Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Incubation as a model for idea management

The more I talk to people in innovative firms, the more I become convinced that incubation is a great model for innovation and idea management.

Ideas start out in life as new, fragile things that need care and nurturing to succeed. As the ideas grow and mutate, they have to be carefully considered and evaluated. Eventually, these ideas must be exposed to the harsh light of reality, but not too soon, or the potential value may be missed.

I looked up the word incubate on www.dictionary.com. One of the definitions it provides is "To form or consider slowly and carefully, as if hatching". I think this is the right metaphor for idea management.

An idea often starts out as a very undefined concept, usually nothing more than a sentence or two in a brainstorm, or a response to a customer request. This early idea needs to be placed in a protective, nurturing environment where it can be further elaborated and defined. The idea needs the chance to grow and mutate within a framework where others can interact and share information. Move the idea too quickly through the incubation process and you'll discover down the road issues that were not considered, which can be fatal to the idea.

Once the idea is ready to meet the more stringent evaluation standards of the market, it can be "hatched" and presented as a fully developed thing. The idea is probably much more complete than it was when first developed, and has had the benefit of much consideration and forming, to improve its chances of success.

In most firms this type of language and approach will be seen as a little ridiculous, but this is an approach that works. Until we provide the appropriate incubators for ideas, and give them the care and feeding they deserve, why would anyone share their "precious" idea with anyone else?
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posted by Jeffrey Phillips at 6:23 AM

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Blogger Vasant Hede said...

Really interesting blog.....we are planning to start an incubation centre in the college.....we want it to be a place where information is given on mentoring, patenting ideas, writing business plans, evaluating your idea,giving guidance on your idea etc.

Please provide your inputs on how to go about this...

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