OurHEX, Online Innovation Lab

Innovation Labs (i-Labs)

The Innovation Labs concept was created by the UK Royal Mail’s ‘Futures and Innovation Group’ in 1997 for the purpose of helping their management teams brainstorm future possibilities. In creating innovation spaces it became apparent that the interactions within the group, together with the conversational and session management tools played a significant role in the effectiveness of the sessions, leading to the idea for providing specialist environments (iLabs) to support these activities. In brief they deduced that an iLab required three interlinking components namely the environment, the technology and the facilitation mechanisms to make it suitable for ideation and innovation activities.  Furthermore, they determined that an iLab session comprised a mix of the following activities (most electronically supported):

  • Icebreaker and reviver activities
  • Discussion & getting other people’s perspectives
  • Brainstorming & voting
  • Headlines, cut & paste collages and PowerPoint presentations
  • Wall activities (collaborative writing, doodling etc)
  • Scenario building
  • Role play

At the core of the process was brainstorming, a technique for unleashing a flood of thoughts driven by participants sparking ideas off each other, or from carefully injected external stimulus. Having generated sufficient ideas a group would go on to categorise, rationalise and vote on the suggestions. Implementing the ideas is more challenging and occurs beyond the iLab session.

Since 1997, when the original iLab concept was proposed, it has grown in popularity resulting in over 100 globally-located iLabs (from social to technical) created by organisations as diverse as The Standard Bank, Walmart, John Lewis, the UK National Health Service (NHS), Ryan Air and government (eg New York’s ‘Public Policy Lab’ or the ‘Social Innovation Lab for Kent’).