The experiences of 3 years of innovation lab

by | 28 February 2020 | Ideas, News & Blogs

Reading time: 3 minutes

Probably innovation is regularly discussed in the organization where you work.

You probably wouldn't describe your organization as innovative.

One way to achieve innovation, which has been used regularly in recent years, is to start an innovation lab. Also 3 years ago we set up an innovation lab at the Social Insurance Bank called Novum.

How do you make an innovation lab a success?

Now that Novum has been in existence for 3 years, it is a good time to look back at this period. We would prefer to list all the lessons learned and give them to you. Perhaps an article will be published that states how you can ensure that your innovation lab is a success. A few things could happen:

  • It will be a beautiful long article. So what you don't read ...
  • You get a number of cool one-liners. Which you really can't interpret without context.
  • You get inspired. But you still don't know what to do and why.
  • I repeat because you have read the theory before.

It depends

One of our core values is that we like to share our knowledge, but as much as possible based on our own experiences. The internet is already a major source of pitfalls and tips about innovation labs, most of which we have experienced ourselves. But the truth is almost always'it depends'. Sometimes you have to think and determine a clear strategy, sometimes you just have to try something. Sometimes you apply design thinking methodologies, sometimes lean startup leads to success faster. Sometimes you ensure that you are in line with the organization, sometimes not.

Most ideas don't work ...

There are plenty of articles, for example from Harvard Business Review (https://hbr.org/2019/07/why-innovation-labs-fail-and-how-to-ensure-yours-doesnt). I can endorse all of the comments there and we have experienced ourselves. This experience is particularly important. These experiences help to shape the culture and to deploy the necessary growth. Being 'in line with the organization' is always easier said than done. By coordinating a lot in advance and asking for permission or money to be allowed to try something, the chance of transfer to the organization is greater. However, we have chosen to draw up our own portfolio within the scope of the organization's mission. This sometimes creates challenges in the transfer, but has the advantage that when we have a (bad) idea, it can be validated very quickly. And however you get used to it, most ideas don't work.

One of the first innovation labs within the government was the Mindlab from Denmark. They, too, have undergone tremendous growth over the years and have constantly changed their roles (http://www.designforeurope.eu / sites / default / files / asset /document / mindlab_thejourney_final.pdf). We are no different at Novum. I remember very well that on day 1 we immediately start with a Design Sprint to change 'forms for people abroad'. How many mistakes we made in this, and how much did we benefit from that.

Failure ahead!

As long as you have enterprising people on your team who help each other learn from these mistakes, you keep moving forward. We are still learning every day and we are increasingly aware of how we can further help the organization and / or the rest of the system to realize our social goals. That also challenges us to keep inventing ourselves. It is thanks to the SVB that we are given that space and the opportunity to develop. I am very curious where we will be with Novum on our next birthday.

Ps. Does the question of how you can bring innovation into your organization also play a role for you? Then I would like to give you the following:

Having an innovation lab does not make your organization innovative… It can be a good step to become it!

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