How to Build an Innovation Lab

Staying ahead of the curve in the world of business and technology means promoting innovations and multiplying an organization’s revenue streams in the long run. An innovation lab is the shortcut to kick starting this process, creating a dedicated space where the sole focus is enhancing the technologies and innovations that your company produces.

These innovation hubs give your team the space, people, and tools they need to brainstorm new ideas and test them out. Innovation hubs also ensure your team members share their talents with each other and focus on long-term advances instead of short-term returns. Even if a company has not broken new ground in an industry, having an innovation lab can help it acquire a sort of a marketing trump card, by attracting highly talented workers and fostering competition. For many companies, the question becomes how to go about designing an innovation lab.

How to Build an Innovation Lab
An innovation lab can help your team brainstorm and develop new ideas and strategies.

A Guide to Building an Innovation Lab

Create the Objectives for the Lab

The very first step of designing an innovation lab is to figure itsgoals. The first thing to bear in mind is that innovation labs are defined less by the physical space they occupy, but rather by the culture which permeates all the activities taking place there. It's not enough just to have an extra space. Building a true innovation lab requires intense research and development of an inventive, cutting-edge atmosphere. Ask yourself what problems you hope to resolve or where your business, and by extension your industry, can be improved. Will your lab focus on collaborations with others in the industry? Will it figure out how to incorporate the latest technology into your company? You not only need to determine the objectives; but also how they will be accomplished. Set up detailed roadmaps to keep your team focused.

Assemble Your Dream Team

At the heart of any game-changing idea is a team of dedicated and passionate creatives. This team will determine the success of your lab and, more importantly, how the new ideas and innovations will be communicated and integrated into your business. The lab should serve as the company's private marketplace of ideas, where some of the most talented people in your company can test, exchange, and collaborate on projects that push the boundaries of your business or product. It's important to emphasize that the team does not necessarily need to focus on short-term rewards, but on making your company a hard-hitting player in the industry.

Talent replenishment in business is a continual process and innovation labs can be a great help to both attract and filter out the best ones for your organization. Your team needs to consist of people who are forward-thinking, dedicated, and open-minded, not just technically proficient.

Determine Your Metrics for Innovation

As with any other project, you need some method of determining if your innovation hubs are successful. This means determining the metrics to measure the success of your innovation lab. Will it be how many project ideas the team brainstorms? How many projects they bring to completion? How many new customers they bring in? The additional revenue? Ideally, you want a full portfolio of metrics to give you insight.

How to Build an Innovation Lab
You must figure out how you will analyze the success of your innovation lab.

Get Funding and Make a Budget

You cannot innovate without access to resources and a space, both of which require funding. Now you should figure out how you will get funding for your innovation lab, how much you want to raise, and how much you reasonably need to run every month. To get funding, you will likely need to find partners or sponsors who believe in your mission, so you may need to create a persuasive presentation outlining what your lab will achieve. The team you've set up to use the innovation lab will be integral to creating presentations for potential stakeholders and investors in the space.

Know How You Will Integrate the Innovations

Before you finalize the lab, do not forget to come up with a plan for how you will incorporate the ideas the team comes up with. After all, without an integration plan, innovations are useless. Will you integrate the innovation into the existing products of your company? Will it be independent of your main business? You may want to hire a communications specialist or some kind of internal publicist who can effectively relate what goes on in the lab and garner outside interest. Furthermore, you'll need a liaison between the lab and other departments in the company who is skilled at integrations to smoothly implement any new ideas into the actual business when the time comes.

Build It and Encourage New Ideas

Figure out how much space you need and what tools your team will require, then go ahead and build. Make sure the space encourages your team. Usually an innovation lab contains state-of-the-art tools and equipment, the latest design technology, and the resources to test and produce new products. While your team should be resourceful and creative enough to know what they need for each project, it's important for the management or leadership team of the lab to be supportive and able to anticipate the basic necessities of the space.

How to Build an Innovation Lab
Not all companies need to reinvent the wheel. Think about whether an innovation lab truly makes sense for your company.

Should You Build an Innovation Lab?

Before you go through the process of designing an innovation lab, make sure that it is right for you. One of the reasons some innovation hubs fail is the inability to create tangible results. Instead, they measure success based on the interest in their projects. If you feel confident in the metrics you decide on, then this should not be an issue, but it is still something to keep in mind.

Perhaps the most important consideration is whether there is actually a problem you need to resolve. While innovation is exciting, innovation just for the sake of it may not guarantee results that you can apply to your company. If you just want to figure out how to incorporate a certain technology into your business, you may actually just want a “[that technology] lab,” not an innovation lab.

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