Published: 16 February 2017

Reshaping the business environment

The Business Insights Lab (BiL), an integral part of the Centre for the Digital Economy (CoDE) and the wider Business School, is the home of a process we call Discovery-Led Collaboration that blends research, education, problem-solving and brokering.

This is experimentation for business, and encompasses enterprises large and small, the wider community, researchers and students. 

Because real-world problems are fluid, messy, and fraught with unknowns, the BiL approach is equally flexible. It features: 

  • A bias to action: today’s rapid social and technological developments don’t permit months of analysis. The BiL approach can create the required focus and energy in just days
  • Tackling the whole problem, however messy: our Labs consider the ‘ecology of technology’, embracing factors such as value creation, culture and behaviour
  • Learning by doing: a focus on ‘real-work’ challenges not only addresses immediate issues, but also equips participants to tackle them again in the future.

The BiL approach helps all kinds of enterprises use a blend of discovery, dialogue and design thinking to transform themselves proactively, to plan effectively in uncertain and unpredictable times, and to untangle the confluence of sectors, issues and problems that enterprises increasingly face.

Three distinct flavours of Discovery-Led Collaboration are emerging in the BiL:

  • Research collaboration: we held a taster session during the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences’ (FASS) Festival of Research to introduce academics to the idea of using the Lab for cross-disciplinary research sandpits (a testbed for new ideas). We are working with the champions and co-ordinators of the University-wide research themes (eg Urban Living, Sustainability, Innovation for Health) to figure out how we can use the BiL to nurture cross-Faculty collaboration.
  • Community collaboration: we are working with a pan-University team on a series of Labs involving Guildford Borough Council and other local stakeholders to generate social impact and transform the community around the North Guildford area. 

We also run the Wates Social Enterprise Programme – now in its second year – in the Lab. This programme, funded by the Wates Family Enterprise Trust, teaches postgraduate students about social entrepreneurship and helps them develop and pitch their social enterprise concepts to a funding panel.

  • Enterprise collaboration: we’ve been working with a wide variety of organisations - large and small, public and private-sector – in the time since the Lab was officially launched in September 2016. Our partners see the Business Insights Lab as a way to bring a wide variety of parties together for a productive dialogue. There’s a real opportunity to build strategic partnerships and have a substantial impact on the UK (and international) economy over the coming decades.

We are also beginning to incorporate BiL and its discovery-led approach into Surrey Business School’s Executive Education model.  SBS continues to deliver bespoke programmes for larger clients – but is now offering Open programmes as well, beginning with a series of one-day masterclass workshops. BiL has a key part to play in delivering research and education in a collaborative, dynamic, and game-changing way.

To learn how your business could benefit from BiL, contact its Director Dr Ben Shenoy at or Kris Henley at


Share what you've read?