Over the course of 2016, MoMA held three innovations labs, that are akin to one-day workshops to explore issues like online collections, fundraising and events for the museum. The goal is to build prototypes than can be integrated into the daily life of the museum. In a Medium post, Jackie Thomas, manager of the digital media department of MoMA, tells about everything you should think about to organize an innovation lab to foster innovation in your museum. We broke some of it down for you:

Mix people from inside and outside your institution

Innovation in your museum should be everyone’s preoccupation. Choose a cross-departmental group that is not too big – Jackie Thomas advises you to have no more than 12 people in a room. It is always easier to find Aside from your museum staff, choose outside facilitators that can run the innovation lab, bring new ideas, help your staff to go into their ideas in depth.
Also make them meet new people: startupers, consultants, people who foster innovation in other museums who will fuel your participants’ debates.
To help you review the prototypes, ask some senior staff to come by: curators, of course, and audience experts that may be the most knowledgeable in what your visitors may actually use.

Choose the right time span… and give enough time afterwards

How long do you want your innovation lab to be? How do you want to organize the time?
Whatever your answers to these two questions are, here are some things you have to keep in mind.
Always start by letting people get to know each other. Most of your participants may be already working together but some if you bring people from outside your organization, starting with something really informal is a must. And even if you do your lab with people who seem to know each other, don’t forget they may have never met outside of a formal work setting and still need some ice-breaking.
Give people time to share their ideas. When people feel comfortable with each other, arrange time for them to share their craziest ideas.
Don’t forget that the innovation lab isn’t part of people’s everyday job. During the workshops, arrange time to check their emails and other work-related matter. When people go back to their everyday preoccupation, give them advice to find time to work on their prototypes if you want them to (or schedule time so people have a fixed time slot to advance their projects).

Not too far, not too close: find the appropriate space

Find a space that is both friendly to have ideas in and to confront and organize ideas in. Yes, those are two different things. On the one hand, you’ll want a venue that is informal enough to get people out of their everyday habits, do they feel comfortable having and discussing the most crazy ideas. To foster that, choose that has natural light that will help your participants get inspired and also avoid headaches.
When everybody has shared their ideas, a wall on which you can stick post-its will be your best friend when it comes to displaying, rating and discussing ideas. That wall needs to be in a room that is big enough to accommodate all the participants of you workshop session. Finally, if you want to get people to start creating prototypes, use a space that can easily be (or already is) divided: if different groups work on different projects, they’ll need their own space.
Okay, I know now what kind of space I am looking for, but where do I find it, you may ask. Well, get your folks out of the office, either by finding a venue in your city that will allow participants to go home at the end of each day, or pick a place out of town that will create your teams’ brand new environment for a few days.

In her post, Jackie Thomas also explains what she has learned and what she would have done differently after those three sessions. Read it and use her advice and the lessons she has learnt to be more innovative in your own museum!


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