Building your innovation lab: benefits and best practices

by Patrice Becuwe - Agency Director Aeroline
| minute read

As I explained in a previous post, there are clear benefits in building an innovation lab, provided you manage it well. In this post, I will first highlight some of those benefits, before drawing up a list of best practices or recommendations to keep in mind when building your own innovation lab.

4 major benefits

Inspired by the agility and responsiveness of a start-up, the innovation lab aims to boost and support the development of innovative ideas by relying on methods and processes that sometimes break with a company’s traditional organisation. This new or alternative approach can bring several major benefits. It allows you, for example, to:

  • Gain agility

Innovation must have the shortest possible development cycle in order to adapt (more) quickly to changing market needs and shorten the time to market for innovative ideas and solutions.

  • Increase relevance

Working within the environment of an innovation lab enables you to place a renewed focus on your customers and their ways of working and doing business. More specifically, it allows you to focus on the daily problems encountered by your customers and the customer experiences resulting from those encounters, without losing interest in the technological innovations themselves.

  • Engage your customers and employees

The use of an innovation lab also facilitates the joint development or co-creation of so-called collective solutions. These are much more easy to adopt by your employees and generally better received by your customers.

  • Transform your organisation

Beyond the reflection on new products and services, an innovation lab leads you to reflect more strategically on the transformation to be brought about in your organisation, in your economic model, in your branding, and in the resulting marketing.

10 best practices

Setting up an innovation lab is not a simple endeavour. Here are some popular mistakes to avoid, along with a number of important recommendations to consider:

  • Dare to (re-)imagine!

In recent years, we have moved from product and service innovation to business model innovation. This is clearly evidenced by the success of ridesharing companies such as BlaBlacar or Uber. As pioneers in sustainable mobility, they have not simply imagined new services but completely rethought the creation of value to give birth to the prosumer (producer as well as consumer) in B2B.

  • Clearly define your objectives

Don’t use your innovation lab merely as a think tank, to generate and nurture ideas and speculate abstractly about the future. Conceive it instead as a think-and-do tank: a space in which you can effectively realise your ideas, going from post-its to prototypes first, then passing through the validation phase, and finally on to the full-blown implementation of a concrete new solution on the market.

  • Start from the field

Innovation only makes sense if it meets an actual need or more simply a field problem. Do not hesitate to expand the audience of your ideation sessions to take into account (extra) feedback from the field.

  • Mix expertise and connect people

Adopt a cross-cutting approach that not only crosses the various areas of expertise internally but also opens up your innovation lab to the outside world. By relying on open innovation, this transversal approach enables you to exchange ideas, experiences, and information with an entire ecosystem of experts.

It is important that your multidisciplinary innovation team has a dedicated, modular, and welcoming place to work in, be it virtual or physical.

  • Define your process(es) and deploy a toolbox

Supervising the innovation process is a strategic task. Therefore a toolbox must be put in place, to allow the necessary quality management and to avoid that you suffer from POC syndrome, which would prevent you from ever going into production.

  • Renew yourself constantly

This is one of the major pillars that ensures the sustainability of your lab innovation. It translates into the ability to regularly question your situation in the face of its (ongoing) transformation: what are your new innovation objectives?

  • Drive the contribution of value

Without proper continued guidance or direction, barely 10% of POCs would go into production! So be pragmatic in your approach to innovation and lead your teams around a shared objective to solve a real problem. That’s how you really drive the contribution of value.

  • Validate, communicate and promote

An innovation only has value when it is validated by a large community. Do not hesitate to expand your circle of users in the approval phase. And always prepare an internal and external promotional campaign to highlight your new products or services.

  • Think about the operational transfer

An innovation lab will always aim to create Minimum Viable Products (MVPs). Remember that each product and service from your lab must inevitably enter an operational phase once adopted. Prepare well for the handover to the teams that will take over from your lab to guarantee seamless service continuity.

As true guarantors of the transition of your innovation lab from think tank to think-and-do tank, our experts at Sopra Steria are able to support you effectively while continuously adjusting to your corporate culture. So don’t hesitate to get in touch with me or my colleagues to discuss your specific needs and obtain a personalised proposal.