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Hey, You Got Your Innovative Ideas In My Process Expertise!

| On 28, Dec 2007

Cass PursellPrematurely born innovations generally do not fare well when released too soon into the innovation pipeline. Further, we know from our experience with Lean Six Sigma that clogging the innovation pipeline with too many projects will cause the overall innovation lead time to swell; conversely, understanding which innovations are ready for release into the pipeline can greatly reduce innovation Lead Time. The obvious next question, then, for those who care about shortening the time it takes to bring new ideas to market (e.g., everyone) is how to go about the business of controlling the inputs to the innovation process.

According to Webster’s, an incubator is a “boxlike apparatus in which prematurely born infants are kept at a constant and suitable temperature.” Innovators’ infants are thoughts, ideas, concepts, insights, and conclusions. Creating an internal product-development incubator, then, can serve two purposes: nurturing ideas until they are ready for market, and helping to regulate the release of projects into the innovation pipeline.

Business incubation is a business support process that accelerates the successful development of innovative products by providing an array of targeted resources and services. There are already models available for emulation. IBM for example set up something called the Emerging Business Organization, which has produced businesses based on innovative technologies and is generating over $2 billion in annual revenues. Yahoo began an off site incubator last year that they call Brickhouse, whose mission is to shorten the time it takes to bring new ideas to market. Brickhouse produced its first product this year, Pipes, a free software tool that lets users gather and mix RSS feeds from many Web sites. Pipes received critical raves by bloggers for its ease of use. The site was so busy its first day that it crashed.

Critical to the definition of traditional incubators is the provision of management guidance, technical assistance and consulting tailored to young growing companies. Maybe it’s just me, but this sounds like a great opportunity for businesses to marry up their Innovation and Six Sigma programs.