The Best Online Innovation Courses to Unlock Your Innovation Potential

May 28, 2021
Diana Porumboiu Diana Porumboiu

Innovation is the catalyst for business growth, yet many companies have a hard time innovating. There are multiple factors contributing to successful innovation in a corporate context, but why exactly is it so hard to get innovation right? We’d argue that a skilled workforce plays a big role in this equation.

Innovation might be difficult, but it’s not impossible. It takes a set of skills, all of which you can learn and get better at. Today, we’ll explore these skills and tell how leaders, managers and experts can learn or further develop them. We’ll also share the best resources to learn more about the topic, including a list of the best online innovation courses out there. But before we get there, let’s take a step back and see what it takes to be good at innovation.


online innovation courses


As the importance and appreciation of innovation has recently become even more important, there’s been a huge influx of tools to help in different parts of this process. These tools can be a tremendous asset to help individuals and companies get the most out of their ideas.


Skills top innovation courses and training should help you develop

When speaking about the skills required to make innovation to happen, creativity, curiosity, hunger to learn, and adaptability always come up. In our article about what is an innovation manager, we went through the variety of skills necessary to succeed at innovation and those that set great innovators apart. These include things like omniscience, leadership, entrepreneurial spirit and mental toughness.

As a manager or a leader, you probably have already developed many of these skills. If you’re reading this, you are probably also hungry and curious to learn more. But if you want to become a top-notch innovator and build an innovation engine for your organization, you might also want to work on the following skills.

udemy top innovation courses


1. Understanding innovation

The complexity of the topic requires leaders to have a firm understanding of what innovation is, how it works in theory, and more importantly, in practice. To get there, you can just try it all out yourself and see what works, but it’s also a good idea to accelerate that progress by looking at the research and how other leaders and organizations are approaching innovation.

For example, you should be familiar with the key innovation management models and theories. This will give you a wider view on all the different types of innovation which will make it easier for you to identify how your organization should approach innovation. Understanding the core concepts, such as innovation processes can help you avoid simple mistakes and provide a more structured approach to innovation.

The best innovation courses will take you through the theory but will also put emphasis on the practical aspects. When choosing a course, it’s good to be aware of your current areas of expertise and level of knowledge so that you know what your focus should be within innovation. If you don’t feel that you are well-versed on most of these topics, you might want to start with an innovation course aimed for beginners.


2. Strategic thinking skills

Strategic thinking skills are essential in achieving business objectives and addressing challenges. They enable us to use our critical thinking to solve complex problems and plan for the future.

Under the strategic thinking umbrella, we include analytical skills, communication skills, problem solving skills and planning and management skills. Obviously, this is not something you learn in a week or a month. They can all be learned and sharpened throughout our lives so leaders should continuously work to improve these skills if they want to become better at innovation.

Strategic thinking is developed when we learn what questions to ask, how to be self-critical, how to observe and reflect and how to be open to opposing ideas. Training can naturally help develop such skills, and you can find at least one innovation course that supports strategic thinking in the list below.

skill development

3. Leadership skills

Great leaders inspire and empower others to make better, smarter decisions. But there is leadership and then there is innovation leadership. The best innovation leaders are not just empathic communicators and creative strategic thinkers.

They also have to be agile to navigate constantly changing environments, bold to take informed risks, and open to embrace uncertainty. With all of this complexity and uncertainty, strong communication is needed to make sure their team understands the situation and is onboard.

There are innovation leadership programs tailored for organizations that want to invest in developing their leaders, like the one from Board of Innovation.

Great innovation leaders have to be agile to navigate constantly changing environments, bold to take informed risks, and open to embrace uncertainty.


4. Risk assessment and risk-taking skills

When speaking about innovation, risk assessment and risk taking come with the territory. There is more risk in doing innovation than in normal business but there is even a bigger risk of going out of business if you don’t take any risks. Risks always come with uncertainty, so you have to learn to live with that and choose when and how to take smart, educated risks with incomplete information.

Leaders who encourage risk taking have to embrace failure because it is part of the learning process and is inevitable when dealing with difficult problems. This helps increase the pace of innovation.


5. Creativity and empathy

For today’s innovation leaders to succeed, empathy is crucial. Learn to listen so you can relate to employees and customers. Great innovation occurs when people’s needs, and struggles are understood. This is how empathy can also be a great fuel for creativity.

In reality, creativity is a learning habit that requires specific skills.

