Despite a roaring snowstorm around 100 people showed up at the IIAB office last Thursday. They came to participate in the 6th edition of IIAB Talk – our quarterly open event about innovation, research and design. This time the event was titled Startup Incorporated – how corporations set up external innovation units to stay innovative. New radical ideas often have a hard time in large bureaucratic organizations focused on operations and efficiency, and therefore more and more organizations create an innovation lab or innovation garage off-site, where good ideas can thrive and creative employees can focus on building great products, much like in early startups. Sounds good right? But does it work? What does it require to set up such an innovation garage? And how do you get you innovative ideas back into the main organization? That was some of the questions that we wanted to discuss. And to do so we had invited speakers from three of the most prominent and interesting labs in Denmark: Kim Svendsen from Stibo Accelerator, Clarissa Leon from DSB Digital Labs and Morten Remmer from Leo Innovation Lab.
Time to market:
11 years 100 days
Morten Remmer’s title is Chief Growth Officer. If Leo Innovation Lab was an ordinary company his business card might had said marketing director, he admitted. But Leo Innovation Lab is different. Unlike the parent company Leo Pharma, Leo Innovation Lab, has no intention of developing drugs, Morten Remmer, told the audience. Instead they aim at improving psoriasis patients’ lifes through digital solutions. This gives them the freedom to operate differently and be more like a tech-company than a (highly regulated) medical company. Instead of using 11 years to bring a new product to market they do it in 100 days, using agile user-centered design methods. And then they see if people like to use it. If they don’t, you have to be ready to kill it, he stated.
DSB Digital Labs had a similar approach inspired by Lean Startup and Agile development, which mean that they can come up with solutions in just 3 months. Clarissa Eva Leon told the audience how they work with using existing data in new creative ways, e.g. by using the weight sensors in the s-trains to give better traffic information.
With his long black hair, mustache, lumberjack shirt and tortoise glasses Morten Remmer looks more like a musician than someone working with R&D at a medical company. In his own opinion the strengths of off-site innovation labs like Leo Innovation Lab, placed centrally on Strøget, is that they can attract a different kind of talent. The kind of talent that wears t-shirts, not suits and that wouldn’t work in a big office building in Ballerup. The Lab can create a different work environment, one that is more playfull and fun. But it can also be dangerous to become to detached from the main organisation Clarissa Leon warned. She believed that in order to succeed and create a real impact in the mother organization it is important that the innovation units are lead by someone who is well known and have a clear mandate in the organization.
Red sock innovation
The approach of Stibo Group is a little different than the two others. As the name indicate Stibo Accelerator is not an innovation lab, but an accelerator. They welcome 12-15 thesis students each semester and makes them work on crazy ideas. Kim Svendsen was the former head of marketing, but found it more exciting to work with students and explore how new sensors, virtual reality, drones, etc. can create new business opportunities. His mission was to create red sock innovation – to create inspiring projects that gives of color to the rest of the organization. The crazy bets that shows where the organization might want to go or make them more certain on where they shouldn’t go… And that may be key. That an innovation lab or garage is no magic bullet to successful innovation. Innovation is difficult, no matter how you organize it. But certain setups are better at creating an environment of constant experimentation. Better at failing fast. And better at learning what creates value for your end customers…