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10 years of an idea based on values and approach to life

This week I got a few reminders from those in my LinkedIn Network that IncubatorU celebrated 10 years as a company.

The company started as an idea within Nike to help create an In House Employee Led Innovation Center. The concept was simple and I think it would work even better today.

While Nike grew as a company, so did the silos and bureaucracy within the company making it difficult at times for great ideas to float up to the top and be tested. I loved seeing the passionate and creative young people come to work dreaming of being something bigger. As a Director/Manager/Mentor I would see and hear from amazing employees that had great ideas to share. There was no mechanism for that to happen and provide a space for people to bring their ideas and see how they could potentially incubate and grow within the matrix.

I got close to creating a methodology and space within walking distance of Nike ( the firehouse on Murray and Jenkins) where people could walk to the building from the Hollister Trail and share their ideas, dreams and concepts to a small team that would then go into the matrix and see where there were blocks, barriers or allies and accelerators to make it happen.

After we pulled off a pop up world class 5k on the Nike Campus

There were some organizational changes that shifted my sponsor of the concept ( VP of Diversity and Inclusion-Gina Warren) to reporting to HR vs the CEO.

At that point in time I realized that this concept was not going to go anywhere and I felt it was a good time to push off and retire from Nike and start something on my own.

The idea of IncubatorU within Nike maximizing the potential of the ideas from within the company I believe could still work today. I had just passed my 30 year anniversary and I wanted to walk out on my own and explore where I could take this and rewired.

I set up the LLC and Trademarked the name and logo and then met a couple of amazing Branding Gurus to help me craft my Brand Deck.

IncubatorU Brand Logo with the Nike Orange as a way to respect the past but build the future
IncubatorU Logo

A good brand story stands the test of time and I had the good fortune to have Joel Kleinberg and Chris Hotz listen to my "Imagine" Brand story and do a damn good job caputuring it.

Brand Story

The next step was to create a Brand Position that helped guide my work and provide an aspirational approach and engagement to the work I wanted to do. Much of the work centered around building community through athletics. While still at Nike and before I founded IncubatorU I worked as a volunteer on projects that helped define the values and mission of the Brand. In 2013 I was recognized as the Volunteer of the Year by the Portland Monthly's Light a Fire Awards for the leadership in transforming Roosevelt High Schools Athletic Facilities into an quality facility that forced the school district to rebuild the school vs closing it down based on creating the St John's Teddy Roosevelt Athletic Complex. The Brand position had been in motion but now it was captured in our initial Brand Deck.

Brand Position

Fear Stifles Creativity

I would see so many times in athletics, business and life that Fear of Failure or Fear of someone not supporting your idea or initiative kills creativity and many amazing ideas are left on the table to never be explored. It was important for me to have a MIssion that embraced the unknown and see the potential of an idea through assuming positive intent and exploring where it could lead.

Brand Mission
Innovation can come from anywhere

Our vision was to Make Effective Innovation a Common and Attainable Practice. I stayed true to this Vision for the last 10 years and we have transformed communities, organizations and individuals and teams. The IncubatorU 5-Step Methodology that motivated me to write my book: Innovation from the Ground Up-Using IncubatorU's 5-Step Methodology to Transform Your Organization I love encouraging people the "Permission to Dream" and "Fearlessly Innovate Together".

Brand Vision

The Brand Story of who we are is rooted in what IncubatorU is and Is Not.

Our motivation to exist is to:

  • Creating positive change

  • Realized Potential

  • Achievement

  • Connection

  • Discovery

  • Innovation

  • Leadership

  • Team Success

Brand Description of who we are and who we are not

I look for a person within the organization that I identify as a "Change Agent". It is usually not the top leader in the organization but someone that with this methodology is more critical in the transformation and bringing change and innovation to the forefront. The Leader needs to recognize and support this role but also allow them to do their magic and get things done.

The Change Agent's Traits are:

  • Connected

  • Courageous and Pioneering

  • Inspired

  • Thoughtful and Open Minded

  • Dynamic and Persuasive

  • Trustworthy and Supportive

  • Collaborative

  • Optimistic-Assume Positive Intent

  • Hard Working and Persistent

Michael Bergmann on the Nike Campus transitioning from Corporate Life to building IncubatorU

IncubatorU 5 Step Methodology leading the IncubatorU Brand 2.0
Innovation from the Ground Up now available on Amazon. The companion workbook will be available this spring.

Thank you to those that sent their best to me as IncubatorU reached the 10 year anniversary. It means more to me than you will ever know. However, with the foundation set over the previous 10 years I am more excited than ever to see what the next 10 years brings as I build out my personal and professional network, scale the methodology to a wide variety of industries, organizations, and especially people. Look for information on my next steps with Virtual Round Tables, Retreats, Workshops and Speaking Engagements. I look forward to hearing from you but also how you are applying the IncubatorU 5-Step Methodology in your world.

Remember-Let's continue to Fearlessly Innovate Together and alway give yourself the Permission to Dream.

Reach out to me at if you are interested in learning more about our roundtables, workshops and retreats in 2024.

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