We already brought up creativity as one of the necessary skills for innovation to happen. Considering that 69% of people don’t believe they can live up to their full creative potential, we can see how this can become a huge barrier for organizations trying to innovate. Creativity has been long seen as a matter of talent. You either have it or you don’t. In reality, creativity is a learning habit that requires specific skills.

creativity misconceptions and reality

Acting with “flexibility, intelligence and novelty” as well as having the knowledge to think creatively are important skills that can be nurtured and developed. Creative teams can still fail at innovation, so as we’ve previously pointed out, structures, processes and tools all play a big role in helping creative people innovate successfully.


How to choose the right innovation management course for you

Innovation can be hard to grasp at first, especially when it comes to putting the theory into practice. Some innovation courses are great at getting you on track by explaining the basics. These beginners’ courses can also help you avoid common mistakes that many innovation leaders have made before you.

You know by now that great innovators have a growth mindset and an insatiable curiosity and hunger to learn more. It’s only natural that they develop their skills also through training and continuous learning. With the large number of available resources out there it’s easy to get lost in all the noise. So, what are the ingredients of a great innovation course and what should you look out for when choosing one?

  • Emphasis on new perspectives

Even if you think you are knowledgeable in innovation there is always so much more to learn as this is a very dynamic topic in a continuously changing environment. The more you learn about a topic, the more you realize how much you still don’t know.

Ideally, your course of choice should bring a new perspective on knowledge you’re already somewhat familiar with. A fresh approach and new angles will help you uncover new opportunities and solutions. These new perspectives will also help you question your assumptions and think more critically about how your organization has been approaching innovation.

  • Highly practical

Theory is useful, but it won’t get you too far in the real world. To become a truly great innovator, you need to know how to put theory into practice. Rote learning can be useful to develop foundational knowledge but unless you’re trying to apply that knowledge for yourself, you won’t be creating any innovations. Focus on practical courses that provide good insights into theories but also make you think, force you to be disciplined and lead you through the process of planning and implementing innovation. That’s when you’ll see tangible results.

  • Additional resources

A good innovation course shouldn’t just feed your curiosity but they’re all likely to raise new questions and encourage you to challenge your own thinking. Taking an innovation course is not the end of the journey, it’s just a stage you go through. The best innovation courses should provide additional resources like tools, articles, research papers, books that can deepen your knowledge.


The top 8 innovation management courses

As mentioned, there’s a wide variety of online resources to get you started on innovation, or to help you refine your knowledge and skills. This makes it even harder to choose one that suits your needs. Some might be too abstract and theoretical; some might only scratch the surface without providing in-depth information that adds real value.

We went through most of these courses and ended up picking eight that we believe can best contribute to your growth and development as an innovator. This is not meant to be a to do list that you must go through one by one, so choose whatever fits your specific situation and needs.

Whether you are a leader in a medium or a large organization or even an entrepreneur, there is definitely something there for you to choose from. We’ve explained the basics for each of the courses below so that you can make an informed decision.


1. The Innovation System

innovation system

  • Overview: The Innovation System was designed by Viima as a response to seeing many in the field struggle to understand what innovation really means, and especially how it can be done in practice.

    It has been designed for leaders, managers and employees of medium and large organizations, with help from Viima customers so it takes into account all of the challenges corporate innovators face on a daily basis. The Innovation System is an online course and coaching program with a strong practical focus that also supports leaders and managers in creating or refining their own innovation strategies, processes, and practices in the real world.

  • What you’ll learn: The course starts with a quick summary of the fundamentals of innovation, specifically in the corporate context. The rest of the course is focused on first helping you create or refine your vision and strategy for innovation, then turning that into a concrete plan and making innovation happen in the context of a medium or large organization. Finally, the course explains how you can scale innovation and create a pro-innovation culture within your organization. You’ll learn very practical things, such as how to avoid common mistakes, create your innovation processes, and measure the ROI of your innovation work.

  • Content: The course includes 4 modules with 26 videos spread over 7 hours, as well as practical exercises, tools and templates that guide you from the general aspects of innovation to crafting you own innovation plan and putting it into practice.

  • Is this for you? If you are a manager or a leader, this course will help you drive more value with innovation and will provide you the resources to become a better enabler to support others in making innovation happen. It’s the only innovation course that guarantees innovation or gives your money back. It also provides a certification and has a peer matching option for those who’d like peer support, mentoring, benchmarking and networking opportunities.

  • Price: €497 for individual innovators or 199 €/month for organizations (includes licenses for an unlimited number of users and 1-on-1 coaching).


2. Innovation Master Class

Innovation master class udemy

  • Overview: The Innovation Master Class on Udemy focuses on developing enterprise innovation practices and it’s led by Thomas M Koulopoulus, author of ten books and founder of Delphi Group.

  • What you’ll learn: It covers topics to help you build an innovation practice, from the theory and context of innovation to leadership and innovation metrics. It provides an understanding of how innovation is applied in other organizations by looking into case studies of successful innovative companies.

