Three Reasons Why Your Innovation Lab Isn’t As Good As It Used To Be

When I talk to Chief Innovation Officers (CINOs), more than half of them share with me that their innovation labs are simply not as good as they used to be.

This usually has three causes.

1. Having Too Many Offerings

As your lab grows, it is natural for your offerings to grow as well — both in complexity and sheer numbers.

But at a certain point, having too many offerings starts to hurt. If your internal customers now have to wade through multiple options and determine which services they need (where many of them look the same but different), sooner or later they are just going to give up.

Innovation is hard enough. Deciding on what service the lab can provide should not be.

2. Decline In Service Quality

In the beginning every team the lab engaged with was treated special. Eager to prove the lab’s value — you probably went above and beyond what was needed.

That is a good thing. And it is why your lab has been so successful.

But as the lab grows, maintaining such high standards becomes harder and harder. Given your limited resources, providing the “white glove” services to an ever-increasing customer base is simply not sustainable.

No wonder, your early (and best) customers are going to be disappointed and start to complain.

3. Shrinking Demand

In the beginning, your labs initial sponsors were also its first customers. Growing the lab was easy. The lab grew as it serviced the pent-up demand from these executives.

But eventually, the growth will stall. The demand will be met, projects will dry up, and customers will leave.

If you find yourself in this situation…it is probably because the lab is not doing a good job of actively courting new sponsors.

Inability to attract new demand to replace the old, can quickly turn a very active lab into an empty one.

So What Can You Do?

The secret then is to:

1. Keep your offerings / services simple.

My personal rule of thumb, keep your offerings to no more than three. Provide clear distinctions and benefits.

The goal is not for the internal customer to select the service but rather to provide a quick overview and create interest. The type of service (and the relevant complexities) can be surfaced and ironed out during idea qualification.

2. Maintain Quality By Doing Less:

It sounds counter intuitive, but sacrificing on the “high touch” model will always come back to haunt you.

Instead set a capacity limit on the maximum number of teams / projects the lab can service during a quarter. Be like universities, set clear entry and exit criteria for the teams and rigorously enforce these rules

This not only helps you maintain quality but also creates scarcity, which in turn ends up boosting demand.

3. Pump Up New Demand:

Begin marketing your lab services to others in the organization. You can start by,

  • Reaching out to leaders in business units or geographies that you have not had a chance to work with yet by getting invited to town halls, all hands, and cadence calls.
  • Building awareness within the employee base at large through lunch and learns where you can talk about the lab, share innovation hacks, and build awareness.
  • And if you want to take it up a notch, run crowd sourcing / innovation challenges. The ideas generated here can be quickly turned in projects (i.e demand) for your lab.

Furthermore, don’t try to do this alone. Rather mobilize your lab’s alumni network to speak on your behalf and help you pump up demand.

Good Luck!

Photo by AbsolutVision

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