According to a survey within IDC's "State of the Industry 2001 Report," e-learning's effectiveness depends on the subject matter. Teaching end-user applications, systems infrastructure training and regulatory training are generally thought to be the best choices for e-learning topics. Interpersonal and management skills may be best left to classroom training.

E-learning consultant Brandon Hall ( offers a ton of information on selecting and using e-learning vendors. You might also want to compare a few of the many e-learning sites currently online:

About the Author

Laura Wonnacott is VP of Business and Technology Development for Aguirre International, and a California State University system instructor.