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The Lockheed Martin Skunk Works hangar in Palmdale, California

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.[1] The terms originated with Lockheed's World War II Skunk Works project.


Everett Rogers defined skunkworks as an "enriched environment that is intended to help a small group of individuals design a new idea by escaping routine organizational procedures."[2]

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.[3]

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 removed from the normal working environment and given freedom from management constraints.[3]

The term typically refers to technology projects developed in semi-secrecy, such as Google X Lab.[4][5] 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.[2]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Skunk works". The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Retrieved October 12, 2009. 
  2. ^ a b Rogers E. (2003) Diffusion of Innovations, 5th ed., p. 109.
  3. ^ a b "Idea: Skunkworks". The Economist. August 25, 2008. Retrieved 2013-03-19. 
  4. ^ Stone, Brad (22 May 2013). "Inside Google's Secret Lab". BusinessWeek. Retrieved 13 February 2014. 
  5. ^ Daft, Richard (2013). Management. Cengage Learning. p. 361. ISBN 9781285068657.