What's The Point Of Innovation Labs? A #blabchat Round Up

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The day we stop exploring is the day we commit ourselves to live in a stagnant world, devoid of curiosity, empty of dreams.
— Neil deGrasse Tyson

As Simon said in his post last week, 'Twitter Chat - What's The Point Of Innovation Labs?' we are a curious bunch in the Bromford Lab and whilst exploring different ideas and ways of thinking is in our blood, we love it even more when we can do so collaboratively. 

Thursday saw the first monthly Bromford Lab #blabchat blast off and what an hour it was.  We were really excited by how many people got involved and the great conversations that were being had on our chosen topic, ‘What’s the point of Innovation Labs?’  It was really inspiring to see so many people talking and sharing their views, as when you work within a Lab, it is easy to believe that everyone feels the same as you do and understands your purpose.  It was really nice to see that most people felt innovation labs (or at least that way of ownership by a specific individual/group and service design thinking) had a place within businesses, but it also gave us some interesting viewpoints around why, when and how these should be created, as well as what was understood by a 'lab environment'.  

So without further ado, here's a quick recap - you may even spot yourself (or your words).....

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Barriers seemed to come in all shapes and sizes, with an aversion to failure, unwillingness to change and money popular culprits.  The one that kept coming up most often though?  Time. Many of the participants could relate to the fact that whilst they were being asked to come up with new ways of thinking or working, there was no time set aside for them to do so, therefore, the day job takes over.  As workers, we are engineered to be efficient and execute a particular set of tasks, most of which we are judged against through performance indicators or project milestones.  A lot of what Labs look to tackle are ideas, pipe dreams, many of which will never see the light of day.  Getting a business to commit resource to this is always going to be hard, but as John articulates, time is needed to think, explore and play.  One of the thinking points we definitely came away with was how we could demonstrate how important this is so these things become less of a barrier.  

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Even I think the work 'innovation' is overused (see also agile working, that one really grinds my gears) but what became clear from some of the tweets is that whilst it is one of the buzz words du-jour and its persistent use can be irritating, what really matters is the context in which it is being applied.  There are so many words that can be used interchangeably, it does create some confusion and puts some people off or makes it seem something that people can't relate to, but as Steve alludes to, by being clear about the ideas, execution and outcomes, it is possible to change people's perceptions into something more positive.  To channel the great Ali G, we've just got to 'keep it real!'

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This was an interesting one, as here we found it depended on what contributors understood by an innovation Lab, however, regardless as to how people thought about Labs and their set up, it was clear that the aim of any Lab process was to invest in ideas and skills that would have a positive effect on our communities and customers, by separating the business as usual from the business as unusual (the whole time thing again).  As Tom so eloquently says, a Lab is a way to land ideas and bring people on that journey with you, helping to create and mature high potential ideas.  The important thing is to remember that whilst it doesn't have to be a whole team of people doing this work (it was discussed that in some organisations, one person would be sufficient) this work does need to be as close to organisational strategy and 'business as usual' as possible, without being consumed by it.  Basically, find a balance between innovating for the sake of it and not actually innovating at all as you are too close to the day job!

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Couldn't have said it better myself Neil, Amanda and Zoe!  I need not add anymore....

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In fairness, any round up we did wouldn't do justice to the thought provoking content that was contributed, so we'll also be doing a Wakelet video of all the tweets from #blabchat and will be publishing this very shortly.

These challenging conversations are something we love in the Lab and we want to continue within the wider social community.  We hope that #blabchat continues to grow so we can continue to ask provocative questions and inspire people to do or think about something differently. 

Our next #blabchat will be on Thursday 1st March and the topic will be 'Why, when and how should you involve customers?'  Hope to see you all there!


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