In collaboration with my fellow co-organizers in the NYC Think Tank, I've created a 4-week incubation format for our Think Tank, which has the stated goal of bringing one high-potential idea through validation stages every 30 days, and ideally onto company stages.
The way we source these ideas is by creating a "challenge of the month" which solicits ideas from the group itself rather than implies how a certain solution should look. Tip of the hat to XPRIZE for that model.
The format is as follows:
Week 1: Group brainstorm, primarily unstructured, though I have a kickoff discussion explaining the relationship between problems, solutions, and technology. The point of that discussion is to preframe attendees into a balanced mode of thinking (i.e. not to focus on one of those three areas too heavily in coming up with ideas)
Week 2: An Expert Mentor is brought in for deeper discussions with more specific questions that arose out of Week 1. This Expert Mentor ideally has a company or project that is currently solving (or working to solve) the challenge of the month.
Week 3: The group returns and works on the ideas that have formed over the past 2 weeks. The second half of this event is more focused on product and validation plans.
Week 4: Decide on an idea to move forward with. If there's one idea, then we identify team members willing to put time into developing proof of concept. If there's more than one idea, the group votes on the ideas and we move forward with the winner.
Happy to hear thoughts on this format, or any ideas that arise out of it. Thanks!