December 19, 2017
Innovation at speed: X Lab Sprints
By: Roisin Connolly

We hear it all the time – in today’s fast-moving world, our clients are faced with the constant challenge of staying relevant to their customers. Time might be scarce but can it work in our favour?

Making big things happen when short on time

Jake Knapp from Google Ventures found that his best work happened when he had a big challenge and not quite enough time – a belief that laid the foundation for the Google Ventures “sprint” methodology. Knapp believes that one reason for this was that imminent deadlines forced teams to focus and didn’t allow for time to be wasted on overthinking the minor details of an idea. This approach has worked extremely well for Google and Accenture’s UKI Innovation Programme have now developed our own way of running an innovation sprint called X labs.

X labs are short innovation sprints involving a diverse team of 6-8 people, including a facilitator, designers, researchers, developers (and often clients) working collaboratively to develop a solution to a brief. The team uses a human-centred approach to understand and create solutions for real-world problems. Once the team has built up an understanding of the user needs and gathered further insight from research, they work iteratively to ideate and develop a prototype which can be tested with end users. At the core of the X labs process is design thinking – a methodology for innovating routinely that’s increasingly being adopted across Accenture globally. According to IDEO, a leading design and innovation firm, “design thinking is a way of finding human needs and creating new solutions, using the tools and mind-sets of design practitioners.” It allows us to create with our clients and end users instead of creating for them.

Lessons learnt

As X labs have been tested out in various different forms, there have been many insights about the process that we’ve learnt along the way. Firstly, the duration of the innovation sprint needs to be sufficient but flexible depending on the individual brief. Having run X labs over just three days, we found that there wasn’t enough time to iterate and make the most out of the expertise and knowledge in the team. Iteration is key to the X labs process, we also found that it’s best to test with end users at each stage of iteration – the more end users you can speak to, the better. Finally, it’s important to inspire and motivate the team throughout the X labs regardless of their background, particularly when it comes to tapping in to their creativity. As mentioned in Tom and David Kelley’s “Creative Confidence,” everybody is the creative type but some may need a bit more practice and encouragement.

Accenture drives innovation to improve the way the world works and lives. Find out how here. For more information you can contact

Popular Tags

    More blogs on this topic