Some organizations seek to enable creativity and industry disruption by fostering an innovative environment. If you’re tasked with launching an innovation lab, then this primer can help you lay the groundwork.
Implement an Innovation Lab
The actual innovation lab itself is typically set up in a flexible environment inviting creativity and collaborative work. Before getting underway, it’s good to consider:
- Who are your internal innovators?
- Where will you look for fresh perspectives?
- What roles or framework are needed from the outset (if any)?
- What are the priorities?
- How will ideas be explored safely?
Then, you’ll need to focus on creating an innovative culture. Here’s help.
Many businesses segment or silo teams or departments to ensure skills match to responsibilities. This logic creates an environment in which many individuals with the same perspective and knowledge base interact with one another consistently — and only one another. Exposure to other business units can challenge people with new questions, fresh perspectives, or different approaches to common problems.
Think really broadly.
Don’t stop at encouraging innovation lab participants to think outside of their team parameters or the boundaries of their department. Push them to break out of patterns and examine disruptive thinking in other businesses or market sectors.
Consider the partnership of Ford and Jose Cuervo. Yes, you read that correctly. The automobile manufacturer is currently studying whether the agave plant, used to make tequila, could be used to make a sustainable material for new car components. Now, that’s an example of out-of-the-box thinking (or perhaps just outside of office hours drinking thinking?). Been there, done that.
Play & explore.
It’s all well and good to say you have an “innovation lab,” but if your organization isn’t going to encourage taking risks and support the possibility of failure, there won’t be much creativity going on.
It’s got to be OK to try something new.
Embrace the process.
Setting up an innovation lab with hard and fast deadlines for coming up with the best new product for the company, or the next original concept for a marketing campaign, can inhibit success.
Innovation is a process — test, adapt, improve — and everyone needs to be onboard with those stages. An Australian firm that helps businesses innovate noted: “By thinking long term and being tolerant of failure you can tweak your product or business model and make it more resilient to change.”
Immediate success is unlikely. In launching a lab, gain C-suite buy-in for the long-term goals and support for trial and error. Then, also manage the expectations of participants. Make it clear that not every idea is going to get fleshed out fully. The Innovation Lab’s goal, after all, is to endorse the optimal innovation that best solves a problem, streamlines a process, or kickstarts a growth opportunity.
About Jeff Meade
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