Incubation strategy, incubation leadership, incubation community—these are all things you have in place. You have to nurture them, create them. This is much more than a defined activity; judgment and good thinking tools are needed.
There are 3 specific incubation engines.
Incubation Engine 1: Rapid Learning System
Organizations cannot learn—only individuals can. We systematically identify positive deviants and formalize their insights.
Thanks to the famous book Learning Organizations, people widely believe that organizations can learn. However, this ability is reserved for individuals. Thus, you need a system that captures and formalizes those learnings. In relevant conversations where these new insights are articulated, you either press the record button or take really good notes.
This isn't something done in a traditional marketing style where you set aside monthly times with suppliers or customers. If we find something that resonates really well with customers on the east coast, we need to formalize it within hours to have it available to share with others. That is a Rapid Learning.
Incubation Engine 2: Engagement & Scaling Mechanism
20 years ago, quality information was a scarce resource. Today, it's human attention that's rare. Our experience and tools help our customers win the battle for mindshare.
We want to get the attention of sales reps on, say, the west coast, but they have other stuff in their bags as well. We can't just call and tell them to sell something. We have to create mindshare so that they see that it is in their own interest to be part of this business incubation.
Incubation Engine 3: Progress Gauge
Nothing drives success like success. We know that showing progress is as much about tracking performance as it is about building a success dynamic.
Ultimately, a critical mass of people have to believe in the success of your incubator. As with everything new, a couple of people will think it's a great idea. But there is always this doubt out there that maybe you are investing resources going down the wrong path. You are going to have constant battles with these two dynamics. Things happen that support the belief that you are going to be successful, and things happen that make you worry you won't.
By systematically showing progress, you support the dynamic that is in favor of you succeeding. What does the sales force see in terms of opportunity for the innovation that you are trying to make successful? Put that in some kind of form—not in a spreadsheet with a million numbers, but a simple dashboard that you can show over and over again. People saying, “Oh wow, we are making real progress here” is key.
New businesses are by nature an endangered species within big corporations. They do not contribute a significant amount of revenue compared to the established business lines. As a result, the new business leader is up against established power structures and the constant pressure to show progress. Gauging and communicating progress is not an afterthought—it is a matter of survival.