By way of an intro, here’s a brief summary of four methods for innovation.


The innovation lab is now a well-established concept.

Labs may focus on product design, digital experience or both, using dedicated creative spaces that can often insulate a new culture and allow it to thrive.

There are many examples of labs – Econsultancy has covered some of them (most recently Nationwide, but notable examples include Hive and Ryanair).

In the recent Innovating Digital Customer Experience report, Markus Wulff, Digital Innovation at Absolut, explained more about the company’s lab and its work on connected bottles.

Our testing lab allows everyone across our business to actually experience the consumer experience related to connected bottles and our ability to quickly iterate means that the space is constantly being improved.

The best outcome from the ‘real world’ testing environment is that our local market teams can visit our global headquarters, see the types of things they can do with connected bottles and then work with us on delivering programs on a more localized level.

ryanair labs 

Hackathons and hideaways

The equivalent of the staff away day, but with users (even new ones) involved and more of a practical bent (not simply building a raft out of logs). (a vacation rental booking engine) uses this technique, holding digital experience innovation weekends in association with 3 Day Startup, a company that brings startup mindsets and practices to larger organizations.

Some of the attendees are not linked with the company in any way, but work with staff to create solutions for HomeAway’s customer needs at these weekend-long innovation events.

To quote the 3DS website, the following processes are prioritized:

  • Creativity and Ideation
  • Problem/pain and opportunity identification
  • Critical thinking & problem-solving abilities
  • Minimum viable solution creation, testing, and iteration
  • Better communication of ideas and pitching
  • Risk mitigation

Of course, there are many ways to hold a hackathon, and they can be done on a relative shoestring.

Collaborating using Socratic Circles

Socratic Circles can allow brainstorming sessions free from the strictures of corporate culture.

They remove bias, encourage conversation and creative thinking. The idea is to use dialogue to seek understanding of complex ideas.


Creating a culture

How to create an innovative culture is the million dollar question. The three methods above are merely attempts at fostering this culture on a smaller scale and focusing it on specific problems.

Changing company culture is a challenge unique to each example, but there are issues that come to the fore.

Priorities include fixing broken windows (giving people the right equipment and environment), recruiting well (the right skills and attitude for competitive pay and perks), creating time for training and personal development, fostering cross-team working, empowering staff, bringing skills in-house, putting the customer at the centre and adopting a two-speed IT infrastructure.

Accounting is perhaps one of the biggest influences on innovation and culture, as Omaid Hiwaizi, President of Global Marketing, Blippar, explains when talking about the lab format:

Create an environment where innovative thinking can thrive. A large business can create a different unit with a separate P&L and payback timeline.

It needs a slightly longer payback and different criteria around how time and money are invested. That has a greater chance of succeeding.

Travelex and its success with new products is also a great example of how moving from a focus on short term revenue can aid innovation. 

For more on the subject of innovation, subscribers can download Innovating the Digital Customer Experience.