I believe in Innovation Labs

In his provoking post, “So Many Corporate Innovation Labs, So Little Innovation”, Saul Kaplan questions why many innovations and design spaces are stuck to solve tweaks instead of “breakthrough” innovation.

Saul shares many insights — and it comes all down to where the organization may have a desire to think bold but they often deliver a more short-term and present logic innovations.

Yet Innovation Labs are an important step in the maturing organizational landscape, an opportunity to proactively create the future. The concept finally got mainstream with the potential to break down the innovation project culture and integrate with strategy and foresight… creating together a process that can increase efficiency and create new Business Logics.

Today, external changes are pushing crises management. In moments of distress, organizations prioritize survival.

The present-focus-dilemma is not new… and many authors wrote about the importance to connect the present and the future. So does Vijay Govindarajan in his new book — The Three-Box Solution  -how to connect the present and the future and “forget” the past.

In the last years, I worked and wrote about the same challenge (Future Value Generation) integrating innovation, foresight and strategy. My goal is to help organizations connect better the present and the future, building upon their strategic capabilities… and it all starts with the present.

Tweaks, cutting the clutter, efficiency and crises management is a reality and no organizational structure is immune… including Innovation Labs. This means, we as innovators, designers, creative thinkers and futurists should not fight the need for the “small” innovations, but integrate it in our agenda… yet without losing the potential innovations out of sight.

I argue, that Innovation Labs do not fail, they just create different results as expected - there lies the fallacy.

Naturally, people who work in the Innovation Labs create, explore and question. Yet organizations are complicated structures and often are pushed  into the need to change… fast. A focus away from supply chain to a human-centered perspective, progressive technology, changes in people’s values, competition from startups — or simplified, uncertainty defines the agenda which leads to “fears” making the wrong decision.

Innovation Labs have to understand this dilemma between the desire and the possible. We need to offer guidance, explore the organizational boundaries, push them, go beyond and at the same build-upon the present.

So we are Shapers and Guides with the goal to balance the plausible future opportunities with strategic tactics. This is no easy job, but a very exciting and critical to guarantee organizational economic sustainability.

Innovation is about buy-in, and our goal should be integration.

For such challenging tasks, we need GREAT. I am happy to agree with Saul that the Leaders of Innovation Labs need to bring in a new perspective, new fresh ideas and should not be a pure “performance manager”… neither an intern. To excel Innovation Labs we need a set of unique capabilities, which will be the topic of my next post.