Can innovation thrive without physical synergy?

DZ BANK’s Innovation Lab at TechQuartier

Home offices, Zoom meetings and that unmistakable ring tone of incoming virtual calls dominated work life over the past year. As a society, we are adjusting to more screen time and fewer face-to-face collaborations. The question — is this good for innovation?

For the DZ BANK Group‘s Innovation LAB, which is housed on the second floor of TechQuartier with big windows overlooking the Frankfurt skyline, the answer is clear.

Innovation and spontaneous creativity truly thrive in a physical space filled with synergy, even though the team has built and hosted successful digital workshops and international roundtables this year.

“Digital events have benefits to them, but in regard to innovation and working together to create new ideas, the physical presence defiantly has its benefits,” Christian Schmitz, Innovation and Digitization at DZ BANK.

Inside the LAB, born in 2016, supported teams use agile methods to build prototypes with expert developers and test them within three months in their “Prototyping LAB” and “Data-Driven LAB.” From 2016 to 2020, the program helped more than 60 teams discover, challenge and prototype innovative ideas.

The success rate is admirable. About 70 percent of the projects are in the process of being implemented with 11 projects from the Prototyping LAB have already been brought to market.

“The idea of the LAB is to evaluate investment decisions by checking hypothesis and prototypes. Now the LAB has developed into what we call ‘The Think and Do Tank’ for DZ BANK Gruppe. It’s not about just developing prototypes anymore,” Schmitz said.

Two new programs were introduced late last year: The “Sprint LAB“ and the “Trend LAB” The first was created to develop and validate ideas within five days using a combination of Design Thinking, Design Sprint and Rapid Prototyping. The “Trend Lab“ explores new technologies (artificial intelligence for example) and trends in different industries.

“The Innovation LAB has become a platform for various programs and has become an enabler in the company with a focus on innovation culture.”

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