Often, it appears, companies are seeing the need to showcase how innovative they are. And the solution seems to be to build a flashy new work environment, install bean bags, foosball tables, whiteboards, and cold-brew some coffee and voila, we’ve got ourselves a lab. I’m a bit of a skeptic about these labs.
How do organizations come up with new ideas? And how do they use those ideas to create successful new products, services, businesses, and solutions?
To answer these questions, a team of researchers from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York spent time observing radical innovation projects such as IBM’s silicon-germanium devices, GE’s digital X-ray, and DuPont’s biodegradable plastics. Their key finding? Most of the ideas behind these projects came from “happy accidents” rather than some ongoing process to generate ideas.
In more than a few cases, individuals or small groups were simply “freelancing,” working on ideas on their own initiative rather than being directed by some “new venture” board or other idea management system.