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The Lab is dead, long live the Lab

2018-06-21T09:28:37+00:00 Corporate Innovation|

The good success is nothing small, but begins with small things (Socrates).



How allegorically are they not named? Temple of innovation. Centres of progress. Home of new ideas. Topoi, who measure their great importance but do not measure what Innovation Labs really are and how they work successfully.

Labs are forge, academy, creative space outside or inside the company walls, temporary place of work, incubator, yes, in a way interim, which enables and encourages real innovation in the company. This promotes and achieves a continuation of growth through innovation and the transfer of know-how within the company.

95% of all labs are dead, we hear a lot. And yes, the empty hubs, the orphaned labs, the empty creative spaces – we know them too. But we know even more than that: the reasons for failure. We now the set screws that require success in a lab and we know how to adjust these set screws optimally.

On the one hand, because established processes and functioning systems are not designed for change. Never change a running system, that sounds to all of us. Radical innovations? Yes, please. But not with us, please.

Undoubtedly, labs provide the opportunity for quick decisions on the follow-up of ideas and concepts; they work processually and iteratively, but passing on and communicating the concepts to business management is essential so that big ideas are not born, which then stagnate in business drawers and fall into oblivion.

More than a chai latte bar

Labs must be able to do more than just play back cool and elaborate ideas to the company.

A lab must not become an outsourced R&D department, but must train employees with influence and decision-making competence to be willing to innovate; employees thus become innovation ambassadors and, in addition to the concepts, prototypes and models they have developed, return the methods and skills they have learned to the company. They multiply innovation.

Open your system

Internally, this requires a culture of openness and decisiveness that encourages managers and employees to break new ground and actively shape the future of the company. This requires a lot of trust in the performance as a team and overall organization – and fewer barriers in the company.

The company management needs to be aware that the benefit from a lab will be significantly greater than the investment. And also that the employees with the best ideas can and will realize them less in a competitive competition than in joint elaboration and with the involvement of end users / consumers.

Of course, there is no such thing as a suitable lab concept for every company. It is not enough to grab a method manual, a toolbox of possibilities and get started. Not every method leads immediately to the goal, not every tool is suitable.

Even though digitization plays an enormous role in all industries and sectors and will continue to do so, it must not become a one-focus show. Technological progress must take with it the people who drive it. Must be geared to needs. Must escape from an art pour l’art.

A great vision is required, but any summiting can only work with stable rope teams and crampons. Stage destinations, a good compass and a sophisticated hiking map are necessary. In addition to disruptive innovation, very concrete questions must also be pursued simultaneously.

Innovation experts are needed to design, accompany, supervise and evaluate the lab and transfer it to the company so that the journey does not turn out to be the wrong path. These ensure the close connection between the lab and the company, the lab envoy and the company management. For the interlocking of that which has arisen and that which exists.

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