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Innovation has never been as misunderstood, challenging, expensive, or transformative as it is today. With $1.6 trillion spent globally on R&D in 2014 alone, it’s perhaps the most crucial initiative people can invest in. Many companies are turning to innovation centers — physical hubs where people can gather to design, build, and test products — to complement the crowdsourcing software (like Spigit) that enables their overall programs.

Here are our top 5 takeaways on innovation centers from a recent report released by Capgemini.

1. Innovation Labs Can Inspire New Ideas

According to the report, having a physical innovation lab where employees and partners can assess ideas from “inception to prototyping using an in-house approach” is an excellent way to trigger ideation. One source explains: “The idea is that if you become sort of the epicenter of the velocity of ideas and innovation in the space, you will benefit from that.”

They recommend establishing a foundation of vision and governance, making use of existing talent and partnerships, and delivering what you promise to deliver.

2. They Also Attract Talented People…

Speaking of talent, Capgemini’s research shows that innovation centers are a great way to showcase your brand, culture, and products to the people you want to hire. Said one fashion executive, “We went to campus placements right after the announcement of our innovation lab and our ticket was hotter than Twitter and Facebook.”

Innovation centers also tend to have better “mass adoption” rates than startups, making them even more appealing to intelligent, passionate people who want their efforts to be noticed.

3. …and Turbocharge Employee Engagement

Innovation is supposed to be exciting, and research shows that these real-life idea hotbeds are exactly that. Excitement leads to motivation, which in turn drives engagement — a major benefit that is “often overlooked,” according to one banking executive. When employees, customers, and other stakeholders see the real-life results of innovation initiatives, it can also encourage greater participation in your future innovation challenges.

4. They Even Encourage (Calculated) Risk-Taking…

Innovation is risky by nature, what with it being so tied to change and predicting outcomes and ‘disrupting the status quo’. This research points out that having an innovation center that acts like a separate business unit can ease the transition into risk, because it’s contained within the hub. Said AT&T’s Ruth Yomtoubian: “Our innovation center lets us take on risks that the rest of the organization may be unwilling to take on.”

However, they warn people to be wary of that separation, saying that it’s critical for the umbrella company to be “closely involved in the selection, scoping and execution of innovation center projects,” to avoid becoming disconnected from the hub.

5. …and Finally, They Help Lay the Foundation for an Innovation-Friendly Culture

Investing in innovation demonstrates the importance it holds for your company. It shows that you embrace change, and encourage people from everywhere in the organization to share their ideas. But these initiatives have to be backed by leadership.

“To create a sustainable innovation culture and have it permeate throughout the corporate structure, you need a governance body of senior stakeholders,” said one of the executives cited in the report. “This is necessary to build a strong and sustainable connectivity with the businesses and the technology organization. This means that they’re all part of the journey and that the innovation center is not like an internal ‘agency’ pitching for innovation activities.”

Congrats to our partner Capgemini for authoring a great report.

Get the full report here >>

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