Tapping the Idea Pipeline

Learn how companies use innovation studios to find the next big idea.

Date:Feb. 14, 2020

In today’s hypercompetitive marketplace, knowing what’s next is crucial to a company’s success. Having an ability to anticipate consumers’ needs and implement technology before it hits the street could be the difference between growing sales or going bust.


There are consequences when you’re not totally engaged with your customers. History shows that when companies are slow to adapt to a changing marketplace, they end up in Chapter 11. (See Kodak and Blockbuster.) Equally telling is a Capgemini Consulting study that found since the year 2000, 52 percent of the Fortune 500 have merged, been acquired or have gone bankrupt because they failed to make the digital shift.


With this sobering news in mind, smart companies are taking serious action to adapt and compete. They are developing innovation studios (also called centers, labs, etc.) to help push themselves forward to meet consumer needs and prepare for future market challenges. Companies with innovation studios represent a wide range of sectors – manufacturing, telecom, retail, even quick-serve restaurants and their studios can be found in creative hotspots like Silicon Valley, Atlanta, Toronto, London and Singapore.


Innovation has been the driving force behind the mushrooming financial technology (FinTech) sector as this industry continues to disrupt banking, investing, payment operations and more across international markets. With 386 global patents and counting, innovation has been in InComm’s DNA since the company opened shop over 25 years ago. But the FinTech leader is upping its game by launching an innovation center: Go Studio.


By opening an innovation center, InComm and other companies are leveraging the ethos of a start-up - fast, aggressive and deliberate - to propel innovation and remain on top. Go Studio promises to be an exciting venture, and to help you get you up to speed on the innovation center phenomenon, here are some noteworthy details:


Innovation centers connect to various sources to generate ideas.
Innovation centers connect to various sources to generate ideas.


What is an innovation center? 

A dedicated “safe area” set up by companies to focus on problem-solving. A typical innovation center cuts across organizational and physical boundaries, engaging a wide range of stakeholders company employees, client/partners, academic communities – in brainstorming and ideation to generate outside-the-box solutions.




Why are some centers called “labs,” “hubs” and “studios”? 

Different companies have specific name preferences. While their names are different, each one essentially describes a location that focuses on generating innovative ideas.




What do they do?

Every company has different objectives for innovation. Most centers are given a collection of important projects to work on and are tasked with pushing the parent company’s current strategy in new directions. The challenges could be external or internal. The innovation center explores new opportunities that enhance or in some cases even compete with the parent’s core business. Some centers may be involved in commercializing ideas while others focus on generating ideas that will be passed on to another group to execute. The centers will often explore how emerging technologies – such as Big Data, Internet of Things and augmented reality – could be utilized to deliver breakthrough ideas.




When did these centers start popping up? 

The first innovation centers can be traced back to the 1920s when forward-thinking European companies Philips and T-Mobile (Deutsche Telekom) founded specialized, in-house groups to concept and develop new products. The idea really exploded in the last decade with a wide range of industries establishing centers. 




Why do companies open them? 

Innovation is vital and businesses believe that having a committed think space will help them: 

  • Create new devices, services or technologies 
  • Get closer to customers’ needs 
  • Uncover new ways of doing things 
  • Modify business models 
  • Adapt to changes to be more competitive 
  • Attract new talent



What companies have an innovation center? 

There are a significant number of innovation centers across the U.S. – employed by companies of varying sizes. Some companies have their center based in or nearby their headquarters, while others opt to have a mobile center or a global network of interconnected centers that can deliver multicultural perspectives. Here are several prominent ones: 

  • Accenture – Accenture Innovation Hubs (global locations) 
  • AT&T – AT&T Foundry (global locations) 
  • Delta – The Hangar 
  • Elavon – The Grove 
  • KPMG – KPMG Learning & Innovation Center 
  • Visa - Visa Innovation Centers (global locations)




How do innovation centers generate ideas?

Most centers believe that collaboration among many unique and varied sources will produce the best solutions. To facilitate collaborations that generate big ideas, centers host ideation sessions, workshops and hackathons – and engage a wide range of groups to participate, including business partners, universities, start-ups, as well as their company’s own employees. The centers aim to fill their tank with as many ideas as possible, filtering out the expected and moving forward with the exceptional.




Do these centers align with a company’s corporate strategy?

They should. Successful centers (like Apple’s and AT&T’s) are in lockstep with managements’ goals. By aligning business and innovation strategies, the innovation center becomes less nebulous and more defined as a powerful vehicle for growth.




What superstar products have come out of innovation centers? 

The Transistor – The fundamental component of modern electronic devices was invented at AT&T’s Bell Labs in 1947 and made its first commercial appearance in the transistor radio in 1957.  
Echo Smart Speaker – “Alexa” was created at Amazon’s Lab126 in 2010, and the product made its debut in late 2014. 
Xerox 9700 Laser Printer – The plans were developed in 1969 at Xerox PARC (Palo Alto Research Center), and the landmark invention hit the market in 1977. 


IBM Simon Smartphone – The first commercially available smartphone came out of IBM Research and launched in 1994. 
Waymo Self-Driving Car – The self-driving car company is the brainchild of Google X and has launched several pilot programs around the U.S. beginning in 2017.



Companies have realized that innovation does not come from a few hand-picked brainiacs working alone in separate offices. By creating dedicated think spaces, they have found a way to assemble diverse minds to collaborate on ideas. It certainly improves their chances of catching lightning in bottle. Or at least discovering the next Airbnb. If you’d like to learn more about innovation centers or how to engage Go Studio on a project, visit our website now.