web - Not Another Lab: embedding innovation in organisations – FACT 2024 Symposium
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Stories & Ideas

Tue 27 Feb 2024

Not Another Lab: embedding innovation in organisations – FACT 2024 Symposium

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With funding increasingly scarce in the 2020s, is there still a value to the ‘innovation lab’?

The popular history of the ‘corporate innovation lab’ is mostly one of failure; innovations generated in labs being rarely integrated into, or seriously transforming a company’s ‘core business’. The low-interest rate era of the 2010s led to a growth of ‘labs’ in the creative industries allowing many innovative but ultimately short-lived ‘projects’. With funding increasingly scarce in the 2020s, is there still a value to the ‘lab’? How are large cultural organisations evolving their practices away from labs, to results-oriented internally-led transformation?


Paula Bray (State Library of Victoria), Claire Pillsbury (California Academy of Sciences), Lucie Paterson (ACMI), moderated by Jess Lehmann (ACMI)

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Watch the video with graphic notations by Jessamy Gee

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Okay, we'll just jump straight into it because we've got a tight timeline here. So good morning everyone. My name is Jessica Lehman and I'm Program Manager here at ACMI. And this panel we've got coming up is Not Another Lab, Embedding Innovation in Organisations. So similarly to what Keri's panel was about, innovation projects, we'll move more into the internal embedding of those innovation projects into our cultural orgs. So hopefully there'll be a bit of some practical tips for you all following this. So just a blurb of what we're going to be covering today. The popular history of the corporate innovation lab is mostly one of failure of innovations generated in labs being rarely integrated into or seriously transforming a company's core business. The low interest rate era of the 2010s led to a growth of labs in the creative industries with many innovative, innovative, that's a tricky word, but ultimately short lived projects. With funding increasingly scarce in the 2020s, is there still a value to the lab? How are cultural organisations evolving their practices away from labs to results oriented internally led transformation? So this panel will explore this context, experiences and some practical application of innovation, labs and experimentation in our creative sector. To delve into this topic and beyond, I'm really delighted to be joined by our panellists, Paula Bray, Lucie Paterson and Claire Pillsbury. Firstly, today we'll hear from Paula Bray. So Paula is currently the Chief Digital Officer at the State Library of Victoria, where she is leading the library's digital future through creating compelling digital experiences that place the visitor at the heart. Paula has over 20 years experience working in cultural heritage institutions. And very pertinent to this panel topic, Paula set up Australia's first dedicated innovation lab in a cultural heritage organisation, the DX lab at the State Library of New South Wales. And she also published a book on how to set up an innovation lab with 15 peers from the international G.L.A.M. community. Let's welcome Paula. I'd just like to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation and pay my respects to elders past, present and emerging. So yes, not another lab. It's really kind of refreshing to hear a lot of people speaking over the last day and this morning about kind of what I'm summarising today. I feel like there's so much growth that has happened in arts and culture over the last 10 years. So it's really, really great to hear that. I'm new to State Library Victoria and I'm thrilled to be there. I've been admiring that library for a long time and I really love working in libraries. So our library was established in 1856 and it is a hub of young people. It's the civic heart of the city. It's a place where people under the age of 35 are flocking to every single day to do a range of different things. They're coming to produce, to create, to innovate, to inspire others and be a hub of connection and access to knowledge. So I think it's really fascinating. We have a beautiful building. We've been through a really big redevelopment programme since 2020. We've expanded our spaces by 40% and it's wonderful. Great programming, great exhibitions. But what we're doing now is focusing on how we can take that experience of the physical building and take that beyond the walls. Take it to the state, take it to the world. So it's a really exciting time to be joining State Library. So I want to talk a little bit about I've spent a long time in cultural heritage. I've worked in lots of organisations in Sydney and I think really what I've been trying to do for that whole time is find creative and innovative ways to make their collections accessible, reusable, open and for people to gain new forms of knowledge. And I've put a little bit of the lab practice into a lot of those institutions but I think the fastest amount of learning I have done in my career was probably the six years that I spent in the DX Lab at the State Library of New South Wales. And I think labs are really great at bringing people together. And in 2019 a whole bunch of us working in the labs community space came together to do an experiment which was to write a book in a week in a hotel room in Doha which was kind of an interesting experience in itself. And I think there's one other person here, Kristy Kokegei, who was at this week that we had in Doha to establish this book. But I think this is what labs do really well. They bring people together. And I just did a quick search. I haven't sort of delved too much in this book in the last six months but it's something that I pick up and I reread and it's kind of episodic. You can pick out things that you need from it when you need it which I love. And I just wanted to see how many of those labs are kind of still around or doing stuff. And I was really pleased actually to see on the right hand side how many of those labs are actually still kind of doing this innovative work, making data sets available, looking at new ways to expand collections. And that was quite heartening. So there were two labs though, however, that were in libraries that are no longer physical teams placed within those organisations. New York Public Library Labs and the lab that I established which was DXLAB. And I thought, you know, as did they fail or were they there at a certain point in time to maybe trip a system and then it's okay to stop? We're not good at stopping but I think this is a really interesting thing. Did we fail? I think when I went into DXLAB I thought, you know, three years, if I can do this in three years I feel like I've succeeded. And it did go on for six years, much to my surprise and delight. But, you know, digital, I feel it's not a destination. I have a big problem with this word digital transformation. It's like we get to the train station and then what? You know, we've heard so many people speaking today about it is an ongoing thing. It is not new. It is not a destination. The journey is as important and the train stops between that destination are just as important. The people getting on the train, the stories from the train, the people getting off the train. So I think, you know, these labs exposed their collections in really new and exciting ways and they're still available even though the teams aren't there working within those institutions. A lot of what labs really do well is about sharing their knowledge. And so a lot of these works are still available today in GitHub and on their websites. So labs, they're not new either, just like Immersive. They've been around, you know. There's a whole bunch