  • Content: Innovation Master Class includes 57 video segments, 4 hours of instruction, 12 exercises and 4 quizzes. It sets the scene by starting with the global context of innovation and goes through the process of innovation, examples on building an innovation zone and how to measure innovation results.

  • Is this for you? If you are a professional looking to deepen your understanding of innovation theories and practices through concrete examples this is a good option.

  • Price: €94.99. You can also check with your organization if they provide a Udemy for Business subscription for widespread learning opportunities within the company.


3. Innovation Management

Innovation management coursera

  • Overview: This course offered by Erasmus University Rotterdam and instructed by seven different professors and researchers from Rotterdam School of Management takes you through the concepts of idea management, theories of idea generation as well as ways to implement innovation management in your organization.

  • What you’ll learn: It is a great course for beginners as it goes through the basic terminology, types of innovation, how innovation is adopted, how creativity supports innovation and how to manage ideation and motivate employees to contribute with improvement ideas. You will also learn what a product portfolio is, how innovation projects should be selected and managed and how teams are structured for innovation.

  • Content: The course can be completed in 9 weeks, or 11 hours and it includes 32 videos and a final exam.

  • Is this for you? If you are new to innovation and you want to understand the basics in a condensed package, then go with this course to set the foundations.

  • Price: Free or 41 € if you want to commit to earn a certificate

 

4. Disruptive Strategy

Disruptive Innovation - HBS

  • Overview: The Disruptive Strategy course from Harvard Business School online was created by the late Clayton Christensen, famous for coining the theory of disruptive innovation. This course is for innovative leaders, strategists and also entrepreneurs. It provides valuable insights into how to align your resources, process and financial strategy to position your business for growth.

  • What you’ll learn: All you need to know about disruptive innovation theory and how to apply it to assess new opportunities and potential threats. The course is also meant to develop your strategic thinking skills, help you organize for innovation with a disruptive scope as well as understand and discover the jobs to be done which will help you better understand your customers.

  • Content: Disruptive Strategy is divided into 5 modules spread over 6 weeks and includes a team project, jobs to be done interview and final paper. Each module provides theory, case studies to learn from and practical exercises.

  • Is this for you? If you are already knowledgeable in innovation theories and best practices and you want to get to the next level, this course is a good choice. Online learning requires extra motivation and discipline, and it can become lonely. This course, like the Innovation System, creates the environment for peer collaboration and networking making the learning process more enjoyable.

  • Price: US$ 1,600


5. Innovation Leadership

Innovation Leadership - AEE

  • Overview: A course on the innovation leadership mindset from Aalto University Executive Education. Aalto EE brings the entrepreneurial approach to corporate innovation. The course is meant for business leaders and executives who want to learn how the lean startup tools and methodologies apply in managing innovation.

  • What you’ll learn: You’ll gain understanding of different approaches to innovation, like the lean startup methodologies which can be applied to the corporate world. You will strengthen your innovation leadership skills and learn how to adopt start-up practices.

  • Content: the course is divided into 4 modules with 12 video lectures through which you can go at your own pace. The recommended pace is 2-3 hours per week which means it would take you about 5 weeks to complete it.

  • Is this for you? If you are interested in applying the start-up practices and mindset in your organization, this course brings a fresh, modern approach.

  • Price: 434 €


6. Business Model Innovation

Business Model Innovation - Coursera

  • Overview: The Business Model Innovation course is part of the 18 months MSc in Innovation and Entrepreneurship degree offered by HEC Paris. The course provides a holistic, strategic approach to innovation, that goes beyond technology and processes and focuses on business models.

  • What you’ll learn: You’ll learn how a business model can help approach innovation from a different angle and you’ll strengthen your creativity skills with the 14 directions toolbox. The course also provides access to the Odyssey 3.14 approach, an innovative methodology developed by the instructors of the course, Laurence Lehmann-Ortega and Hélène Musikas.

  • Content: the course is divided into 5 modules that include 34 videos split over 5 weeks. You can expect to dedicate at least 14 hours to complete it. During the course, you will go through the business innovation model and how it’s relates with the strategy of your organization, value proposition and architecture. The last module seeks to provide practical advice on applying these insights.

  • Is this for you? If you are curious to explore new frameworks and methodologies to reinvent or invent business models in your organization, this course could be worth your time.

  • Price: Free to take the course or 67€ if you want to showcase your new skills and get a certificate.


7. Strategic Innovation: Building and Sustaining Innovative Organizations

Strategic Innovation

  • Overview: This course is part of the MBA from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign that can be completed online, on Coursera.

