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skunkworks
Last modified: Wednesday, December 17, 2003 

A typically small and loosely structured group of people who research and develop a project for the sake of innovation. The term typically is used in regard to technology projects. A skunkworks often operates independent of a company’s normal research and development operations and therefore often is subject to limitations in resources. Skunkworks projects often are undertaken in secret with the understanding that if the development is successful then the product will be designed later according to the usual process. A famous example of a skunkworks project is the first Apple Macintosh computer.

The term comes from the Skonk Works, the Kickapoo Joy Juice bootleg brewing operation in Al Capp’s Li’l Abner comic strip.

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