of labs in history and I love this, the BBC Radiophonic Workshop that was there set up to explore, you know, sound effects that I think ended up being featured a lot in Doctor Who episodes, which I love. And then you've got this, you know, idea of IKEA having Space 10 and, you know, the kind of founder was saying it was never meant to last. The Space 10 lab was there for a reason. It did what it needed to do and that was fine. I'd kind of argue that we've all got a bit of Space 10 in our lounge room so it kind of lives on anyway. So I guess there's three things I think labs really need. I think they can expose organisational challenges and new ways of working. So the really key thing is they're there to look at what is possible. What is possible outside of that word BAU? And I think they have this core vision, which is prototyping is a focus. A lot of people think of labs as running off and kind of doing this stuff that is maybe not at the core, right? It's at the periphery. It's maybe something we shouldn't be working on. But actually prototyping is a focus. Prototyping gets to the heart of the problem and it is, you know, I think we tend to go, we have a problem, we know the solution, we will do this and you will like it. But I think prototyping is really important and it really makes you focus. We've heard a lot about this. They need trust and they need support, which goes beyond the team or the people who are doing the experiments. So trust from the top to the bottom to the sides. It's everyone's responsibility in a way to make that work. So what is failure? I think we've heard a lot about collaboration. That is the heart of the lab. People. It's not technology. It's about people. People coming together to solve problems in diverse ways, to grow their skills and they can do this in a safe and bold way. Small teams can be a powerful force. And I think that's something that we really need to try and embrace in our big kind of more organisational corporate environments. We've heard so much about the role of experimentation over the last day and a half. You know, experimentation is at the core. Low cost, high value. You know, our previous talk about immersives, you've heard a lot about these low cost, high value stakes. You know, the role of experimentation, it's taking us out of that comfort zone, I think, of we have a gap. We make a thing. You like the thing. Prototype, iterate, perfect and learn. Such a huge value to take into the other ways we work in organisations. And really, it's not a destination. It's ongoing. It's transformational. Labs unpick the process. They open up ways for you to view things from that bird's eye view that you may not get working in a sort of other methodology. They're built for speed. You know, they can test and try and run a bit faster. You know, it's pretty hard for our organisations to turn quickly. We're like the ocean liner. You know, it's really hard to turn that big beast. Meanwhile, you've got the kind of lab and the experimentation running around you like the speedboat. So it's kind of like a nice analogy. If it lasts a year, did it fail? Did it trip the system? Did it inform your organisation of something? Yeah, it's a catalyst. Labs are catalysts to working differently. So where are the risks? We've heard, you know, Mia yesterday talking about skills and our sector not being able to attract some of the skills we need. But I'd say it's more about moving your mindset from expert to curious. And it takes a whole bunch of different diverse ways of thinking about how to make lab experiments successful. So you need people who maybe aren't digital, you know, maybe who are curious, who have a different way of working. So broadly, it's about skills. We've got the issue with the funding. We've all heard about our problems with our funding, right? And we've heard about scale. We've heard about low cost, high value. And we're all going into kind of difficult times. And we all need to think about how can we be creative in solving that problem? This is a big problem. A lot of labs have been established out of big funding initiatives such as digitisation, mass digitisation. And when that money stops, it's kind of like, okay, well, that stops too because that is associated with the funding. It's not necessarily considered business as usual. So it's the first thing to go is usually experimentation. The third, the value proposition of them. And this is where the trust and support comes in from the top to the bottom to the sides. Labs have actually been seen as these things that are nice to have. And I'm not saying everybody, every organisation should have a lab, but I think there's ways in the methodology that you can bring this into your organisation. Success and failure are relative, right? If the trust and support isn't there, is it the actual lab that fails or is it the system? So I'm going to talk a little bit about State Library Victoria now. Next phase of our library is very focused on that word digital. I'm going to own that word again because it's Chief Digital Officer. I'm happy, I'm proud. We have an amazing building. We have an amazing collection. We do great programming exhibitions. We offer really great services. We're free to access and we're open to all, right? What a great remit that is, especially in today's society. But we're looking at how we can take all of these things and actually expand that beyond those physical building constraints that we have. Always on, always accessible, a multi-platform library. It's a big remit. We're really excited about it, but it's going to take a journey for us to get there. So when you look at what our kind of scale, the return on investment in digital, you know, we get the zeros, right? The browser gets the zeros. The building is the big focus, but I think this is where we can really add the value and take the library beyond the beautiful Swanson Street building. So looking at that kind of methodology of how do you flip this and use that great online browser visitation to do the things we do really well physically in the library, but beyond our walls. So we're looking at that kind of low cost, high cost value proposition. And kind of a lab can sit anywhere along those lines, to be honest. And we're looking at the scale. How do we do this? This was a methodology that was coming out of the DX lab in New South Wales, is that we wanted to make sure that our methodology was full of quick and fast experiments. We had medium sort of three to six month term experiments and sort of more longer term embedded practices. So how do you do that? You know, how do you take that methodology and make that work in an organisation that is not necessarily built to function in that way? So I'm setting up kind of three branches within the digital directorate at the State Library of Victoria. It's new. I've only been there for several months. But we'll be having these three distinct branches within that area. One that's focusing on strategy and insights and research and kind of the publishing. Then we've got our technology, our tech stack, our infrastructure, our systems, our service desk, et cetera. And we've got the creative practice, the creative studio, the making, the doing. And they all kind of interweave into each other. That's cool. That's fine. That's pretty logical. All right? So now we're thinking, well, how do we take some of this lab style experimentation and elevate that throughout the whole organisation? How do we scale that? Where does it sit? You know, I'm probably a little bit cautious about it being a separate team and sitting off to the side, funding, you know, not core or seen as being core at the centre. So we're looking at how does innovation sit within everyone's remit at the State Library? Where does that happen? It happens above digital. It happens above the branches and it's across the organisation. So how are we going