By: Caleb Sotelo, Director of OpenX Labs
In a few short years the Lean Startup movement has transformed the way companies of all shapes and sizes grow. Lean practice encourages the application of science in business innovation — by making measurable hypotheses about products and users, and proceeding to validate these with experiments, we can eliminate waste and bring truly valuable products to market much faster.
For startups building in uncharted territory, this approach can appear so obvious it almost doesn’t deserve the name “Lean”. But for larger companies with well-established products in known markets, Lean practice can seem foreign and incompatible with their business because an approach that constantly factors in uncertainty and experimentation tends to buck traditional management techniques. Is there are a place for innovating scientifically in well-established companies?
Innovation in Large Companies
“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”
Innovation is exciting because it opens doors to new solutions, products, and lines of business. But, as Einstein points out, innovation is more than an exciting alternative, it is necessary for progress. Our thinking itself must evolve to keep up with the latest challenges and opportunities. For this reason, Lean practice isn’t only for traditional garage and ramen noodle startups; established companies need innovation engines—internal startups—that systematically discover sources of long-term growth.
This is especially true in display advertising technology. Have you seen the LUMAScape? We work in one of the most complicated, fast-moving, and profitable industries in the world. Ad tech is brimming with new evolutions, from new technologies like Real Time-Bidding to new display mediums like wearables and virtual reality. New ideas must be captured and tested continuously in order to ensure survival, let alone success or market leadership.
Introducing OpenX Labs
We at OpenX recognize the need for continuous, disciplined innovation, and as a result, we’re proud to announce OpenX Labs, an internal organization whose purpose is to sustain innovation for OpenX and our customers’ long-term success. Our vision is to serve our customers by incubating new ideas, testing ideas that are valuable, all while learning intensely throughout the process. Let’s unpack this:
1. Incubating New Ideas
Incubating innovations is Labs’ specialty. In a spirit of entrepreneurship, the goal is to take ideas that have the potential to benefit OpenX’s customers, and develop them iteratively through the application of Lean techniques. Ultimately, collecting and moving forward with ideas that show a strong promise for success.
2. Surfacing Valuable Ideas
After incubation, projects that demonstrate significant value will be suggested for graduation to core teams for continued development.
3. Learning Intensely
Demonstrations that do not prove immediate and significant value for OpenX are tabled. However, the methodology Labs will employ for incubating ideas guarantees that “failure” is always accompanied by empirical data and insights. The approach ensures that every Labs initiative, when executed correctly, will generate valuable business data that will be meticulously recorded. The quality of learning that happens should be the true measure of our success.
Labs is a Service
Most importantly, Labs is not a secretive Research and Development department, but an open group with fluid membership, where practices and progress are shared freely. To this end we’ve introduced an internal system that allows any employee across the company to submit and discuss ideas for potential Labs incubation. The Labs team will be comprised of OpenX employees who are willing to contribute on a per-project basis. Aligned with the values of the larger organization, service is our guiding principle.
OpenX Labs is a way to harness the creativity of our employees, and establish an engine for identifying the ideas that will add long-term value for the customers we serve. We look forward to sharing the products, features, and insights that come out of Labs in the coming months.