Unleash Your Company's Potential With An Innovation Lab


July 24, 2023 | Skyler Lauren
Unleash Your Company's Potential with an Innovation Lab

In today's dynamic business environment, nurturing innovation is crucial for staying ahead of the competition. However, fostering an innovative mindset and finding space for creative exploration within an organization can be quite challenging. To overcome these hurdles and ensure your company stays at the forefront of innovation, consider establishing an innovation lab.

Why An Innovation Lab?

An innovation lab is a dedicated space or environment within an organization, where a cross-functional team works on generating and developing groundbreaking ideas, products, or solutions. This hub for experimentation, collaboration, and rapid iteration cultivates a culture of innovation and encourages creative problem-solving by bringing together diverse perspectives to tackle complex challenges.

The ultimate objective of an innovation lab is to drive innovation that aligns with your company's overall goals and vision. To achieve this, the lab focuses on researching emerging technologies, building proof-of-concepts, exploring fresh ideas, and identifying potential applications tailored to specific business needs. Operating with a degree of autonomy, the lab remains flexible and adaptable while maintaining alignment with the organization's broader objectives under the strategic guidance of a steering committee. 

In a survey last year, only 11 percent of American organizations reported plans to create an innovation lab. Much has been written about innovation lab failures at major companies; most make the simple mistake of separating their lab too far from daily operations and focusing on long-term, moonshot innovations. Bounteous recommends positioning your lab as a shared service that takes requests from other teams and aligns outputs to existing business goals.

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At Bounteous, we’ve used our Innovation Lab working group to create a fortune-teller conference activation powered by ChatGPT, an internal team member copilot AI helper, and a client VR demo proof of concept. We’ve found great success in this approach. Our clients ask where and how to integrate new tools like generative AI and our lab group can provide advice and recommendations. We’ve learned that specific unique customer problems need a cross-functional team to brainstorm unique solutions.

Three Key Components of a Successful Innovation Lab

To establish an effective innovation lab, focus on three essential components: the innovation team, the space, and the innovation mindset.

The Team

We recommend that companies start by assembling a small, cross-functional team dedicated to the innovation lab. The team should include an Innovation Lead responsible for setting the strategic direction, fostering an innovative mindset, and ensuring seamless communication. The Innovation Lead can recruit other developers, marketers, and strategists. This diverse group of innovators will work on developing proofs of concept, researching new technologies, and exploring novel ideas. Some companies may choose to fully dedicate team members to this initiative, while others might opt instead for partial time allocation.

It is also important to have a steering committee that can provide strategic guidance, oversight, and support to ensure alignment with the organization's broader goals and objectives. 

The Space

While a physical space isn't mandatory for a successful innovation lab, it offers numerous benefits. An innovation space raises awareness of innovation initiatives both internally and externally while providing team members with a distraction-free environment to ideate and create. Your innovation lab can exist with a physical location, be fully virtual, or a hybrid model. A vital aspect of a successful innovation space is the inclusion of pods to showcase and feature innovation initiatives or ideas.

At Bounteous, our Innovation Lab is virtual. Our lab members join daily stand ups to share progress. We also have specific Labs Slack channels for each initiative/PoC to make it easier to communicate with outside stakeholders who may not have time to participate on a regular basis. This gives leaders a way to check in and see progress when convenient. Finally we also use one popular Slack channel that is all about sharing things we are building and seeing out in the market.

The Innovation Mindset

Finally, for an innovation lab to be successful, it is important to embrace an innovation mindset. Curiosity, flexibility, collaboration, customer centric, and a desire to learn is critical.

Common Pitfalls to Avoid

  • Spending too much time on a particular idea
  • Not committing to allocating a lead and innovators
  • Trying to solve for everything initially
  • Working in a silo and not sharing early on
  • Being reactive instead of proactive
  • Lack of business leadership support

Tips For Success

  • Time box ideas or explorations before iterating or investing further
  • Fake out nonessential functionality
  • Dedicate at least a lead to the initiative
  • Commit to continuous, iterative innovation ideas, not major moonshots.
  • Treat the innovation lab as incentive to work on exciting ideas
  • Share! Consider a quarterly Innovation Showcase where your lab presents to broader groups. This is a great way to get feedback, recruit staff, and receive new challenge requests.

Get Started

Innovation labs can be a powerful catalyst for businesses striving to stay ahead in today's fast-paced landscape. By dedicating time, resources, and space for creativity, experimentation, and collaboration, you can unlock your team members’ potential and generate innovative ideas. As a result, your business will stay ahead of the competition, drive growth, and create new opportunities for success. When creating an innovation lab, prioritize nurturing a culture of innovation, hiring the right talent, and providing ongoing support and resources. Use the lab to share your explorations and thought leadership with your business leaders, stakeholders, and clients.

If you are not ready to take the plunge yet into building your own innovation lab, Bounteous is here to help and become your ideal co-innovation partner. Our team of Innovation Lab experts will help you explore technology, validate ideas, and secure internal buy-in, all while ensuring the lab aligns with your broader business objectives. Take the leap with Bounteous and unlock your organization's full potential for innovation and growth.