to do that? Yes, another lab. Woo. We're going to go for it. We feel it's the right time for the State Library to have a lab. It's our remit to give visitors access to information in many forms and digital plays a huge role in that, of creating new knowledge. The browser is great at that. So this is where we see our lab, right? It's not digital's responsibility. It's the library's responsibility. It needs the trust and the support from the top, which we have, right through to making that an organisational-wide staff initiative. So that's where we're placing it. We've been doing some things already to kind of get to this moment. Yes, we're kind of branding it a lab, but it is a process and a practice, right? So we've already started things. We're trying to get all of the staff involved in the things that the digital team division is setting up. One of those things is a code club. We started that. It happens once a month. People from across the library are coming together to solve what those problems are through what's possible, through learning how to code. So it's already started, the practice. But really, I just think it's really important. Our lab is about these three things. It's about relationships. It's not about the technology. The technology is like a piece of paper, right? We just use it. Relationships are the unit of change. Collaboration is the key, but it requires effort. We're moving from expert to curious, people before technology. Ideas come from anywhere. So we want to support that. Our voices and everyone's responsibility. We're looking at process, right? Process of making the invisible visible, the system's literacy, encouraging vulnerability, because vulnerability is being brave, and being brave is how we learn. So we're making testing and prototyping a common skill. Being adaptable is sometimes better than having a plan. And most importantly, publishing, because we're a library. We're about giving people access to knowledge to create new knowledge. So this is a big part of what we want to do, is make everything we make accessible through our publishing platform, making the journey as important as the destination. Learning here is the key outcome. This is where we think our success should lie, not necessarily in the product, right? Give it a legacy, give that access to knowledge. And labs are really good at that. They're really good at sharing. You see it through all the kind of lab methodologies across cultural institutions. They share a lot of stuff, which is great. These are our values. I'm getting the big red clock, so I'm going to finish up. Foster curiosity, civic digital literacy. We want to create that kind of equal civic heart of the city, but through the browser, through to the people at scale. Thank you. Thank you, Paula. I would now like to welcome Lucie Paterson. Lucie is at the forefront of change, design, and innovation in the museum field as the Head of experience, digital, and insights here at ACMI. With 16 years experience at leading cultural organisations, Lucie's work shapes the exhibitions and experiences that will lead our sector into the future. Thank you, Lucie. Hi, everyone. It's great to be back at FACT. And thank you, Paula, for such a fabulous talk and insight into what you'll be doing at the library. Lots of parallels and synergies with what I'll be talking about as well. So I'm going to chat through how we at ACMI have been embedding new practice and technologies. As Jess said, I'm the head of experience, digital, and insights here. I've been here nine years and definitely seen a whole lot of change through those nine years. So it's been a really interesting process to kind of reflect on that and prepare for this talk. I'm going to talk a little bit about me and my background, the team that I work with in our role at ACMI. But I'm mostly going to talk about what is really hard about doing this in museums. It's been quite a cathartic process going through. I hope it doesn't sound too much like a therapy session. I want it to be constructive and helpful for everyone here. So I've always worked in the arts and cultural sector in Aotearoa, at Te Papa, in London at Southbank Centre, and now here at ACMI, starting in the early 2000s with social media and micro-sites and apps, and now in much more of a strategic design role across the organisation, really acknowledging that digital is part of everything that we do and everything that our visitors do and how can we apply those methodologies across all the experiences at the museum. When I arrived at ACMI, it was very clear that we were doing things differently here to where I had worked before. There was no wholesale digital transformation project, which Paula mentioned. There was definitely a higher tolerance to risk and a desire to open up and reveal practice and process and really embed innovation and experimentation into the organisation in all parts. So my team, the role that we play, we are a multidisciplinary and lean team. We cover strategic experience design, digital innovation and research and evaluation. And I think the lean part is really important here because it's quite a low risk for the organisation. There's a handful of us and we work across the organisation. Structurally, we sit outside of marketing and comms and programming. I always get this question, so I thought I'd put it in here. And I think that's really important because we have the autonomy and the permission to work in parallel, to work on our own work, but make sure that it's really strategic and thinking about our forward program. So I think in terms of the role that we play and our purpose in the organisation, I break it down into three different areas. So we are makers of products and experiences informed by research and data. So there is a constant feedback loop from our visitors and evaluation to measure the success and learn. We're also change agents in the organisation embedding the new practice and technology via this work so that things have longevity and there is change. And if we don't tell anyone about the work that we do, did it really happen? So we really share a lot about our process and our practice, whether it's open sourcing our code or contributing to the conversation and events like this. This diagram really goes to the heart of how we think and how the team works and the kind of advocacy that we do across the museum. I think it's really helpful to look at it and think about how broad the role is, but also it's very specific. We know that our visitors come with many of their own expectations, familiarities, different levels of knowledge. So being audience centered, we're really thinking with this front of mind. And we talk to a lot of people. We have a new insights unit that Indigo Holcomb James is leading and we've been doing it for about a year now. So we measure our success across, or evaluate impact across our whole offer and through the life cycle of all our programs. We test and we prototype with our visitors in a whole range of varieties. And we also work really closely with our visitor experience team on the floor because their observations and their insights are really invaluable to the organisation's progress. They know our visitors best. We value collaboration and transparency, so do a lot of this sort of work. So journey mapping, technical diagrams, anything to kind of visualize and express our work and what we're trying to get to, to get people's buy in and bring them on the journey with us. So lots of documentation. And we have a really short time from idea to production. So a lot of things go live, some things fail and we learn from them and they don't get to production. But we really are trying to work like a lab and get things out in the public early so that we can kind of normalize this technology and normalize these things. But also to get people's buy in and understanding that sort of goes to the