There is a reason why companies like Google, Ford, Fidelity and Marriott all have their own innovation labs. Not only do they allow room for people to experiment, explore new ways of thinking and hold the promise of creating breakthrough products, services and business models, but they also have plenty of PR value.
The premise behind them is clear: these laboratories of ideas should spark innovation, developing the innovation capabilities of large corporations so they can compete in an increasingly dynamic and challenging market. But do innovation labs really deliver, or are they just flashy programmes that fall short of their promise?
While there are countless innovation labs opening every day, many close their doors just as quickly. The reasons for this include lack of vision and objectives, falling for innovation theatre, failing to track success, picking the wrong team, and lack of investment for innovation.
However, not all innovation labs fail. Here are 5 things to consider to ensure an idea incubator is a positive addition to your innovation programme:
1. Have a clear vision and define the metrics
2. Establish a funding source and budget
3. Embrace diversity and motivate your talent
4. Bring in the right partners
5. Have the ability to take risks
Of course, an innovation lab might not always make sense for your business goals or be feasible with your available budget. There are other ways to promote incremental or disruptive innovation within your company, such as collaborations with startups, partnerships with universities or making the most of your company’s collective intelligence, which may be better aligned with your business needs.