“Skunk works” is a term most are familiar with, indeed, so familiar that the pros and cons, and the do’s and don’ts are debated endlessly. Weather a Skunk team separated from the main operations of an enterprise “delivers”  or not is generally a function of the leadership, culture and resource allocation processes of the parent, not just of the excitement and freedom of the works.

Sometimes it is useful to go back to the original. The term “skunk works” emerged when the Allied  war effort needed a very quick response to the threat posed by the German development of jet fighters in the latter stages of the second war, and Lockheed Martin won a contract to do the work against what was considered an impossible timetable.

To meet the demands, LM created a separate development unit, rapidly taking on the now familiar nomenclature, originally an in-joke where members of the team considered themselves as popular as a skunk in the halls of the existing parent company.

Creating  skunk works is only one of many strategies that can be employed to rev up the innovation effort, and it is no more or less successful than others, it is all a matter of the context.