prototyping, the showing and not telling. Simon showed some of our work yesterday around our online access work and Melanie also presented about the website emulation work that we've been doing. So I won't talk too much about all of our products here, but you can go down to the Cameo event space and see some of it in demo. So to Paula's talk, are we a lab? I think that we have many lab-like qualities. I listed a lot there, so we're audience-centered, we're data-informed, we experiment with new technologies, we have a short time from idea to production, we collaborate with others and we test and learn from failures. But I think technically we're not a lab. We're very embedded in the organisation. We don't work out of a physical lab and we are not isolated. So we're really working on things that will benefit the whole organisation rather than our own kind of research. I think being embedded and not being a lab allows us to seek to expose organisational gaps and challenges, which a lab can do, but it also means that we can test solutions for them within the organisation and get feedback with real visitors, real staff and embed that back in to the teams for the longevity. Okay, now I'm going to talk about what makes this really hard. Okay, so what is hard about distributing this new practice and technologies across a museum or across any cultural organisation? I'm pulling on lots of ACMI examples because it's my most recent, but it's been everywhere I've worked and I've talked to a lot of you in the past and during this event as well and there's a lot of common ground here, so some of it will not be new. I really love working here at ACMI. I get to work with amazing people. Our work has impact. It's hugely fulfilling, but yes, I'm going to be honest. Being embedded means that there are distractions away from innovation. So I guess the beauty of a lab in some ways is that you can completely work in quite an isolated way on your own research, but when it's your remit to deliver innovation and experimentation within an organisation, there are constant distractions to fix the website, to upgrade something, to help someone with Google Analytics. So we do the innovation work alongside this business as usual work, but we are also very lucky to work with an ICT team who are becoming increasingly familiar with these emerging technologies and are becoming embedded in the practice themselves. So the capability around this is really spreading throughout the organisation. Being embedded means that you have access to a lot of staff, a lot of expertise that you would not have if you weren't, and I think that makes our products and experiences richer. And being embedded means that you have the chance to make more meaningful and sustained value that stays within the organisation. Getting people to think about their work as being part of a bigger ecosystem. A lot of my work is connecting the dots between the things that we do and being the glue between teams to realize the best experience for the visitor. No team or individual's work is in isolation when it comes to how the visitor engages with it or perceives ACMI, so designing with that in mind is critical to how people talk about us and if they choose to return to us. This challenge is really around the people and the culture change, and that is the hardest part of this work. Building the technology is easy. The internal adoption is really hard. We are really good at building technology, maintaining technology, solving for user needs, making sure it all performs well for visitors and staff, but getting teams to adopt the technology is more difficult. We have not done our job, I don't think, until the technology is embraced and embedded by teams into our workflows. So in the lab model, if we think the lab is the technology, then who is doing the people change part? Who is role and responsibility to that? And I think to Paula's talk, the organisation has to be responsible for that and give that support and trust. An example of this at ACMI has been around our experience operating system that we built for the renewal project. It's a technology hub that ingests data from internal and external sources, acts as a CMS, the content management system, and then pushes content into exhibitions and online experiences. It means that we all have the ability in-house to be truly responsive and multi-platform, to respond to digital culture in real time and publish it in the gallery from our desks. But it has been really hard to embed, and we're definitely not using it to its full potential. The technology is more advanced than the internal and sometimes external literacies. So this is one of the reasons that the adoption is hard. Often these technologies, we've heard a lot about AI. These are things that are changing constantly and really need to be embraced by our staff, but there's always that kind of adoption curve. And I think with the lens experience, particularly if you've been down into the museum and used the lens, it's been really interesting. A high number of our visitors use the lens. It's very popular and very loved. But when we talk to them, they tell us that they're going to take it home and log in, and the intention is definitely there. But the take-up is not what we're seeing from what they say versus the analytics. So I think getting that kind of behavioural change at home, people doing something that they're not kind of familiar with, it's hard, and it will take time. But we're lucky to be part of an Australia Research Council, our MIT linkage project, called Museum Digital Social Futures, led by Professors Larissa Hjorth and Ingrid Richardson. And we'll be working to understand and transform the digital experience of museum audiences by working with our visitors to better understand what they say and do related to their visits once they leave the museum. So I think it will be really interesting to get some of those insights to inform our designs. So I think another thing that's been hard is definitely having a vision of what we want the visitor experience to be, but not really being able to have a very kind of solid roadmap. People are very comfortable with a plan and knowing or thinking that they know what might be coming. But as we know, technologies come and go, and the vision that you're trying to achieve is the thing that really sticks. But often, the way you get there will always shift. So one way to combat this, which we've heard a lot about, is prototyping early, showing, not telling. And it's also why we have built a lot of infrastructure internally and own it ourselves, the XOS system and also our online streaming platform, Cinema 3, so that when these things change, we can adapt and we still have that infrastructure there that we can tweak and respond to. And we don't need to throw it away and start again. So knowing when to outsource and what to outsource. I wanted to talk a little bit about this because I think we've heard from lots of great creators today and lots of organisations today and yesterday, and it's an interesting thing to think about what knowledge a museum should keep and own itself versus farm out or potentially buy in. So it can be really hard to plead the case for internal resource versus operational spend. But I think having the digital capability and literacy, the audience understanding in-house is really critical in keeping that knowledge. Once the organisation has built that up, I think they're in a much better position to be critical of proposals that come in and get a better solution from an external. Knowing how to engage external partners and what we should learn ourselves is important, and it takes time and takes kind of practice as well, learning with different types of partners and seeing what works and what doesn't. It's really important that we bring these new perspectives into the organisations. We've found this works really well