28 October 2005

Business Week discusses innovation labs

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Much of the critical work on the Razr, Motorola’s half-inch-thick, ultralight cell phone was done at a downtown Chicago innovation lab known as Moto City — rather than solely in the company’s sprawling traditional research and development facility in suburban Libertyville, Ill. […]

Innovation labs are a key part of a movement to overhaul old-style R&D. They are designed to complement, and sometimes even replace, the intensive traditional system — which required that scientists or engineers toil away privately for years in the pursuit of patents, then hand their work over to product developers, who in turn dropped it onto designers’ and marketers’ laps for eventual shipment out to the public. […]

The need for speed in innovation stretches beyond high-tech companies. Outfits as varied as Mattel, Steelcase, Boeing, Wrigley, Procter & Gamble, and even the Mayo Clinic now use such labs to shatter bureaucratic barriers that have grown up among inventors, engineers, researchers, designers, marketers, and others. […]

Instead of assembly line, think swarming beehive. Teams of people from different disciplines gather to focus on a problem. They brainstorm, tinker, and toy with different approaches — and generate answers that can be tested on customers and sped to the market.

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