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We Need Apprentice Programs Just As Much as Training Programs
When it comes to training future innovators, we must do more. Training programs like Stanford D-School or Cornell, even Masterclass and Coursera, are great ways to learn the principles of innovation and design thinking.
But to truly learn this skill, you need to be hands-on and go into the field to apply your knowledge. This just isn’t possible in academia, which is why organizations should offer formal apprenticeships or hands-on coaching programs. This way, your innovators can integrate new design thinking and human-centered skillsets into their toolboxes.
Here’s what a company’s apprenticeship program should include:
A customized approach. Cookie-cutter programs are not effective. Instead, determine the skills an individual needs to work on based on where she is in her journey. Focus on skillsets to garner through a hands-on project, and remember a beginner will need to work on different skills than a master does.
Identify a project and a mentor. Assign the apprentice to an ongoing innovation project where she can get her hands dirty and make a meaningful difference. Also, assign a mentor. It could be a team member or even an outside partner/consultant who’s also on the project to guide her and answer ongoing questions.
Set metrics. What should that person achieve while conducting the project? What should they be able to excel at? What would move the needle from beginner to novice to master? Be as specific as possible.
Revisit and Revise. Unlock annual career objectives. You should be constantly assessing throughout the project how the apprentice is achieving the desired skillsets, what’s working and what’s not, and then adjust accordingly by setting new challenges
Can you imagine the impact and potential to learn these skills and work towards tangible outcomes? Do you agree companies should formalize apprenticeship programs for innovators? If so, what else do you think these programs should include? I’d love to hear your thoughts.