when we share our work publicly because people see that they're aligned and have similar interests to us, and so they come to us with their shared goals and we can kind of make something happen. So for long-term change, I think we really need a foundation of capability, literacy, and infrastructure to build on. Learning is everything. I think we work at a very different speed to the rest of the organisation, so we're really wanting to get things out into the public really early. We want to respond to changing technology, and for practical reasons it means it's hard then to get input from teams because they're kind of off, well not off, but they're doing another thing and they're working at a different pace. So we work really hard internally to get other teams to open up their processes so that we can see how we fit in and we can be more reactive and plan better. Okay, finishing up now. So the toughest thing I think is being a change agent in an organisation, but also being that trusted advisor that people can come to for support and advice around some of this work. You really need to be that glue in the organisation, but you also need to be pushing the boundaries, and I think about that a lot. Maybe the change that you're trying to make means that people need to do things differently, or they need to do completely new things, and you might not directly manage these people. So I think there's a lot there to kind of to unpack. When you know the changes needed, how do you get people onside without putting them off? Okay, so I've got a minute left. I'm just going to whip through some key takeaways. I'm conscious that not everyone works in a well-resourced organisation like I do, and I've always worked in pretty large organisations, but I think that there are applications for this work across all sizes and resources. If you're embarking on this work, I think it's really good to reflect on some of the statements that have been in here to think about where your institution sits and what sorts of levers you can pull. But the main things, I think, are around strategy and leadership and having permission to experiment and fail. This work typically is led from the ground up, but it's really starting with events like this and this kind of advocacy to also be more top-down at the strategy level. Being audience-centered, so talking to visitors, testing, getting research and evidence is really important. Opening up your process, which I've already talked a little bit about, and then committing to increasing your literacies and learning. So CARE has said some of this as well at the NFSA, and also we're doing a lot of work here with a program around AI for our staff. So finally, I think you really need to be involved. You need to be part of the conversation. Be brave and have courage. Be curious, and you're not alone. We are all doing this together. Thank you, Lucie. And now we'll hear from Claire Pillsbury. Claire is a curator and experienced practitioner in exhibition development with more than 25 years of experience in the informal education and museum field in institutions large and small. Claire is currently associate director of exhibit content development at Exploratorium in San Francisco, the first science centre that emerged from the late 1960s as a democratic experimental space for science education and encounters with scientific phenomena. I'd just like to say a special thanks to the AIC RMIT Linkage Project Museum Digital Social Futures for their contribution to the Fulbright specialist program that has supported Claire visiting us today in Melbourne. Thank you. Okay, first of all, I just want to correct one thing. I'm at the California Academy of Sciences presently. I have been there a year and a half, and today I'm going to speak about my many, many years' experience with Exploratorium, more than 15 years, because I think that relates directly to this theme of not another lab or how do we innovate with labs. I also want to thank ACMI for having me here. I have admired ACMI from afar for years, and to finally experience in person, it is everything I expected and more. It's just a really wonderful place, so I hope everybody who hasn't seen it gets to spend some time in the exhibitions. I'm also honoured to be in the company of all these amazing speakers of FACT, so thanks to everybody who made that possible. All right, here we go. As you can see from the title, I'm thinking about innovation for the rest of us. Who do I mean by the rest of us? Well, the photo on the left that you see there is Bell Labs, and that illustrates the kind of things that were done at Bell Labs. They were elaborate. They were well-resourced. They were basic research without justification for months and years. Then the photo on the right is kind of the contrast to that. That's the original Exploratorium building. It was no frills. It was a leaking, crumbling roof in that building. By crumbling, I don't mean that as a figure of speech. Pieces of the roof would fall down onto the floor, so it was definitely a subpar facility. I would suggest that the rest of us are in scenarios that are more like the photo on the right, small budgets, difficult facilities that need repair, limited staff bandwidth, and generally committed to evolve, but we can't do fundamental basic research for months on end necessarily. So there you go. One of the things that's really interesting about innovation is that there is such a buzzword bingo about disrupt, break things, da-da-da. I really don't like the disrupt idea. I think that disruption on its own is not a strategy. I think it's really shallow. I think most of innovation is about constructing rather than breaking things, and it could be constructing in a playful way. It could be elaborating on an existing idea. It could be reflecting and seeing new potentials, but it's producing something. So I think of there being two ways forward that are helpful to share with all of you today because they're accessible, they're achievable, and more importantly, I have direct experience with them and can tell you that they were highly productive and are highly productive at the Exploratorium. I'll just say very quickly what an Exploratorium is, what is the Exploratorium. It started from nothing, as you saw. It's now a world-renowned science center in San Francisco that Frank Oppenheimer started way back, way, way back in 1969, and it spent a good 10 years in that low resource mode, but very innovative. How did they do that? And the two ways forward were experimentation and bringing outsiders inside to expose you and your staff to new perspectives. So going onward from there. The two secret ingredients, or maybe not so secret, are curiosity and humility. And why curiosity? Well, you really have to be open to that point of view. There's always more to learn to try. There's new ways to grow. Asking what if, or I wonder if we tried, or let's see if this works, that's essential. And the humility, when you think your organisation knows it all, you're heading towards a tunnel vision perspective. You're less receptive to those comments about, oh, you could do this differently. You could try something else. I don't think that's working so well for you. So fundamentally, we know organisations need to evolve. We know our audiences are evolving. We know our potential to serve our mission is evolving with all these new tools and strategies and technologies. And so we just need to evolve, but it's not easy, is it? So to go on to elaborate a little bit on number one, committing to experimentation, that low-stakes experimentation, thank you to Paula for mentioning this. Basically, what I'm talking about is also something Paula mentioned, prototyping. Prototyping working versions of your concepts, preferably with your audiences. And what do I mean by low stakes? I mean not betting the farm on those experiments, like holding your