When we talk about labs, hacks or jams what we mean is – an intense event where strangers from a variety of backgrounds come together to gather research, generate ideas, build and test prototypes on any given theme. Check out this post on the value of these Hacks.

We have run hacks, jams and labs with organisations such as: NHS Ayrshire and Arran, See Me, Edinburgh University, Edinburgh Apps, Glasgow School of Art, Sustrans and Zero Waste Scotland – to name drop a few. We’ve also created CycleHack, a global movement tackling the barriers to cycling.

So how do we get started? To kick off each lab, hack or jam we equip participants with these tips. They help people to get the most out of the event, getting them collaborating to produce innovative results.

1. Don’t fall in love

It’s easy to get attached to your first idea. Chances are, it’s probably the worst one you’ll come up with all weekend. Let it go!

2. Ideas are cheap

There’s no such a thing as a good idea, it’s really what you do with it that matters. Sometimes it’s a good idea to pursue the really bonkers one – it’s those ideas that can lead you to a completely new way of doing things.

3. Be more dog

By the end of the process, you won’t know who came up with which idea. The best collaboration involves letting go of your ego and being enthusiastic about your team. Greet your teammates and their ideas like they are the best in the world – even if you don’t agree. See where it takes you!

4. Yes and…

Is the opposite of ‘no but.’ How can you encourage your team to let go and think up great ideas? Every time you hear a new idea, build on it with ‘yes and’ rather than ‘no but’. Then watch your ideas grow in ways you never expected.

5. Prototype, prototype, prototype

Stop talking about your ideas, start making them. A prototype doesn’t necessarily have to be the snazzy finished thing. It could be a role play or a paper mock up. The most important thing about the prototype is that it allows you to test your idea. Can a person interact with? Can they touch, smell, feel your idea?


6. Presentations are talking – prototypes are doing

It’s much better to have people experience your idea than to tell them what your idea is. Think about how best to make the idea come to life when communicating it to someone. If it’s a new type of restaurant can you serve people the food rather than describing the food? We run ‘Show Not Tells’ as a way of sharing ideas at our labs. Can you go one better than showing your idea – by having people experience it?


7. Talk to strangers

Make sure your ideas and prototypes are based on insights you’ve gathered from the real world. ‘Can you tell me about your morning routine?’ ‘What are the best things about walking in your city?’. It’s scary to go up to strangers and ask them random questions, but gathering their thoughts will be fuel for idea generation, and testing your prototypes will allow you to improve them. Take a teammate with you and keep it fun – don’t forget to keep laughing.

There is never a point when you will feel truly ready to talk to strangers, and some of them won’t want to talk to you. But, It’s a necessary part of the process. Ignore what your parents taught you, go out and talk to strangers.

8. You can’t research the whole world

It is possible to simply overwhelm yourself with too much research. When you get to that point get your group together to write down and share what you found out – making sure to listen to one another to see where the connections are.

9. Doing not talking

It’s easier to endlessly discuss things than just get up and make them happen. In this fast paced environment, don’t spend too much time overthinking things; you can always improve on what you’ve got once you’ve made it. The magic comes from making your ideas come to life and testing them, rather than talking about whether or not they will work. If they don’t work – reiterate. Change something and try again or move to the next idea.

10. Failing is fun

‘One must let go of failure in order to take the risks necessary to gather research from strangers, come up with fresh ideas, prototype those ideas, test those prototypes, and improve on the prototypes.’

I wrote that quote just now. By the end of the process, it’ll be the people who failed the most who have learned the most, rather than the people who played it safe and stuck with ideas they knew would work.

11. It’s the journey that matters

Brilliant research will be gathered, ideas generated, lessons learned, all at a high speed. Make sure you enjoy it and don’t worry too much about getting every bit right. At the end of the day, your ideas won’t be perfect solutions or finished products. If you’ve allowed yourself to explore and have fun then you’ll walk away with the tools, skills and confidence in your own ability to be creative and innovate.

Lot’s of these tips were inspired by the brilliant and wonderful Adam St John and Markus Hormess of the Global Service Jam.

We have over 7 years of experience running hacks, labs and jams. Snook labs are invaluable for bringing together people to gather research, ideas and insights.

Labs are a great way to move forward with solutions to tricky problems. They allow people to share ideas and experiences from lots of people. If you feel like the lab model could be useful for your business get in touch: curious@wearesnook.com.