Close the innovation labs, innovation starts within the minds of all employees
The pressure for innovation is increasing
Many larger companies now have a so-called Innovation Lab, both internal and external. In these labs, employees or external persons work on finding new ideas and/or implementing new ideas. Meanwhile not only large companies have their own Inno Labs, but also SMEs are starting to set up their own innovation workshops. The approach is plausible and positive, provided you position an Innovation Lab correctly. After all, creativity and innovation should be able to develop and be encouraged in the minds of all employees.
Global competition and digitalisation force companies to adapt continuously, to develop new business models and to find new things quickly. Inno Labs should generate new ideas and produce the next big innovations. However, it can often be observed that they are very distant from the company and are deliberately kept out of the picture. This is certainly an advantage for creativity and efficient work, but it can become an enormous obstacle for successful innovations. Because the distance often means that the connection to the core of the company, the knowledge of existing business models and the common vision is often missing. If new ideas are generated with Design Thinking or other agile methods, the company itself, current business models, customers, services, the customer journey, etc. cannot be ignored. Focusing mainly on new ideas in the Inno Lab would not be profitable in the medium/long term and would lead to disappointment at the latest during implementation, integration into the company and marketing.
Finding ideas within the organisation
If too much focus is placed on the Inno Lab being responsible for innovation and the other large entity is left out, this can lead to employees not working in the Inno Lab becoming demotivated and valuable innovation potential being lost and left unused.
If “new” things are searched for primarily and existing products, processes, services and problems are not considered, it can lead to the creation of many new ideas, but these ideas do not “help”, do not “fit”, cannot be implemented or are too far away from the company.
All in all, it is easy to run the risk of missing exactly those ideas that could be the next successful innovation. Creativity and idea generation should not be outsourced to an Innovation Lab, because this affects the entire organisation and every single employee in the company.
In our opinion, an Innovation Lab is, among other things, useful and purposeful if it is located further back in the innovation process. Once ideas are generated and evaluated and an idea can be worked out in detail – concept, design, PoC, business model, business case calculation, MVP and implementation. This requires “space”, resources, an environment away from day-to-day business and creative minds that can keep their minds free for new ideas. This is where the potential of an Innovation Lab can be optimally used and employees can focus on the implementation of ideas. It is more promising and sustainable to start and generate ideas directly in the company and to outsource the development and implementation to an Innovation Lab.