3 Things That Can Help Your Innovation Lab Succeed
Do you want to help your company come up with fresh features, products or even enhance internal processes without slowing customer delivery? Starting an innovation lab can be a step in the right direction for your company. As with many things, I’ve had some successes and some failures while being part of innovation labs. Here are three strategies I’ve used that can help contribute to successful innovation labs.
 Promote Innovation
Great bands would never be discovered if they only played their music in a dark garage. Promoters encourage people to attend shows to see the bands play. It’s the same with ideas. Innovation can’t happen in a small team off to the side of the rest of the company. To get the most out of a lab, make innovation inclusive to all of the company by promoting innovation. Start by leading regular ideation sessions with product and sales teams. Ideation sessions involve gathering insights, looking at trends and having the teams develop workable solutions to problems. Work closely with sales and product management teams to document new thoughts and build clickable demos to show customers and obtain feedback. Clickable demos give the customers the feeling that they are actually using a feature, which elicits better feedback and more ideas.
 Innovate Rapidly Not Vapidly
You’ve heard of the ‘fail-fast’ movement. It’s also important to succeed fast in an innovation lab. Use rapid-prototyping tools like Proto.io or Balsamiq Mockups to build web and mobile clickable demos. You can build complicated user interface flows in just a few hours with many of these tools. This allows for quick iteration on concepts within the lab. You can then release the prototypes to stakeholders and customers to retrieve their valuable feedback. You can also use sites similar to UserTesting to get anonymous feedback on ideas and user interface flows. It’s plausible to go from thought to feedback in a week. This helps get through many ideas in a very short time and with a small team. All of this can be done without engaging any of the most expensive resources - engineers - until much later in the process. Fast and inexpensive ideation also lessens the pain of throwing an idea away if it doesn’t work out.
 Live in a Fish Bowl
Transparency has proven to be a very important part to successful teams. It helps teams be more accountable, inclusive, positive, broad-minded and humble. Strive to keep the idea roadmap, project status and even processes open to all stakeholders and customers. A few ways to do that include lab progress updates at the start of all ideation sessions, lab sponsored lunch-n-learn sessions and innovation lab tours when prospects or customers are visiting. Send regular status updates to both stakeholders and other team leaders in your organization. You can also work with your marketing department to develop creative media, such as videos or press releases, to promote your lab.
If you already have an innovation lab in your company or are thinking of getting one started, I hope you can benefit from some of the insights above. Promoting innovation, rapid prototyping and transparency have enabled labs to work through many great product and feature ideas and led to some great successes in many organizations.