S. Somasegar is the corporate vice president of the Developer Division at Microsoft. Learn more about Somasegar.
One of the things that I think about often is how do I cultivate a culture in my team that encourages, empowers and rewards/recognizes incubation efforts. Any technology innovation in its infancy, or early stage R&D work for something that is not necessarily well-defined is what I loosely call an incubation. It is not always the case that incubation efforts are long-lead innovations. Sometimes, they can be a quick turn of the dial.
I personally do not believe that everyone has the right mindset, passion, discipline and capability to be involved in incubation all the time, context switching from day to day business goals. Having the right people involved in the incubation, giving them the right environment so that the ideas can be nurtured and not placing undue constraints on the team are all critical factors to provide a nurturing environment.
As a development organization, it is important to make sure that a portion of the team’s bandwidth is allocated for incubation or “long-lead” innovation which we expect to take to market in a subsequent product cycle. This means that a business has to plan resource allocation in the following 3 buckets
· Making current customers successful (servicing)
· Working on the next version of the product
Resourcing incubation has to be a part of planning – otherwise the natural tendency is to suck up all the resources for the critical activity of the day.
There have been a lot of successful incubations in Developer Division and I will also be the first to tell you that there have been some that haven’t been successful. The nature of incubations is that. If somebody tells me they have a 100% success rate in incubations, then I say they are not doing enough incubations.
Other business leaders and companies have different philosophies on how to model incubations. This is simply what I have found to be most effective for my organization. However, innovation and agility need to go hand-in-hand and having a culture of encouraging and empowering people to do incubations is a “must” for continuous, ongoing innovation for any business.