Lab Action!

What’s the story

Action Justien Van Zele 2014
Action! Photo by Justien Ban Zele

In April 2012 the Innovation Lab put out a call for innovative ideas to all City staff. It was a way to generate and implement ideas collaboratively. Lab Action! was our first project of this nature, and included a process for generating, building, mentoring and selecting ideas for the Innovation Lab to work on.

  1.  Generating

As the Innovation Lab, we nurture a culture of creativity and idea sharing. To support the growth and development of the innovative ideas, we put a call out to all staff asking for just a catchy title and a two-line description. We received 23 idea submissions, which you can see archived here.

  1. Building

The next step was an event called, Letting Ideas Flourish, where each idea became a three-minute pitch. Pitchers had to build up the argument (and gumption) to stand in front of a jury of their peers to convince them why their idea has legs, and can be piloted by the Innovation Lab in two-to-four months. The “rules” for the audience was that we were to build ideas up, not tear them down. At this stage, comments had to be positive, rather than critical. At this event we had 11 diverse and inspiring pitches, delivered with great enthusiasm. At the end of the event, audience members ranked their top choices. We then applied the Single Transferable Vote process to these ballots to select the three pitches that would be further nurtured before the next event.

  1. Mentoring

The three pitches selected were, How are we REALLY doing? (later re-branded as Tracking Toronto Ticker or just the Ticker), the Quality Assurance Program, and the Municipal Dashboard. These three pitches were mentored by the Innovation Lab in preparation for the Lab Lion’s Lair event. Mentorship included a two-hour session where Lab members advised pitchers on how to improve the pitch and where to expand. Who they could talk to in the corporation to fill in some gaps. Each pitcher also worked with the Innovation Lab to develop a project plan to ensure feasibility within the two-to-four month window.

  1. Selecting

The three pitches were delivered in their expanded form, now 10 minutes, to our “Lions”, senior managers with plenty of experience in the organization. It was their task to help the Innovation Lab to select one project, and lend their strategic advice on how to move it forward. The room was buzzing with excitement, and all three pitches were delivered with energy and intelligence. The Lions asked thoughtful questions, and helped build each idea. They had to make a tough choice between three excellent ideas, but eventually chose Ticker Toronto.

The Innovation Lab worked collaboratively to develop the Ticker project.



Call to action:

Anyone interested in redoing a Lab Action! process within the Toronto Public Service, or iterating on it to develop another idea generation event is encouraged to do so. Reach out to collaborate.


Link to Ticker Page

Link to LAB Action PPT


Adam Popper or Sheyda Saneinejad