Engineering
June 11, 2021

From post-it notes to innovation lab

Innovation labs are often touted to generate new ideas. Still, a recent study found that the vast majority of these creative centers don't deliver on their promise. The problem:

  • Lack of alignment with the business.
  • Lack of metrics to track success.
  • Lack of balance on the team.


This article offers insight for companies trying to get their innovation lab off the ground that will prevent these three issues from happening.

What gets measured drives behavior, which is why it's important to develop metrics that align with your company's needs.


Here are a few questions you should answer before starting an innovation lab: What do we want our innovation lab to achieve? Who will be on the team, and how balanced does it need to be between different skill sets?

Creating clear non-financial indicators to measure innovation is a great way to avoid the problem of wasted time and money.


Identify what you want your innovation lab to accomplish in advance and then assign measurable goals for both team members and individual projects. This will allow you to measure whether or not an innovation project has succeeded early on. It's much easier than assessing success after significant flaws have been discovered in the project.


- Making innovation measurable


A lack of balance on the team can lead to failure. Brainstorm a range of potential skills among employees that could be useful for future projects, and then spend time recruiting people with those skills into your innovation lab. This will ensure you have enough talent on hand to explore a wide range of ideas.


Some of the innovation teams I've met recently didn't have a clear set of goals for team members and individual projects. This can lead to groups feeling lost or without direction, almost always resulting in project failure. Make sure to define a clear strategy that's aligned with the company.


Thinking through the implications of opening a lab and its means for the company and organization will also help you avoid other potential pitfalls. Did you consider how your innovation lab will affect hiring practices? How might this impact your ability to recruit top talent in the future?


Sometimes the lab is led by a leader with deep industry knowledge and good intentions but didn't have a solid executive support system or the right resources to execute its vision. Make sure you can answer these questions: who is in charge of your lab, what are they responsible for, and how will success be measured?


In addition, working with people from different backgrounds, the most successful innovation initiatives embraces diversity. 


Article Content:

  • How do you ensure your innovation lab is aligned with the business?
  • What are some of the metrics that can be used to measure success in an innovation lab?
  • Is there a balance on your team, or does it lean too heavily towards one area of expertise?


In today's data-driven economy, measuring innovation becomes truly difficult when there are no financial returns immediately. Tech giants like Google and Facebook know this well, which is why they've been so successful in recent years. With all the ways innovation laboratories can go wrong, should your company hesitate to start up one?


The answer is no, according to experts. Innovation labs are necessary for any business model in an era where information technology and innovation have become so intertwined.