"Creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things."

Theodore Levitt (1925 – (2006), American economist and Harvard professor
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This Business English lesson plan on innovation has been designed for business professionals or other adults and young adults at an intermediate (B1/B2) to advanced (C1/C2) level and should last around 45 to 60 minutes for one student.

Innovation is how economies advance and businesses stay ahead of the game. Everything that makes our lives easier is the result of innovation. Businesses, economies, and societies are constantly evolving; innovation, therefore, is vital if we are to keep up with these changes. Both governments and businesses have a responsibility to promote innovative solutions to the challenges of the modern world and the world of the future. In this Business English lesson plan on innovation, students will have the opportunity discuss and express their opinions on issues such as innovative companies, how to think of good ideas, and how businesses can promote innovation.

For advice on how to use this English lesson plan and other lesson plans on this site, see the guide for ESL teachers.


Reading activity
Before the English class, send the following article to the students and ask them to read it while making a list of any new vocabulary or phrases they find (explain any the students don’t understand in the class):

WeWork | What is business innovation and why is it important?

The article defines what ‘business innovation’ means, outlines a number of reasons for why it is important, and gives some examples of business innovation in a number of industries. At the start of the class, hold a brief discussion about what the students thought about the article. What do they think about the issues raised in the article? Do they agree with what was written? Can they think of how this might apply to where they work?

Video activity
To save time in class, the English teacher can ask the students to watch the video below at home. In the class, the students will answer a number of conversation questions directly or indirectly related to the content of the video.

The video for this class is a TED Talk by Adam Grant called “The surprising habits of original thinkers” which looks at research to determine when the best time to think of new ideas is.


The focus in the class is on conversation in order to help improve students’ fluency and confidence when speaking in English as well as boosting their vocabulary.

This lesson opens with a short discussion about the article the students read before the class. Next, the students can give their opinion on the quote at the beginning of the lesson plan – what they think the quote means, if they agree with it and how it could relate to business. This is followed by an initial discussion on the topic including innovative people, the best ideas the students have had, and what innovations help us in or daily lives.

After this, students will learn some vocabulary connected with innovation such as meet a need, make a breakthrough and eureka moment. The vocabulary is accompanied by a cloze activity and a speaking activity to test the students’ comprehension of these words.

If the students didn’t watch the video before the class, they can watch it after the vocabulary section and answer the conversation questions. Before the conversation, ask the students to give a brief summary of the video and what they thought about the content.

Finally, there is a more in-depth conversation about innovation. In this speaking activity, students will talk about issues such as if there are any truly new ideas, how meetings can kill an idea, and how governments can promote business innovation.


After the class, students will write an email to their line manager about an innovative solution to a problem. The writing activity is designed to allow students to practise business-style writing as well as improving their grammar with the feedback from their teacher.


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