What would a Government Innovation Lab look like?

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This topic contains 19 replies, has 12 voices, and was last updated by  Steve Ressler 9 years, 6 months ago.

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  • #149414

    Steve Ressler

    This week we’ve talked a lot about the need for a government innovation fund.

    To compliment an innovation fund, you need a space.

    If you had to design a government innovation lab, what would it look like?

    What would be a part of it? Furniture? Types of events? Features?

    Can we do better than the MIT Media Lab?

  • #149452

    Steve Ressler

    -Definitely open space like NYC Open Bullpen but also need for breakout-rooms to rent, conference rooms
    -Definitely need an event space to hold gatherings of 50-200 people for guest speakers and more
    -Definitely need the Google-style fridges with good free food, Odwalla smoothies, coffee, etc
    -Awesome great wifi
    -Ping pong tables
    -Ideally you could have your own regular space if you are usually there…but also have some open space to hang out if you are a visitor or just for a week
    -Lots of new tech/gadgets to tech – tablets, phones, video, etc

    -Have a wall where people take their photos to post, or Facebook’s Idea wall
    -A great library with papers, magazines, books, etc
    -Regular meetups – stuff like GSA First Friday usability that normally do
    -Mix of folks – not just tech folks…make sure we get acquisition, program people , HR, etc

    Some good examples:

    http://generalassemb.ly/ (General Assembly – love it)

    MIT Media Lab

  • #149450

    Joe Sanchez

    Any updates on OPM’s innovation lab that got started in April 2010? http://www.govexec.com/dailyfed/0410/041910e1.htm

  • #149448

    Steve Ressler

    Answer from Twitter

    if they create a govt innovation lab they should base it in Silicon Valley or Seattle.

  • #149446

    Paul Wolf

    Getting government and the public to support creating an innovation fund is a tough sell. Adding the cost of creating some cool lab space will be an even tougher sell. Perhaps I am too practical or too small in my thinking but in my opinion any government innovation effort will have to occur in the less than desirable space that most government employees currently work in.

    Getting the right people together around a table can often be all you need to come up with some innovative ideas.

  • #149444

    Steve Cottle

    I met the director of Denmark’s innovation group, Mindlab, last year. While the group has taken on a lot of new roles, its initial purpose was create a physical co-working space. Here’s their philosophy:http://www.mind-lab.dk/en/about_mindlab/mindlabs-space. I think the ability to easily reconfigure is key.

  • #149442

    Terrence Hill

    No furniture – all virtual. Not tied to one agency – all agencies. Not local – global. Not just for the young – all ages. Not just pubic sector – all sectors. Not just IT – all disciplines. Not expensive – free.

    Weekly webcasts featuring the newest innovations – think FastCompany.

  • #149440


    Could we create “Wicked Problems” Labs in an Innovation Center? Perhaps we identify the five wicked problems we want the government to consider. Them we assemble cross-functional and interagency teams to address each wicked problem in a seperate lab. The problem we have had so far is that the concept has been based on the organizationally stove-piped 20th century model. Innovation labs/teams should be created to address specific problems…and then should be dissolved at a certain point when the solutions and innovations are turned to the private sector or the agencies that are responsible for dissemination.

  • #149438

    Bill Brantley

    Your agency should be the innovation lab. The problem with cordoning off an area as the official place for innovation is that it may be ignored by the rest of the organization. Think of the XEROX PARC example in which that innovation lab essentially built the modern GUI computer but their innovations were ignored by XEROX.

    Instead of “space” think “time.” Many innovative companies give their employees 10% to 20% of their work time to devote to personal projects that they later pitch to the organization. http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/332900/Innovation_and_the_20_Solution

    When you make every employee an innovator, then you truly have your innovation lab.

  • #149436

    Steve Ressler

    I like this idea Jeff.

    How would you structure the wicked problems lab. How often would they meet? How would they collaborate? How would you pick teams?

  • #149434

    Steve Ressler

    I like it…Besides weekly webcasts, what other activities would you have?

  • #149432

    Steve Ressler

    Definitely need standing desks, those exercise balls as seats

    Cool paintings – maybe local artists, maybe government artists

    White board wall or chalk paint wall

    Need some break-out rooms besides open space – where you can close door, be focused. Or have small groups session

  • #149430

    Tom Ritchey


    Good concept. We have been doing something along these lines with the Swedish governement for the past 15 years: facilitated, non-quantified modelling workshops, empolying general morphological analysis (GMA), to investigate the structure and stakeholder relationships invovled in wicked (policy driven) problems.

    We recently published a book on our experiance with this:

    “Wicked Problems – Social Messes: Decision support Modelling with Morphological Analysis”. Springer, 2011.

    You can see a description at Springer here:



    Tom R.
    Swedish Morphological Society (http://www.swemorph.com)

  • #149428

    Virginia Gaskins

    The furniture would be moveable, and inviting. It would allow for small collaboration pods in addition to individual working areas. It would be inspirational. It would use Idea paint on the walls.

  • #149426

    Steve Cottle

    When a colleague of mine was tasked with designing a similar space, she found the book “I Wish I Worked There!” (http://www.iwishiworkedthere.com/) helpful for providing ideas. It provides a survey of work spaces designed by companies considered to be “innovative” brands. While there are some pretty over-the-top building designs in there, there are a lot of interesting ideas for creating innovation/collaboration spaces.

  • #149424

    Virginia Gaskins


    Check out what Think Quarterly put out on Innovation spaces!

  • #149422

    Terrence Hill

    I’ll steal some ideas from Fast Company to give you some other activities:

    – Fast-Feeds – Daily Snapshots of Innovation in Action

    – Fast-Forward – Predictions of the Future Based on What Innovative Organizations are Doing Today

    – Fast-Talk – Snippets About Specific Topics from Industry Leaders (Focused Opinions)

    – Fast Players – Bios of Innovators/Creative Geniues

  • #149420

    Abed Ali

    I think you need a good mix of collaborative space, but time/space for solitude/privacy. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/15/opinion/sunday/the-rise-of-the-new-groupthink.html?pagewanted=all

  • #149418

    Andrea Schneider

    This post is excellent and very worth reading. Bill makes some interesting points and Christian Bason of MindLab responds.

  • #149416

    Deb Green

    It appears to have finally arrived – OPM’s Innovation Lab is complete – – at the cost of $750,000 – – But I’m jealous and wish we had space like this. The good news: It’s apparently open to all feds for use.

    If anyone has a contact/POC in order to reserve this room, I’m very interested in that information 😉


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