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A skunkworks 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. The terms originated with Lockheed's World War II Skunk Works project.
Everett Rogers defines skunkworks as follows: "It is an especially enriched environment that is intended to help a small group of individuals design a new idea by escaping routine organizational procedures. The research and development (R&D) workers in a skunkworks are usually specially selected, given special resources, and work on a crash basis to create an innovation."
The term originated during World War II when the P-80 Shooting Star was designed by Lockheed’s Advanced Development Projects Division in Burbank, California, under similar circumstances. A closely guarded incubator was set up in a circus tent next to a plastics factory in Burbank. The strong smells that wafted into the tent made the Lockheed R&D workers think of the foul-smelling “Skonk Works” factory in Al Capp’s Li'l Abner comic strip.
Since its origination with Skunk Works, the term was generalized to apply to similar high-priority R & D projects at other large organizations which feature a "small team taken out of their normal working environment and given exceptional freedom from their organisation's standard management constraints."
The term typically refers to technology projects developed in semi-secrecy, such as Google X Lab. Another famous skunkworks was the lab of about 50 people established by Steve Jobs to develop the Macintosh computer, located behind the Good Earth Restaurant in Cupertino.
- "Skunk works". The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. reference.com. Retrieved October 12, 2009.
- Rogers E. (2003) Diffusion of Innovations, 5th ed., p. 109.
- "Idea: Skunkworks". The Economist. August 25, 2008. Retrieved 2013-03-19.
- Stone, Brad (22 May 2013). "Inside Google's Secret Lab". BusinessWeek. Retrieved 13 February 2014.
- Daft, Richard (2013). Management. Cengage Learning. p. 361. ISBN 9781285068657.