  • What you’ll learn: If you are not already knowledgeable in innovation, this course will teach you key ideas about innovation and product strategy, business models, and how to capture value. You’ll also see how successful companies maximize the odds of innovation success.

  • Content: This course takes 20 hours to complete, and it’s divided in 4 weeks. It includes 4 modules that have a total of 36 videos.

  • Is this for you? If you want to get a first glimpse into innovation management and start preparing for more complex content, this course is a great starting point. It is part of the Innovation: From Creativity to Entrepreneurship Specialization which you can explore later for more in-depth information.

  • Price: Free 7 days trial or 41€/month four Coursera subscription to continue learning and get a certificate.


8. Innovation management: Winning in the age of disruption

Innovation Management

  • Overview: The course offered by Leeds University Business School is for professionals interested in managing innovation in their organization. The course explores design thinking and open innovation frameworks and gives you the tools to develop an innovation strategy.

  • What you’ll learn: Different types of innovation, understanding of the enablers and capabilities that support successful innovation, identify challenges in innovation and how to organize the right processes in your organization.

  • Content: The course takes only 2 weeks to complete, and it’s divided into 8 activities that take you through the most important concepts of innovation and seek to explain how to manage it.

  • Is this for you? If you are interested in open innovation and design thinking, this course will help you explore the latest frameworks that can drive more innovation in both established or growing organizations.

  • Price: Free to access the course for 4 weeks or €89 to get a certificate and possibility to access the course for as long as it’s on FutureLearn.

We hope this list proves to be inspiring and insightful enough to help you take the next steps to unlock your full innovation potential. Whether you take one or more of these courses, remember that innovation requires continuous learning.

The best argument to support this is the outcome of the Covid-19 crisis which revealed that even though many companies acknowledge the growing role of innovation in business success and longevity, few executive are confident that they have the expertise and resources to succeed in it.


Additional resources for learning about innovation management

As we’ve covered, good courses (be they online or offline) can be a great way to take your expertise to the next level. Just keep in mind that to continuously keep getting better, you need to stay curious, keep informed, follow the best and most reliable experts and sources on the topic that can help you stay on top of it all.

additional resources innovationAlso, keep in mind that accumulating knowledge is just one side of the coin. The other is to test what you learn and apply it in practice. So, experiment and see how these innovation theories could be applied in your specific case. This way you can start tweaking methods and processes to find your own recipe for innovation success.

Having said that, here’s an additional list of innovation resources you might find useful. This is by no means an exhaustive list, as it can quickly become overwhelming, but we’ve listed some of the ones we find to be the most inspiring and insightful.


Publications to follow, read or listen to

  • Viima’s blog and the Innovation Room Podcast. Read by more than 100k people every month, our blog provides in depth articles on innovation and leadership. The Innovation Room Podcast is transcribed on the blog as well but can also be listened on all major platforms. It features renowned leaders who share their insights and lessons learned on leading and managing innovation and business success.

  • Harvard Business Review is one of the most cited resource for innovation. Follow them for opinion pieces on innovation, research, analysis and reports. They also have a weekly podcast, HBR IdeaCast, that features leading thinkers in business and management.

  • McKinsey & Company is another great resource because their position on the market as a management consulting firm, gives them the advantage of getting data from thousands of companies around the world. They leverage this data and regularly publish research and articles about many topics related to business and management, including innovation. They also have great podcasts you can listen to while on the move.


Experts to follow:

  • Renée Mauborgne is the co-author of the famous book The Blue Ocean Strategy and professor of strategy at INSEAD Business School. She is writing on INSEAD Knowledge where you can find her latest posts and articles.

  • Steve Blank is famous for coming up with the customer development method that launched the lean startup movement. He is actively writing on his blog and following him will help you stay informed on recent developments and learn more about topics like lean startup and other methodologies.

  • Howard Yu is an author and professor of management and innovation at IMD Faculty. He is actively writing on his blog on topics ranging from business management to innovation and leadership.


Conclusion

No leader can build an innovation engine in their organization without being well-versed on the subject of innovation. Organizations that succeed at innovation have a strategic perspective and a long-time future oriented vision. This approach is enabled by people who can generate and apply new knowledge and ideas in order to build the right environment for innovation to flourish in.

Great innovators don’t just have great ideas. One of the things that sets great innovators apart is how they position themselves on top of their industry, they understand innovation and keep up with the latest theories, trends and new ideas on the topic.

Knowing how to actually implement innovation based on strategies and smart processes is hardly a talent you’re born with. Some may have a knack for innovation, but it still comes down to nurturing that talent with perseverance, dedication and hard work to develop the right skills. So stay hungry for knowledge and curious about innovation and you’re on your way to reach greatness.

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