gunpowder, really keeping it back a little bit so you can iterate. And what's the minimum needed to try out your concept, not the perfect version, the minimum version? No experiment should be too precious to fail. And can you portion out your resources so that you are able to iterate a little bit through subsequent cycles? So experimentation, prototyping, and iteration. And then here I already talked about low stakes and iteration, but making it normal, that is so important. Experimentation is not about a glorious string of brilliant eureka successes, and it's definitely not about, well, we'll only experiment if there's a guarantee of success. I mean, I think it's ironic, but that happens, and you have those kind of conversations sometimes. But it's about an idea of what we want to do, some ways we might do it, and we want to see whether they work or not. So most of the time, most of those experiments, they're not going to result in a eureka moment. But often you will have, oh, that's interesting. I didn't realize my visitors, my audience, would respond that way. I'd like to change this and drop that, add these different features to it. So making it normal is super important. And then I talked a little bit about guaranteeing successful outcomes. I'm going to stress this because it really needs to be an experiment. You're not really going to grow if there isn't a little bit of uncertainty there that you can't guarantee the outcome. You're not quite sure what all your visitors will respond with. And not everything will be a success. In fact, most things won't be a success, but almost everything will be a chance to learn and may prompt other points of view, expand your own point of view. So this diagram, I think, kind of gets to the point of what the emotional tenor of this experimentation is. This guy on the right here, he knows that most of those things are going to fail, and it's very uncomfortable to engage and put your time on something that chances are it's going to fail. But that's why the low stakes is also so important. Instead of placing all your bets on one thing going according to plan or your expectation, you plan for lots of small bets. And as Linus Pauling famously said, the best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas. But adding to this, the best way to know if it is or isn't a good idea is to try it. Just try it, because people often are so much more willing to spend meeting after meeting, debating and brainstorming. But sometimes you just need to try it with your actual audience. So this is a quick example. I don't want to run out of time here, but iterative prototyping and evaluation for interactive exhibits at the Exploratorium. I realize you aren't all museums and exhibits, but think of it this way. The Exploratorium on the one hand has earned a reputation for well designed, engaging interactive exhibits. But this humble prototyping process is not so well known. And this is really unfortunate, because I think this shows using the minimum needed to try out your concept, cardboard, paper, tape, toy parts, raw plywood. So iterate, but do so in response to your actual visitors. See what people really do, not just what they say to you, not just what you think they're going to do. And honestly, as I said, this is more efficient than having many, many more debates and meetings. So just interleave your team meetings with trying things out with real visitors, your real audience. And then accept again that because genuine experimentation is worthwhile, your internal culture needs to be tolerant. Needs to resist that temptation to bemoan the failures, like, oh, we tried that and it didn't work, and we're not going to try anything again because that was just so bad. In fact, it takes tenacity and resourcefulness to experiment. And it doesn't help at all when your colleagues are second guessing the value of experimentation after one or two failures, or suppress even trying out an idea with cautionary tales. Low stakes experimentation is good, but being supportive of your colleagues who are experimenting is critical as well. So then one of the things that is not always appreciated in failed experiments is that they are most always opportunities for insights and unexpected outcomes and things that don't work. You usually learn something about them. And this curiosity, keep it out there when you're experimenting. Keep the humility there and be open to seeing what really happens versus what we expected to happen, what was learned, and when unexpected response or potential is that we can build upon. Be open to those insights. So number two, I talked about other points of view by inviting outsiders in, and I mean real individuals in your museum or in your arts venue, making it customary to bring in those points of view. And hopefully these are thoughtful, articulate, and empathetic individuals who ideally are outside your specific field and community because they can look at it fresh. You can also in this picture here reflect back on the Exploratorium, which is now well resourced, but at the beginning it was not resourced at all. So Frank Oppenheimer invited friends to visit the Exploratorium just to spend a day or an afternoon and asked them to candidly tell him what was good or bad or should be added to the Exploratorium. And you're thinking that is really kind of eclectic. Like what do you get out of that? But for example, on the left there, the poet Muriel Rukeyser proposed that the Exploratorium develop a section on language. Then she was commissioned to write a short proposal that was the basis of a grant request. That grant was funded. That supported the creation of a suite of original, even innovative exhibit concepts. So there can be this chain reaction just by exposing yourself to new ideas. I also want to talk about having the, excuse me, honest feedback is super important. You need to be humble and you need to tell people you want them to tell you what needs to be better because otherwise they're just going to be very kind as a good guest would be and say everything here is wonderful and you're doing a great job. Thank you for having me. But you ask for that critical feedback so you can really get the full benefit out of that other point of view. And that become that Friends of Frank, that low cost, no cost program became the Osher Fellow Program, which has gone on for decades now. But these were all continuing the whole tradition were not museum people. They were catalysts for intellectual exchange and prompted new insights both for the museum but for the staff because they were available to all staff. So who were these Osher Fellows? I have some categories here for you but this is not limited to these categories. They were architects, roboticists, comedians, poets, psychologists, neurologists, crochet art curators, film editors, interaction designers, urban planners and more. So we have quite the range but the idea is you nurture a community of thinkers inside and outside of the museum and some of them you have ongoing kind of connections with. So it sort of grows from there for months. And as I said, it's an invaluable opportunity to see and understand your organisation through the eyes of another person. It's common knowledge that you understand your own culture when you hear from somebody outside reflecting on it. But what you take for granted, it's super valuable because what you take for granted may actually be rare and precious to others. What you're not noticing as an issue may be something that an outsider can point to as needing more attention and even suggesting an alternative to you. And then one of the things that started with the original Friends of Frank visits were that he had this super egalitarian attitude that these people, you know, Charles Eames should be available for chats with anybody on the staff. And so anybody on the staff throughout the whole Osher Fellow