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Tuesday, July 23, 2019

On Innovation Labs

We had multiple major innovation labs. I helped design and implement and run them.   Have lots of opinions about them.  Agree to what is stated below, and more so.   Its got to be much more than just theater.

Why Innovation Labs Fail, and How to Ensure Yours Doesn’t    By Simone Bhan Ahuja in the HBR

What do Walmart, Facebook, and Lockheed Martin have in common? They all recently unveiled lavish new innovation labs. These kinds of labs go by different names — accelerators, business incubators, research hubs — and my research suggests their numbers are growing. Over half of financial services firms have started their own creative spaces, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a health care company or retailer without at least one innovation lab, whether it’s a conference room with sticky notes or a 20,000-square-foot incubator space, like the one launched by Starbucks in November of last year.

That’s all great news, generally speaking. Innovation labs are a safe place for organizations to run experiments and iterate on projects, and they’re an important investment for firms that have rigid approaches or that work in highly regulated industries. But do they actually add value and generate growth? According to a report from Capgemini, the vast majority of innovation labs — up to 90%, one expert says — fail to deliver on their promise.

From doing extensive research for my book Disrupt-It-Yourself and advisory work with large corporations in various sectors, I’ve found that there are three reasons many labs come up short. Here’s what companies should watch out for.

Lack of Alignment with the Business

Legendary innovation spaces like Xerox PARC and Bell Labs can evoke images of extreme secrecy and complete isolation from the core business. That sort of separation can be important, especially in companies where bureaucracy tends to neutralize new ideas. But separation alone is seldom a problem.

The problem tends to be that the innovation center doesn’t have a clear strategy that’s aligned with the company’s — or doesn’t have one at all. Many labs install kegs and offer kombucha on tap to get the creative gears turning, and then begin to ideate with only a limited idea of their goals. Some of the innovation teams I’ve met recently seem unsure if they are charged with serving the core business or with disrupting it. This lack of strategy is a common symptom of “innovation theater”: Boards and C-suite leaders unveil labs that are mostly for show, so they can check the box of having a team dedicated to innovation — and especially to disruption. Yet the curtain comes down quickly, either because ideas from these labs are disconnected from real customer needs or because no one is on the hook to carry the ideas through to implementation. ... "

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