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Christian Bason

Must innovation labs be value-driven?

By October 25th 2009

On Oktober 12-13, 20 leaders of innovation labs gathered with academics and policy experts from the European Commission to formulate a vision for labs in Europe by 2020. The challenge was to show how innovation labs might help solve complex social, environmental and economic challenges through sustainable, human-centered and democratized innovation. See Stepháne Vincents photos from the event, which was held at MindLab, here.

Lots of topics were discussed, drawing on insights from the practical work taking place at diverse organisations like NESTA Lab and the Innovation Unit of the UK, la 27e Region of France, and Medialab Prado of Spain. One of the most fascinating aspects of the conversation was the question whether innovation labs are value-driven? Because if a particularly strong sense of mission and purpose is crucial for labs to be effective, what does that mean for the potential of labs, and what are the implications for how to create, lead and grow them? To shape relevant future policy, might we first have to better understand how values are selected and cultivated in a ‘lab’ enviornment?

The discussion made me think back to early 2007, when we started on the journey towards the second generation of MindLab. One of the first things we did in our newly assembled core team was, in fact, to formulate a set of common values. Through a creative process, we arrived at the following five value statements, which have proven to be, in fact, central to our daily work:

Challenge. We challenge traditional thinking and bureaucracy

Communication. Our communication is inspiring and straitforward

Cooperation. We challenge each other’s thinking

Atmosphere. We drink black tea and green coffee

Results. We experiment with the objective in mind.

We often refer to these values when making key decisions: Who to join the team, which projects to take on, how to relate to the barriers we encounter, how to treat each other, who to collaborate with externally. (Ohh, and what kind of coffee to drink!).

Our values are, in many respects, of greater operational importance than our strategy.

So, yes, MindLab is value-driven. And perhaphs innovation labs have to be, in order to maintain a strong sense of purpose and direction in the midst of a chaotic, complex and difficult reality.

I would therefore like to extend an invitation to our fellow innovation labs around the globe to join the conversation here on MindBlog:

What are your values, and what do they do for you?

Because perhaps by understanding the role of values better, we can also learn how to create effective innovation labs that can help shape the future we desire.

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