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Myth: Innovation should be isolated from a facility

The truth: innovation benefits significantly from aligning with an established company

When it comes to imagining "how innovations happen ", most of us conjure up the image of an ambitious but somewhat eccentric person holing up in a top-secret laboratory conducting experiments to nurture their hubris in isolation. The science-fiction-like perspective of it all certainly makes things even more compelling.

Well, that's not quite how innovation happens.

While most of the big players in the market - Facebook, Starbucks, Walmart, to name a few - have their own innovation labs, the activities carried out in these rooms are rarely isolated from the company's core interests.

Conversely, innovations hatched in these laboratories will only be successful if they are supported by the resources of these well-established organizations.

Without a clear strategy based on the company's core motives, innovation laboratories can stall in achieving their goals. The most common puzzle that arises in this case is whether the laboratory should serve or disrupt the central process of the organization. To overcome this problem, most companies and their innovators seek a balance that can serve both interests well.

However, one could argue that working in secret, separate from the interests of a company, can work well - one example is Bell Labs, one of the most notable innovative companies of the 20th century. In this case, it's critical to remember that Bell Labs had abundant resources that they used transformatively to produce the innovations that earned their scientists six Nobel Prizes along the way.

While working in isolation may be fruitful in certain environments, it is hardly the norm that all businesses should adhere to.