Why Innovation Labs?

John W Lewis's picture
Chat Date: 
Thu, Aug 11, 2016

This week Ogilvy & Mather, @Ogilvy, shut down Ogilvy Labs, @OgilvyLabs. Laboratories for innovation, set up by a variety of organizations to increase innovation activity, generate plenty of interest and support. But what are they for, how do they operate, and how do they perform? Let's discuss innovation labs, their purpose, and their performance, during #innochat at 12 noon Eastern time on Thursday August 11.

Innovation and R & D Labs

Innovation labs can be compared and contrasted with traditional research and development laboratories. We are familiar with large organizations operating laboratories for research and development (R & D). With the growing interest in innovation and understanding of its importance to the performance of organizations, R & D has become increasingly synonymous with innovation. Yet they are different.

Laboratories — whether for innovation, R & D, or anything else — have a purpose. But is their purpose well understood? How are those purposes similar and different? Do they achieve their purpose?

Research and revenue

In the case of Ogilvy & Mather, Ogilvy Labs was led by Nicole Yershon, @nicoleyershon, who is reported, in an article on Campaign on the subject, to have said:

"If you’re not attached to revenue you’re always in a precarious position. From Ogilvy’s point of view they were incredible to have [Labs] going for as long as they did. I don’t have any negativity because I understand business."

This linkage of innovation to business via revenue is interesting. There are clearly other ways of measuring business value than revenue. It would have been surprising if, in its heyday, AT&T had shut down Bell Laboratories, because it wasn't "attached to revenue" — depending, of course, on how the laboratories were accounted for.

Yet Ogilvy & Mather understands the importance of research. One of its "Oglivyisms" is: "Advertising people who ignore research are as dangerous as generals who ignore decodes of enemy signals".

For more reaction on social media to the demise of Ogilvy Labs, see Twitter messages by and to @nicoleyershon.

Discussion topic

During this #innochat on Twitter at 12 noon Eastern time on Thursday August 11, in an open discussion (without prepared questions) let's discuss laboratories of various kinds, and their relationship with innovation, value, and business. This is likely to include the role of those laboratories, changes in thinking since "the old days" of research laboratories, and what this tells us about the maturity of our understanding of innovation.

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