Incubation is Integral to Innovation Success

Monday, 16 September 2013 06:30
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Much of our business life is dedicated to problem solving. Quite often, this involves overcoming a project obstacle or a technical challenge. Substantial corporate resources get invested in activities associated with troubleshooting existing projects. In contrast, there is limited interest in investing even modest corporate resources to incubate promising innovation candidates and enable them to become viable projects. If I am right about this, there's something wrong.

Curious to learn more? Read on, dear friends....

Incubation is Integral to Innovation Success

Incubation can be integral to innovation success. When companies pass instant, negative judgment on prospective projects they often forego opportunities that could realistically be revitalized and improved via incubation. I also think this happens far more often than companies might imagine it does. I genuinely believe that companies should be willing to commit to "think time" in collaboration with technology providers to actively solve value proposition gaps.

Let's consider a couple of examples:
After discussing the potential opportunity for a proprietary oral care technology with a consumer product company, their liaison decided to pass. His rationale? The technology/benefit would represent a challenge to successfully communicate to consumers. I accept this reservation as a legitimate concern. However, if the technology was otherwise judged worthy and its benefits strategically relevant and meaningful, then wouldn't it make sense to identify and assess communication alternatives with consumers versus rejecting the proposition altogether?
As another example, one of my clients is actively collaborating with an external technology provider to "problem-solve" a very promising cookware opportunity with distinctive heat transfer properties that translate to important consumer benefits. While the technology provider's product is outstanding when used for most common applications, it reveals some limitations under certain extreme usage conditions.
My client has interest in possibly licensing this technology as it is very distinctive and would allow the telling of a very compelling product story to consumers. However, as it would represent a premium priced product, he has sensibly decided that he is unwilling to say to consumers that they can experience its benefits under most, but not all cooking conditions. While other companies might dismiss the technology due to this limitation, we are exploring alternatives with the technology provider that would not necessitate such restrictions. We are encouraged that our collaborative problem solving will make his technology suitable for my client's needs.  
Not every technology candidate that would otherwise be rejected can be revitalized via incubation. However, I suspect that numerous candidates would benefit from the effort and it would show a favorable return on investment. I encourage more companies to recognize this and consider investing resources, accordingly.

Could your innovation team benefit from coaching tips to help improve its internal selling effectiveness? Consider giving me a call at 614 937-2408.

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