Breakthrough Innovation Labs


Breakthrough Innovation Labs

An example of how we implemented them internally

Author : Mathieu Moës

Breakthrough Innovation Labs are participative and immersive workshops designed to tackle adaptive and complex challenges in an accelerated way, creating breakthrough results. They are one of Deloitte Luxembourg The Garage’s offerings and can be conducted on a standalone basis (e.g., a Lab solely focused on brainstorming customers’ needs and pain points) or as part of a complete innovation journey (e.g., a series of Labs tackling problem identification, solution generation and prototyping). Not only do we organize and deliver them to our clients, but we also apply Innovation Labs internally within Deloitte’s (virtual) walls to foster collaboration, engagement and enhance creativity. This article details one of these internal Innovation Labs that took place as a six-month training and ideation project.


Back in January 2020, The Garage team launched a series of internal Innovation Labs for a select number of our consulting practitioners who are interested in innovation. The Labs’ aim was two-fold. Firstly, we wanted to teach our colleagues about the Design Sprint innovation methodological process and the Design Thinking philosophy, so that they could transfer this knowledge to client projects. Secondly, we wanted to generate and develop valuable ideas to explore client- and employee-facing themes.


While a Design Sprint usually takes five full days, we had to accommodate everyone’s business-as-usual workload. Therefore, we decided to spread the Labs over five months and compress each phase (i.e., Understand, Diverge, Converge, Prototype and Test) into a monthly two-hour session (excluding homework) from February to June 2020. In July, a final session was organized where participants could pitch their ideas to our Innovation Steering Committee.

Lab 1—Understand

After a kick-off session in January 2020 to explain each participant’s role and our expectations, we held the first Innovation Lab of the series in February. Around 20 participants gathered in Deloitte Luxembourg’s Greenhouse. After being introduced to Design Sprint, they split into four teams according to four predefined themes (two client-facing themes and two employee-facing themes).

After a brief energizer (warm up activity) to get the participants moving and acquainted with one another, each team started to identify problems in their chosen theme. They selected one problem per team and turned it into a problem statement, which would drive the remaining Labs through to the pitch session in July. Participants identified the stakeholders around their problem and were then presented with their homework for the month (i.e., interviewing these stakeholders, creating empathy maps for each, and drafting an as-is customer journey).

Moving to virtual sessions

In March, faced with the COVID-19 pandemic and a new working-from-home norm, we had to quickly shift from face-to-face Labs to virtual sessions. So, we left the Greenhouse and adopted MURAL to create content. Thanks to the participants’ eagerness to move forward and the facilitators’ responsiveness, we managed to host the second Lab in March virtually and successfully, staying on schedule.

Lab 2—Diverge

Exhilarating but also exhausting, this Lab is all about idea generation. We kicked off by reviewing the homework in teams (each with their own MURAL) and summarizing the pain points and opportunities identified. Based on these, participants took part in a round of Crazy Eights to get some ideas flowing, briefly explaining their ideas in turn. Then, we ran a second round of Crazy Eights, where participants could “steal” each other’s ideas and build on them, followed by another quick debrief. The last and longest exercise required each participant to create a three-frame storyboard to detail an idea of their choosing. Now familiar with idea generation exercises, participants were given a homework assignment to generate more ideas.

Lab 3—Converge

The third Innovation Lab focused on targeting one unique idea to pursue. In April, with four MURALs full of ideas, we started by reviewing all the ideas generated in the previous session, while keeping an eye on the pain points and opportunities identified between the first two Labs and ensuring we were not diverging from the initial problem statement. Participants were then asked to vote for their favorite idea(s). One idea per team was then selected to be pursued further.

The next exercise, and main exercise of the session, was storyboarding. Each team had to create a 15-frame draft storyboard that developed the idea they selected. Participants first planned who was going to focus on what. Then, they individually drew on paper what they had been assign to draw, uploaded their art as pictures on their team’s MURAL, and added MURAL’s digital Post-its here and there to complement their drawings. The following month’s homework was to review the draft storyboard, amend it if necessary, and create the final version of the storyboard before the next Lab.

Lab 4—Prototype (or in our case, “Plan, Prototype and Test”)

There is only so much you can achieve in a two-hour session, so we thought it would be unrealistic to build a prototype in two hours, especially virtually. Therefore, we distanced ourselves slightly from the usual Design Sprint process and decided to dedicate this Lab to planning both the prototype and testing that participants would have to do as homework. The first step in the planning was identifying the hypotheses that the prototype had to verify. Then, the teams chose what kind of prototype they would build, before assigning roles and setting deadlines. Regarding the test phase planning, the teams refined their stakeholder list and selected the people to test their prototype. They also agreed on the type of test to be performed, as well as the roles and deadlines.

Lab 5—Test (or in our case, “Present Prototype”)

Again, we thought it would not be feasible to test all four prototypes in two hours with all testers/stakeholders in one session. Therefore, this June Lab was entirely dedicated to prototype presentation. Each team, in turn, presented their prototype in front of the other teams and gathered feedback. Then, each team could go and refine their prototype before testing it with their stakeholders.

Pitch session

In July, with a solid and tested prototype, each team had the opportunity to pitch their idea and solution to our Innovation Steering Committee. Each team had 15 minutes to pitch and 10 minutes to answer any audience questions. While participants were free to present in any way they wanted, each team had to demonstrate their prototype, highlight their test results, demonstrate their stakeholders’ buy-in, make a clear ask to the Innovation Steering Committee (e.g., resources, time, etc.) and outline their next steps (e.g., platform feature prioritization and selection, further user testing, etc.). In the end, the Innovation Steering Committee decided to move forward with all four ideas. The four teams are currently working on developing their ideas further, based on the feedback gathered during the July pitch session, and are hoping to implement them.

Innovation Ambassadors

Beyond the four ideas that will potentially be implemented within Deloitte Luxembourg (depending on each team’s follow-up work), we now have around 20 staff members outside of the Innovation Team who are familiar with innovation methodologies, processes and exercises. These so-called Innovation Ambassadors can now apply their knowledge to their day-to-day client projects and transfer their new skills to their peers. Moreover, our freshly qualified Innovation Ambassadors will support the Innovation Team to facilitate any future Innovation Labs and develop staff-generated ideas within the firm.

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