Make Innovation Labs Your Superpower







Lisa Fratzke

Partner & Executive Strategist,

Head of Client Strategy



We’ve worked with a lot of big brands over the years and we’ve identified a common pattern that exists between businesses that fail and those that succeed. Dynamic innovations are the key to maintaining market dominance and positioning your business for the future.

In the midst of all that you need to do on the daily just to keep your business running and your customers happy, how do you make it a priority?

You need to embed innovation into the DNA of your business, and we believe one of the best ways to do that is to start an Innovation Lab.  

What the heck is an Innovation Lab?

Picture for yourself a lean, mean innovation team working to launch a startup or new product before they run out of runway. Now, remove the limiting factors – provide them with capital and resources. This, in essence, is an Innovation Lab.

Large brands use dynamic innovation labs to construct out-of-the-box solutions to entrenched challenges in their market. Consider it a creative accelerator that supercharges your growth.

The first step is to look inward to identify innovators within your company, and remove them from the bureaucracy that is preventing them from helping your brand reach its full potential. Place these people on a team together. Discuss the challenges you see both internally and externally. Agree on the problems they need to tackle. Challenge existing thinking surrounding these problems.

And most importantly, ensure the executive leadership in your organization is open to the ideas the Innovation Lab brings to the table and prepared to incorporate them as part of their short and long-term growth strategy.

An Innovation Lab is a long-term project. Do not expect quick results. They’ll need time to construct a framework, test ideas and acquire fresh perspectives. And don’t make the mistake of separating them from the company. Empower them to take part in every facet of your business.

The level of innovation at your company will increase. Your corporate culture will evolve in ways that allow you to compete more effectively. And you may just end up blowing up your existing company – but that’s okay, because version 2.0 will harness your company’s past to solidify its hold on the future. Innovation Labs empower established brands to disrupt themselves before someone else does.

Imagine if an innovative taxi company did this in the early 2000s. Chances are, Uber wouldn’t exist in its present form. Instead, we’d witness an established transportation brand solidify its hold on the future – growing its annual revenue by $11.3 billion (Uber’s Total Revenue in 2018).

When companies resist change, choosing to do things the way they’ve always been done, outsiders are given an opportunity to disrupt established industries.   

Innovation Labs in the Market:

The legacy brands that we work with are actively looking for ways to blow up their own business and become the disruptor. They understand that failure to innovate could be fatal.

Here’s one of many real-world case studies we like to discuss:

Walmart Labs

Bentonville, Arkansas (Walmart’s Corporate Headquarters) isn’t exactly known around the world as a tech hub. Walmart saw the writing on the wall. Amazon was eating their lunch in the e-commerce space.

So, the world’s largest retailer decided to open an Innovation Lab in San Francisco – strategically positioned to attract top tech-talent from Silicon Valley.

Walmart Labs has empowered Walmart to disrupt themselves by graying the lines between in-store and online sales. The result, so far, is that consumers can visit Walmart’s redesigned website and place their order. Then, a few hours later, they can drive into a reserved parking space, call a number and have their order loaded into their vehicle.

This end-to-end reimagining of how e-commerce and physical retail interact has resulted in a 40% increase in Walmart’s e-commerce sales in its most recent fiscal quarter. That’s INSANE growth powered by innovation.

3 Steps for Creating Your Innovation Lab (White Coats Optional)

So, you understand that your company needs to launch an Innovation Lab, but where do you start?

  1. Transform Company Culture

Innovation can’t just be a buzzword. You need to infuse your corporate culture with a collaborative spirit that encourages new ideas. Corporate leadership needs to be fully open to new ideas. This will give the ideas your innovation lab generates a fighting chance outside the lab.

  1. Invest in Long-Term Thinking

Game-changing ideas take time to develop. This is why it’s so important to get started now. You need to give your team the time and resources required to revolutionize your brand. Short-sighted thinking on this will rob your company of groundbreaking innovation, opening the door for outsiders to disrupt you.

  1. Hire a Director of Innovation

You need to have a full-time innovator on your executive team. They will lead the charge and serve as a bridge between leadership and the Innovation Lab. One of their primary duties as an innovation manager will involve reporting back to the C-Suite on current progress in the lab.

These three steps will give you a foundation for successful innovation. But please, resist the urge to silo your Innovation Lab. They need to be fully integrated with your entire product management team.

This will infuse their innovative culture into your organization – resulting in maximum improvement to the bottom-line. The problem solving ideas generated by this team will benefit from their ability to communicate with the entire organization.

If you’re struggling with crafting your own Innovation Lab, or need help in accelerating your growth, the team at Fratzke would love to help your brand shift towards innovation.



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