Quick, get a pen and write this down in your “to remember” notebook: There is no innovation without experimentation.
Organizations that understand this principle create an evolutionary advantage that enables them to disrupt themselves. The ones that don’t, will always play the game not to lose; waiting until a crisis hits to be motivated to change.
One such company that doesn’t wait to be outpaced by others is famed chain Shake Shack, which recently opened its first Innovation Kitchen. Shake Shack is another creation of restaurateur Danny Meyer, with a focus on “high-quality fast food”.
The Innovation Kitchen doubles down on this value proposition because it will allow Shake Shack to try more chef-driven items like the Humm Burger created by chef Daniel Humm, the Piggie Shack burger created Daniel Bouloud, an Eel Burger, and others.
The Innovation Kitchen is located below the new restaurant, has its own kitchen, and has space for Shake Shack’s culinary team to develop and test new recipes everyday. These recipes then make their way to the main menu so customers can try them, and allow them to give feedback on what they think should be added to the menu permanently.
Check out the video below to see how it works:
Do innovation labs work?
Shake Shack isn’t the only company that has publicly setup an “Innovation Lab”. There are many others, such as Nordstrom, Microsoft, Coca-Cola and The New York Times; most of these initiatives have since downsized or shut down.
The reason? An innovation lab is a tactic designed to create a startup within a corporation; but corporate innovation is very hard. The obsession needed to drive a startup usually doesn’t exist for a person or team that’s on payroll.
Innovation is hard to recreate in an environment that doesn’t have the same constraints of a startup. This is why corporations pay more lip service to innovation!
Will Shake Shack’s Innovation Lab succeed? Who knows, but it’s worth keeping an eye on and learning from their experience. First off, Shake Shack is not part of public company that’s evaluated every three months. And the leader of the company is its founder, driven by the beat of his own heart; not the stock price.