program, throughout the Friends of Frank program, they could talk to these people. It was not a professional development like on the left there were people divided by their sectors confining people to a small conference room for some training. You get an opportunity if you're on the staff to engage and get feedback from somebody you might otherwise never cross paths with. So this is something that I heard many times from many different staff, how much they appreciated having the option to initiate the exchange and really learn from others. And it was so regular, four times a year that you would have these fellows through. And then this overall idea to these experiments inviting other points of view are low stakes experiments, short-term visits, you're planting ideas, you're nurturing serendipity. And let's not forget, in addition to strategic plans, good leadership that are essential to innovation, that you have to have the unknown unknowns emerge. You have to kind of cultivate them and set up the right conditions to nurture this serendipity. The things that we don't realize until we see them because we risk the experiment or we can't recognize until we invited someone who asked a question or made an observation that all of a sudden illuminated, oh, yeah, why do we do it this way? So create those conditions for the unknown unknowns and the opportunities will start to emerge. And just to recap, because I hope this helps sort of bring together all the ideas, committing to experimentation, exposing your organisation and your staff to those new perspectives, staff at all levels, not just senior staff layer. Be curious, be humble, and nurture serendipity. So if somebody offers you money for a lab, take it. But let's be realistic about this. Innovation is never about predetermined success. The world, our communities, our funding are all too unpredictable for that. I advocate for embedding this, advocate for ongoing experimentation, and really exchanging with those other points of view so that you can nurture serendipity and innovation within your institution, whatever your budget level, whatever your funding opportunity. So grow, adapt, and evolve. Thank you. All righty. Now we're going to tease out some of the themes and ideas from these three excellent panelists. And what I'll do is I'll ask some questions at first, and then in the last five or so minutes I'll check the slido for any questions. So please pop in questions as they pop into your mind. And if there's a particularly good one, I'll ask it early. So Lucie, you used the analogy of a roadmap. And Paula, you used a train. And then Claire, you talked about planting seeds and serendipity when talking about innovation in your organisations. And also the concept of prototyping came up a lot in all of your talks as well. So I'm just interested in that concept of prototyping in labs and across organisations, especially when our audiences often expect a polished result. What are ways that we can showcase and share that prototyping and those iterations to the public? May I start with you, Lucie? Thanks. That's a great question and definitely was a strong theme throughout. I think getting people to think outside of that polished kind of final look that we're quite used to in arts organisations is really important. We do some work with just paper prototyping, like if we're doing new signage in the museum or something like that, printing it out at scale on paper first, taking it into the area and talking to visitors about it. And visitors are very, they love to be asked. I've never had any kind of feedback where visitors have been like, oh, that looks awful or why are you doing this or it's not finished or I could expect something better quality from the museum. I think that visitors are really open to that and love that you're involving them. So I think that's definitely something that works well. Paula? Yeah, I think it comes back to also the sharing and the publishing side of things. I'm thinking about an exhibition that we did at State Library of New South Wales that had a very prototyping iterative approach, co-designing with audiences, but it turned into an 18-month exhibition that had to work and couldn't fail. And there was a series of prototypes for this particular kind of crowdsourced photographic exhibition called New South Wales, hashtag New South Wales. And I think we did start from the very beginning of that process calling it an experiment to the public. So we actually published, you know, we've got this idea. We think it can be good, but help us make it good. At this stage it's an experiment. We want you involved. So we talked about the thing before we even started, you know, and we put it out there. Then we kind of got some feedback. We tested in the reading rooms of the library, so, you know, instant crowd, took some prototypes down, set them up, got lots of feedback and then we published about that. So we continuously published the full cycle of that experience from pre, during and post. And I think that is how you kind of, you make the prototyping a thing. You know, you call it an experiment and then audiences are really accepting of that. Yeah, there's something in that. Audiences also probably relish the opportunity to be involved and part of the making in a cultural institution as well. What about you, Claire? Yeah, I'm sort of cognizant of how much time that we will spend writing up descriptions of our plans and making these beautiful CAD drawings that detail out everything in our installation or particular elements. But I think we really need the prototype still. Our visitors are not exploring CAD drawings. They're not necessarily even reading our labels. They are there for the experience and are the performance, if that's the case. And that prototyping gets to, gets you closer to the experience or the performance than any description that you're trying to evaluate our drawing can. So I really encourage people to think of prototyping as having a kind of authenticity litmus test of how your audience is really going to get something out of it or not. And as Lucie said, people are, your audience is much more tolerant of a kind of a rough prototype than you might think. And in fact, they're very honored to give feedback on something like that. It's exciting for them to talk to you about the experience. Great. Yeah, people love to give feedback, don't they? I think people also really love behind the scenes and the mechanisms and the way in which large cultural organisations work. So opening that sort of window into the back of house, making the invisible visible is actually a really key thing they want to explore. Yeah, that visible working. And I guess that there's a long history of that in the science space with visible labs. And even here at ACMI, our visible media preservation lab, it does demystify some of that for the public and puts it at the forefront what organisations and teams are doing and brings it back home to right in front of their eyes. And also, I think re-artists, like if we think of Marshmallow laser feasts downstairs, we've got a lot of process work in there and we're trying to share more process work from our artists and the visitors, all the feedback we get through the audience research and evaluation, they love understanding the process and understanding how artists do it. And it's really important for a museum like ours because we want visitors to leave feeling like they could do that. They could be an artist. They can be part of it as well. So I think, yeah, it goes both ways. So you all kind of mentioned embedding innovation across the organisations and not just in a discrete lab. And as Lucie really detailed, the internal workings, like staff, priorities and skills, is one aspect of that. But there are also external funding and we often have stakeholders on board to bring on board that journey as well. How do we