Building your capacity and capability to deliver your own virtual learning incubators


If you've just started a new (innovation) role where you have to demonstrate some success in the first 30-60 days, or you're looking for stretch goals, with an opportunity to bring about real change , read on. 


We often hear it is important to generate a quick-win to build the buy-in to you, your approach, and broader change you wish to realise. But, how do you go about picking that quick-win?


We've run virtual incubators for individuals and team with brand new ideas as well as with failing ideas. Our conclusion, hands down, is to go after failing ideas which have already been failing for 6-12 months.


Don't pick ideas, innovations, projects with less than 6 months executionYou really don't know if the people behind this relatively new idea are committed, willing to take risks, and willing to step outside their comfort zone. It's very difficult to accelerate a completely new idea, not because traction is not possible, but because you have to invest a lot of time in socialisation your idea, getting budget approval, managing change, building a coalition - time you don't have to generate that quick-win in 30-60 days. 


Ideas 12+ months:  Avoid choosing failed ideas, defined as those with 12+ months without results. There is probably something seriously wrong, that you're unlikely to turn around within 60 days. Too many people are probably involved, with too much resources having spent, and too far along the product development lifecycle for them to listen to your "hang on, perhaps we should do things radically differently' approach.  


ideas 6-12 months:    Identify individuals and teams who are already failing in some shape or form. There is no shortage of 'failing' ideas in this bucket, even though most of them will probably not be acknowledged as failing.  The individuals behind these ideas probably still have the passion, the urgency in them, and are not too far along that they can't change their approach and still look credible to their bosses.


A virtual incubator can give them the time, permission, push, accountability, to bring about a turnaround. It's easier to create the urgency, because you can paint a picture if nothing changed in their approach, the consequences of where they will end up.


Example 1: We worked with a startup iTeach, who were selling teacher training to low-income affordable schools, and failing for 9 months. In just 8 weeks through a virtual incubator, they changed their definition of the problem, then their value proposition, secured 20 schools as paying customers, and received over $140K investment.


With any failing idea, pick on the 'steps' they've missed e.g. Did they skip the customer development part of building an idea? have they framed and understand the problem from multiple perspectives? do they understand the importance of finding and going after not just 'important' but also the 'important and urgent' problems of their users? Helping the teams to visit (or revisit) aspects they've missed can be instrumental in turning around a failing idea. 


Case-study 2: EdPuzzle, was working on their idea for 6 months, a 'Khan Academy in Spanish'. They were failing to realise they were failing. The voices inside their heads were telling them 'if only we add this feature or changed this about our product, our users will love us'. In less than 8 weeks, their whole approach was turned around after introducing them to new insights, users outside their context who were doing amazing things with video. This led to a realisation that their users were not looking for yet more content but the ability to take existing content and make it useful to their contexts. They've now gone to raise $2m+ funding round, and have 50%+ of all youtube's education videos. 


Failing ideas suggests they've already kickstarted, have the persistence and preserverance needed to bring about innovations, have built a network, they already 'bought the land', you can help them 'redig their foundations and build something new' 


Oh and virtual incubation for failing ideas is hugely enjoyable too. 


Pick 'failing ideas', not shiny new ideas