Innovation Labs: Enabling Large Corporations to Pivot Faster

By Selina Khorana

Many large, established organizations around the globe struggle with agility, due largely to the heavy burden of internal structure. These companies have built tremendous scale with efficient business processes and decision making systems that manage risk. While these are essential in order to manage massive workforces and deliver products and services at global scales, it means they are vulnerable to disruption from smaller, nimble competitors. This inability to swiftly pivot can be a weakness in the current economic environment, which requires independent and creative thinking.

Forward-thinking executives are looking for workplace solutions to turn the battleship, and find new ways of engaging with customers and building an innovation pipeline. In the past year, our strategy and design teams have led a number of engagements for Fortune 200 organizations that are considering internal incubators and labs as innovation engines. These innovation labs allow for separation from institutionalized approaches, and carve a pocket of innovation in a safe, incubation space.

The missions have varied from redefining user experiences, to product innovation, to digital guerilla marketing teams. All are defined by a desire to step out of the tightly-managed “corporate” box, build a new generation of tools and products, and create a problem solving approach that can eventually reach across the entire organization. From a programming and design perspective, one of our early conversations is about striking the right brand balance: maintaining enough essence of the larger brand and values, while allowing a local culture to develop and flourish.

The innovation labs themselves have similar function requirements:

  • Simple workstations, often on casters, that can be easily reconfigured depending or project dynamics
  • Untethered personal technology, with power support distributed across the space
  • Limited private offices that can double as collaboration space when sitting empty
  • Shared maker space, with supplies ranging from 3-D printers to desktops with specialized software to large format tables with self-healing mats
  • A variety of scaled collaboration spaces that suit numerous needs, each equipped with content sharing technology
  • Dynamic displays that promote artifacts and work in progress
  • A multi-purpose town hall space for large gatherings or trainings

Depending on the purpose and mission of the lab, many clients choose to build a public-facing element. By inviting select users to test prototypes and respond to demos with live feedback, the development team is enabled to “fail faster,” further speeding the innovation cycle. Today’s business world requires a change imperative – is your company prepared to pivot?

Selina Khorana
Design strategist passionate about integrating design thinking principles with business acumen and consumer insights, at an organization that is committed to driving innovative user experiences.