Stanford Social Innovation Review "Innovation Labs: 10 Defining Features"

Innovation labs, with their aspirations to foster systemic change, are becoming a mainstay of the social innovation scene. Used by city administrations, NGOs, think tanks, and multinational corporations, labs have the potential to become a default framework for collaborative innovation. Yet for all their seeming popularity, labs face a basic problem that closely parallels the predicament of hub organizations: There is little clarity on their core features, and few shared definitions exist that would make sense amid their diverse themes and settings. Most advocates would probably agree that a typical innovation lab spans organizational, sectoral, and geographical boundaries, and strives to engage a wide range of stakeholders in problem-solving activities, and aims for systemic change. But a more-nuanced and analytical approach is badly needed to help guide future lab leaders and participants, as well as to inspire funder trust in labs’ likely impacts.

In our latest article co-authored by Lidia Gryszkiewicz, Tuukka Toivonen and Ioanna Lykourentzou, published at Stanford Social Innovation Review online, we propose 10 defining features of innovation labs. Our account is based on original, qualitative interviews with the founders and leaders of a dozen labs, as well as an analysis of the online self-descriptions of 30 labs around the world (including Quartier Stuff in Kirchberg, Luxembourg). And while these 10 characteristics are far from unique to innovation labs, their combination can help us understand labs as a distinctive phenomenon. Unpacking these dimensions can provide practitioners, funders, and scholars with a more-nuanced snapshot of what innovation labs are about, how to assess them, and what their limits might be.

#expertise sharing, #thought leadership, #innovation labs