Skonk Works

Skonk Works or Skunk Works, have you ever heard of it! A skunk works project is a project developed by a small and loosely structured group of people who research and develop a project primarily for the sake of radical innovation. I was involved in several projects for mid-size companies like this in the mid 90's and several startups along the way and always reviewing potential skunk work projects.

A skunk works is made up of a team that operates outside of an organization’s regular project development structure. The goal is to develop a highly innovative or strategically important project. Some times, the team may be located offsite, and is separate from the rest of the core organization.

If this sounds interesting, take a page from Kelly Johnson and Lockheed’s Skunk Works:

  • Set a stretch goal

  • Frame it with intelligent constraints

  • Select a special team

  • Budget

  • Secede from the main operation

  • Set to work

Kelly Johnson, the leader of skunk works at Lockheed, promised to finish the design of P80 Shooting Star in 180 days. Kelly Johnson's impressive efforts worked the project out and the fastest air plane was ready to fly just in 143 days later.

This model is also referred to as a tiger team, autonomous team, strategic experiment, and NewCo(1). Nike has Nike’s Innovation Kitchen, Samsung's Advanced Institute of Technology, Raytheon's "Bike Shop", Google X, Amazon Lab126 , Staples Velocity Lab in Cambridge and of course Apple design lab!

Whether you are a young startup or a team member in a large organization wanting to accelerate a project this model could be just what the doctor ordered. Check out this article about Skunk Works.

And if you would like to know the inspiration and rules behind this model

Young companies could be nurtured in their early stages through corporate or innovation center accelerator programs. In our area south of Boston, The Center of innovation and Entrepreneurship in Fall River MA would be ideal for your next skunk works project.

New startups fit within this model, they need to be innovative and come up with fresh, disruptive ways of solving consumer problems. They need to be nimble and experiment a lot!

Take away's

Embrace dictatorship

Keep it small

Keep things moving

A team must be able to collaborate and iterate easily.

Book everything

Keep it secret

Pay well

2019 is in full swing, please let us know if there is any way we can assist you in your next disruption!