Impact Update: 3 streams of experimentation


An integral part of CoDE and the wider Business School, the Business Insights Lab (BiL) is the home of a process we call Discovery-Led Collaboration that blends research, education, problem-solving and brokering.  This is experimentation for business, and it folds in enterprises large & small, the wider community, researchers and students.

Three distinct flavours of Discovery-Led Collaboration are emerging in the BiL:

  • Research Collaboration: we held a taster session during the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences’ (FASS) Festival of Research to introduce academics to the idea of using the Lab for cross-disciplinary research sandpits.  We are working with the champions and coordinators of the University-wide research themes (e.g. Urban Living, Sustainability, Innovation for Health) to figure out how we can use the BiL to nurture cross-Faculty collaboration.
  • Community Collaboration: we are working with a pan-University team on a series of Labs involving several local stakeholders to generate material social impact and transform the community around the North Guildford area.
    We also run the Wates Social Enterprise Programme – now in its second year – in the Lab.   This programme, funded by the Wates Family Enterprise Trust, teaches postgraduate students about social entrepreneurship and helps them develop and pitch their social enterprise concepts to a funding panel.
  • Enterprise Collaboration: we’ve been working with a wide variety of organizations – large & small, public- & private-sector – in the time since the Lab was officially launched. Our partners see the BiL as a way to bring a wide variety of parties together for a productive dialogue.  There’s a real opportunity to build strategic partnerships with actors who will have a substantial impact on the UK (& international) economy over the coming decades.

We are also beginning to incorporate BiL and its discovery-led approach into the Surrey Business School’s Executive Education model.  SBS continues to deliver bespoke programmes for larger clients – but is now offering Open programmes as well, beginning with a series of one-day masterclass workshops.  BiL has a key part to play in delivering research and education in a collaborative, dynamic, and game-changing way.

Why is the Lab particularly important in the rapidly-changing digital economy? Simple: it gives a wide range of ventures the tools and flexibility to meet the challenges of real-world problems that are fluid, and fraught with unknowns.  It features:

  • A bias to action: today’s rapid social and technological developments don’t permit months of analysis. The BiL approach can create the required focus and energy in just days;
  • Tackling the whole problem, however messy: our Labs consider the ‘ecology of technology’, embracing factors such as value creation, culture and behaviour;
  • Learning by doing: a focus on ‘real-work’ challenges not only addresses immediate issues, but also equips participants to tackle them again in the future.

Thanks to the BiL approach, all kinds of enterprises are now using a blend of discovery, dialogue and design thinking to transform themselves proactively, to plan effectively in uncertain and unpredictable times, and to untangle the confluence of sectors, issues and problems that enterprises increasingly face.

Don’t just peer into the fog and wonder what’s going to hit your business next. Instead, get in touch with us for some business experimentation.


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About the Author : Kris Henley

Communications and Outreach for Surrey Business School's Centre for the Digital Economy, a newly-founded research centre to explore the implications of the Digital Economy for business, government and society.