Idea incubation is a process for bringing ideas into reality. It starts on a very fundamental level, often with a single individual who comes up with a concept he or she thinks should be further explored. This individual brings others in on the incubation process, making the idea stronger and more viable. Ultimately, the idea may be turned into a product, assuming that funding can be secured and that the idea is commercially viable.
Many companies foster idea incubation by clustering workers together in collaborative environments. Especially in the case of software companies, employees are actively encouraged to spend work time pondering issues and ways to solve them. Cooperative groups work best for incubation because other members of the group can identify strengths and weaknesses of the idea, resulting in a stronger finished product.
Many startup companies begin with idea incubation in a house or restaurant somewhere. A quick thinking entrepreneur can identify a problem, a solution, and a way to make the solution marketable. Idea incubation may involve a simple problem and an innovative solution, or a complex problem requiring creative effort by several individuals. If the incubation process is successful, an entrepreneur can present a larger company with a concrete concept, resulting in increased funding to develop it.
As the idea becomes stronger, it is introduced to a wider group. This allows incomplete ideas to be more thoroughly fleshed out before being promoted, which means that ideas are less likely to be ignored and allowed to fall through the cracks. It also means that as an idea gains momentum, the growing group of individuals associated with it can contribute to the concept.
Some companies offer their services as professional idea incubators. These companies use a staff of individuals who are trained to think innovatively. Idea incubation firms often provide support for product development all the way through the process from the initial vague concept to commercial production.
To foster idea incubation, an open environment is needed. Rigid corporate environments with set bureaucracies tend to foster less idea development. The free exchange of information, use of conflict as a development tool, and equality between idea incubators allow companies to come up with innovative product concepts. Teams are encouraged to take risks and think outside the box. Smaller companies tend to be more successful idea incubators, due to the more egalitarian and open environment fostered within small companies.
Successful incubation can result in products ranging from clothespins to computers. Ultimately, strong leadership and executive skills are required, along with an entrepreneurial spirit. Once an idea has been incubated, it needs to be developed, prototyped, and commercially presented. Appointing a team leader can encourage this, along with creating a work environment in which all employees are encouraged to make contributions.