Successful Corporate Innovation Labs
In order to make your innovation management ready for digitalization, companies are increasingly setting up Corporate Innovation Labs. Employees from different departments jointly generate ideas for organizational innovation, business innovation and digital business models.
How does a Corporate Innovation Lab become successful? In the many years of our work, we have identified five success factors.
1. Define clear goals for your Corporate Innovation Lab
Imagine a Corporate Innovation Lab like a greenhouse. Shielded from the storms of everyday operations, you will develop new solutions: The fragile sprouts of tomorrow’s success. Would you tell a gardener, “For once, think completely free”? No, you would set targets: ” Grow a new tomato variety “, ” Develop a new planting process for vegetables ” or similar.
Successful Corporate Innovation Labs work like greenhouses. They have clear goals in regard to topics or methodology. For example, “Development of three alternative concepts for a customer app” or “Five elaborated concepts for digital business models based on existing customer data”. Do such objectives suppress the creativity of those involved? No. They’re leading them in a certain direction.
2. Open your Corporate Innovation Lab for external perspectives
Rely on methods such as Open Innovation and Co-creation: Involve external experts, customers and groups such as students in all stages of the Corporate Innovation Lab process: From the exploration of hidden customer needs through idea generation to the testing of prototypes. This openness ensures that employees are constantly exposed to new impressions and inspirations during the development process.
To stay in the picture: You create innovation networks around your greenhouse: You allow early adapters (customers who test new solutions early on), potential sales partners, experts, developers and creative minds regular access to your “greenhouse”. The inspirations serve as fertilizer for your ideas.
3. Define the appropriate key performance indicators
One of the major mistakes: New products, services and business models are compared too early with the performance of the existing business model. This ignores the fact that a company’s existing offerings have been optimized for years. An innovation measurement system that supports the work of a Corporate Innovation Lab needs other key performance indicators: for example, the number of ideas, the number of design prototypes, the progress on the Innovation Roadmap. They are qualitative rather than quantitative indicators. Does a Corporate Innovation Lab work without key performance indicators? It’s difficult. It makes sense for all those involved to have clearly defined goals in mind. By the way, start-ups work with performance indicators as well. That’s what their investors want to see.
Support your Innovation Labs with state-of-the-art innovation software
4. Define different team roles in the Innovation Lab
An Innovation Lab needs a good mix of different roles and thinking styles: Creativity is just as important as numbers, data and facts. Analysis is just as important as implementation. In order to use the swarm intelligence of all members successfully, a Corporate Innovation Lab needs a mixture of different roles:
- The visionary role: Thinking in great visions, characterized by a high degree of creativity and imagination.
- The implementation role: concentration on execution and results.
- The sales role: focus on prospective sales success, close contact with potential customers.
- The networking role: communication with colleagues from other departments and the innovation network.
- The challenger role: Critical questioning of assumptions and results.
- The expert role: expertise to implement ideas.
- The sponsor role: The direct line to top management.
Individuals can have several roles, but these roles must be well distributed. The establishment of a sponsor from top management or the board is also important. It can also make sense to set up methodology coaches or a kind of expert advisory board around a project. For members of a Corporate Innovation Lab, constant communication is important. The Innolytics® software offers the possibility to define these different roles and to assign them to individual ideas or innovation projects.
5. Establish clear structures for your Innovation Lab
The following structures should be established in order to make your Corporate Innovation Lab successful right from the start.
- A roadmap with clear milestones. One of the successful Corporate Innovation Labs, which we managed, had the milestone: “December the 17th presentation of results to the Management Board”. It triggered pressure, but positive pressure. All activities in the Corporate Innovation Lab were aligned to this date.
- Define a procedure model. It doesn’t matter if you prefer Design Thinking, different creativity techniques or agile project management methods: A clear process model helps members of the Innovation Lab to get oriented. Do not be afraid to establish the “wrong” methodology. The second or third best methodology is still better than none.
Example of a process supporting a corporate innovation lab
- Provide structures for the development of concepts. Ideally, participants and members of the Corporate Innovation Lab have clear questions from the outset that need to be answered. What should intermediate presentations look like? According to which criteria should a business plan be calculated? Don’t push members through too many guidelines, but have the courage to define these questions. Here again, even a question that is not one hundred percent perfect is better than none.
By the way: The Innolytics® software offers the possibility to define such questions for concept deepening.
Innolytics®: The digital platform for your Corporate Innovation Lab
The Innolytics Idea Management Software and Innovation Management Software supports you in establishing the appropriate structures for the operation and establishment of your Corporate Innovation Lab. Besides your basic idea management and innovation management you do not need another platform. You can set up your own subplatform for your Corporate Innovation Lab, define specific roles and set up a process that is important for your Corporate Innovation Lab. You can define different in-depth questions for the development of concepts and define a roadmap – and thus create structures for the operation of your Corporate Innovation Lab.