all foster a culture of innovation experimentation amongst our stakeholders as well? And also, if Paula or Claire, you have examples with building that culture in your staff when maybe there might have been blockers or any techniques or tips that people could take on board? Yeah, I think it's really important to look at some of the areas in the organisation that want to be in that space and want to be curious but may not have the room or the tenacity to come and ask straight out that I want to embed myself in that. So I think we have to help those people come forward and we have to provide ways and maybe even programs for them to step out of that and actually be working with a developer for two weeks. It's actually quite hard within our systems and our divisions to do that. I think we have to find ways to allow that cross-pollination, which I don't think we're actually that good at internally as a cultural organisation. So we need to actively do that more. I think that's where the experimentation comes in. It's quick, it's fast, so maybe it is okay for that person to go and spend two weeks doing something that grows their skills and expands their mindset and their curiosity so that they're the champions of the lab or the experimentation. We did some of that with DXLAB. Every single thing that was produced, worked on, it wasn't just the three people in that lab, it was across the organisation. Everything was done pretty much with just those three people. Claire, have you had any experience with stakeholders, like bringing them on board with any experimentations? Yeah, I think you can really play off that egalitarian access idea, both for if you have visiting fellows or friends, whatever it might be, but there is that kind of access that if people want to just come and see that person give a short talk, a short lunchtime talk about their work, that's kind of intriguing. If you run things by your senior management, especially somebody said at another creative museum, run things by your finance department first so they know that there's going to be this unusual contract coming through or whatever it is. You just, again, normalize it, or now everybody talks about socializing things, but I think there's something to remembering. Everybody is fundamentally a human being on your staff, so if you can intrigue them in some way about, oh, well, this person's coming through and they're going to give a talk at lunch or they're going to come here and be here with us for a week and working with the exhibits department and the interpretive department and the evaluation department, just sort of like get it out there that we're not, we're doing this very creative thing. We're not doing this frivolous thing. We're doing this experimental thing, and I think sometimes just intriguing your staff one by one and letting them know what is successful about, oh, and then we had this past visit and then this whole program came out of it or they became an advisor on our grant. You kind of build a groundswell of normalizing this as a successful creative productive thing for your organisation, and that helps more people buy in. You will never persuade everybody that's a great idea. There will always be a few doubters, but as long as you have more people who believe in it, especially people on your board, when we had somebody, well, we had Reggie Watts, the comedian, visit, and there was a person on our board who was so excited to meet him, and it just sort of helps the organisation seem like a creative, vibrant place. Thank you, Claire. I will just ask a couple from Slido. This kind of segues into... There was discussion around the ecosystem of organisations, and I guess that's kind of what you're saying there, Claire, as well, of experimentation. This question's asking it outside of just inside your organisation. How does institutionalizing experimentation stimulate the independent creative sector? Understanding, I suppose, the ecosystem of the entire creative industry and what value innovation labs and experimentation might have. I might throw this to Lucie. I think, Paula, you probably have more experience in this space. I've got a couple of examples of how that happened in DXLAB. We ran a fellowship program. We thought it was really important to continue that from a digital innovation point of view, so slightly bigger scale fellowship, but also really important to have a lower scale, quicker, faster, less expensive fellowship, which we called Digital Dropping Program. There are two products that are still kind of existing today that came out of our fellowship program at the DXLAB, so if you think about success, one of those was our first fellowship. That was a couple of creative technologists who came in to explore real-time search with the collection. The problem they were trying to solve is, what is the people's catalogue in real time? What does that look like? They made a product called Unstat, and that's kind of the research piece that they delivered. They still exist today, and they've got that product in a lot of cultural institutions and libraries, and even produced one for State Library Victoria, that we are investigating how we can make that an ongoing thing today. That's one product. There was another one which was a smaller scale drop-in, and it was a chat bot that was using children's books and classifying those and creating a robot that kids could go up to and have the conversations, kids and families. They would be recommended a book that they could then go and read in the library. That product still exists today. It's got a different name now. I think it's Huey Books. Those products, they started as an experiment, and they continue to experiment to this day for their business model. Huey is using the latest AI methodologies to classify the large library catalogues. It's fascinating. I think that's two real examples of how inside a cultural heritage organisation, bringing people in to work with you and your collections and your data and your services, whatever, that they do have long tail into the creative sector. Low cost is actually extremely high value. Definitely. Thank you, Paula. We'll just see one more because this one got quite a lot of votes. This is from Tia Aglou. Is there much advocacy for BYOD utilising the phones in 90% of visitors' pockets? Repurposing them to interactive tools is easy. Sorry. I know, Lucie, you've thought a lot about this. Would you like to answer? Yeah, we think a lot about this at ACMI. We're actually working on some future exhibitions at the moment and thinking about the lens and what the lens can do, but also what we can utilise with phones and knowing exactly that a lot of our visitors are coming with phones. We think about how easy it is for that particular thing to be on boarded. Is it something that goes throughout the whole exhibition or the whole building and it would have a real value add? Is it something that's more a one-off and you might need to download an app and that might not give you the same kind of value? Yeah, we're constantly weighing it up, especially around things like language translations, how we offer that. There are a lot of tools out there already that we know people use, but yes, there is definitely appetite and interest in how we might do that. I think some of our future exhibitions coming soon will definitely have something that's using the phone but very easy for audiences to use alongside the lens. Thank you, Lucie. That brings us to the wrap now. I think this has really been a nice follow-on from the earlier talk because we really delved into the curiosity, humility and open-mindedness that we all can do and drive innovation in this space and we don't need a massive budget, a lot of tech. It really starts with us as humans, so that's been really great to hear from all of you today. Thank you, can you please join me in thanking Paula, Lucie and Claire?