Does it make sense for corporates to create ‘Innovation Labs’, an incubator or some other fancy thing – and maybe even move it outside the premises? People are discussing it, and some are starting to doubt the value.
I think I understand where they are coming from. In my daily work I often come across setups that seems to harbour some of the same misconceptions over and over again. There are some fundamental things that I don’t think necessarily get the right amount of attention.
First of all I think these setups risk becoming to conservative. Yes, there is a lot of talk about ‘thinking outside the box’. But when I look at the ‘boxes’ they do come up with, it’s iterations on the old stuff. Only very rarely is it something completely different and interesting.
But how are they supposed to be any different? A lot of the people manning these projects are employees bread up by the mothership or the industry as such. The young talent there are eager to impress, but more often than not they find some sense of corporate (job) security in coming up with something the bosses can relate to (and yes, of course there are exceptions to the rule).
The second big issue is the question of the mandate of these ‘Innovation Labs’. It seems to me that more often than not they are born based on the idea of ‘change to preserve’, and that just makes it infinitely harder to do something that can really change the game.
One of the main challenges seem to be the lack of really good communications between the base and the outpost. Contact is usually the first thing that gets lost, and when there is no or little contact, what happens when you come back home to present something: The base says ‘No’.
So, based on that what truly matters is to make sure there is a constant flow of timely relevant communication. Define some actions, set some deadlines. You’ll be amazed of what effect that can have on an organization where there is suddenly a very concrete expectation of them – and they have to deliver ‘now’.
If ‘Innovation Labs’ really wanted to make sure they are perceived as valuable to their backers maybe they should start there: Helping the organization just get things done.