Building A Shared Vision For Your Innovation Lab

Innovation labs are a great way to jump start your digital transformation journey.

But creating a successful lab is not easy.

For a lab to be successful, it must have a laser focus on — who are its key stakeholders, what unique services the lab will provide (i.e value), and how it will measure success.

And in my experience, the best way to start is to begin with a shared vision.

Creating A Shared Vision

  1. A clear definition of why the lab exists, what it will do (and not do), and key metrics
  2. Alignment and commitment from the key stakeholders

For example, a large national bank created the following shared vision –

“Our innovation garage exists to partner with our retail banking units to bring the right digital experiences / products to market quickly.

As part of the partnership, the lab will focus on the idea to MVP phase only (90 days). The lab will provide the proper frameworks (agile product development lifecycle, cloud first etc.), all the necessary tools, an open workspace for collaboration, and consultants and coaches (product, technical, and design thinkers).

The business units will provide a problem / idea, a product manager, a dedicated onsite cross functional team, and executive commitment to develop that idea.

We will measure our success across the following three dimensions — Idea Development (# of experiments, cycle time to MVP / rejection, feedback volume, team culture), Lab Impact (# of ideas, idea depth / breath, ideas to MVP / rejection rate, Lab NPS), and Operational Metrics (budget, headcount, % of sales, # of new products).”

Building The Vision

Building the vision (like the one above) does not take long.

It starts with, getting all the key stakeholders into the same room and asking them the following types of questions.

  • What does each person hope to get from creating an innovation lab and what do they fear about it?
  • Why does the lab exist? Who does the lab serve? What innovation challenges is the lab trying to overcome? Lack of ideas? Idea development? Time to market? Cross functional collaboration?
  • Can we solve it any other way? How else could they be solved, and why will the lab be able to solve it better than any other option?
  • Within the innovation process, where does the lab want to focus on? Ideation? Discovery? Development?
  • What are the objective(s) the lab would like to accomplish (no more than three, one is just fine)? In 6 months? 12 months? 18 months?
  • What does success look like? How will you measure this success? How will you track it (mechanics + frequency)? How will you share it?
  • What is an ‘ok’ outcome, a ‘good’ outcome, and a ‘fantastic’ outcome?
  • What type of ideas will the lab tackle in the first 3 months, 3 to 9 months, 9 to 18 months, and 18 months+?
  • Who will sponsor the idea and the innovation? Do we have enough ideas in the pipeline?
  • What will each stakeholder personally commit to make sure we are successful? What can this group count on them for?
  • What are some of things we need the stakeholders to stop doing that impedes are success? How can we help them change?
  • What are the 3–5 key tasks / projects that we need to initiate right away? Who will own driving it? And by when?

Creating The “Share” In The Shared Vision

As for, making the vision stick…asking these questions is not enough. How you ask also matters.

To help the team gain consensus, alignment, and commitment, we heavily leverage Google’s Design Thinking and OKR framework.

Design Thinking techniques helps the team to think outside the box, avoid group think, and make the process more inclusive and democratic (no one individual can dominate the conversation).

And the OKR framework helps the team quickly move from lofty ideas to a much more grounded and executable objectives tempered by a set of measurable metrics.

Regardless of the questions and techniques you choose. If you can get all your stakeholders aligned, together you will be doing far better than most.

Photo by Anastasia Petrova on Unsplash

Mustafa Kapadia is passionate about helping large organizations innovate, create new products, and be agile so that they can win in this digital world.