Photos: Inside the Hatchery, the innovation lab at AARP

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As part of our next Field Study learning expedition, we’ll visit the Hatchery, the innovation lab at AARP. AARP is not only one of the largest nonprofits in the country, but it’s also one of the biggest insurers and magazine publishers. We talked about what happens at the Hatchery with Andy Miller, the SVP for Innovation and Product Development at AARP.

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What is the Hatchery?

The Hatchery is really meant to be four things. At the highest level, it’s a physical manifestation of AARP’s commitment to innovation. It’s hard to see innovation. We also work on our own ideas internally. Right now, we have three companies running that we are staffing and growing. Within the Hatchery, we’re not trying to do evolutionary stuff. We’re looking for big new businesses we can create. I’m at a mutual fund company today talking with them about being a partner on something new and potentially disruptive.

We also have what we’re calling the Hatchery accelerator, where other startups work here, or we provide virtual support. We’re going to pilot that in the second half of this year, with four to five companies [from outside AARP.] But already, we work with other accelerators like MassChallenge, and a University of North Carolina program that’s coming online – the UNC Digital Health Innovation Sprint – and we run other challenges for startups. The third thing is creating a culture of innovation, so we use the Hatchery to do training in human-centered design methodologies. We call it i6, which includes insights, ideation, and four other “i’s” that represent the process. If you’re someone who goes through a sort of uber-training process, you can get the designation of being a champion. Those are the people who get called in when the business unit wants to do an innovation project that needs more horsepower. We want to empower the champions and the entire company to be everyday innovators in aging.

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