Entrepreneurship is an inherently creative endeavor, requiring almost constant problem-solving, risk-taking, and rule-breaking…and this is a good thing! Companies need more entrepreneurship – and although working with startups is an important way of doing that, it’s not enough. More and more companies are looking for ways to incorporate entrepreneurship in their internal infrastructure to foster growth, innovation and talent retention from within. This process is known as ‘intrapreneurship.’
But because intrapreneurship is still in its infancy, designing an intrapreneurship program still means plenty of open question for most innovation managers. In this article I want to share some of our experience designing and executing intrapreneurial programs with corporate clients across several industries, also drawing on our partnerships with accelerator programs and our network of mentors.
At Pioneers Discover we believe intrapreneurship is about behaving like an entrepreneur within an corporate in order to develop and evolve ideas into new business models that have an impact for the organisation. In order to see this happen, we’ve identified five factors that must be considered when designing and implementing an intrapreneurship program.
These factors help shape a solid program for you to get the ball rolling. Later, they can be further adapted to incorporate the things you learn as you execute your specific program.
Management Must Support, Not Shout
Intrapreneurship should not be seen as another innovation program – it should become part of the corporate’s innovation DNA. That’s why it should never go ahead without some internal patronage. However we’ve seen very different levels of commitment here: sometimes management gets excited and wants to create visibility for the project across the organisation before participants have even covered much ground. This can distract or influence teams. It’s best for senior management to support quietly, and later advertise the success as the teams and projects mature.
Even Creative Ideation Needs Structure
Not everyone is a visionary, but everyone can contribute to an idea in some way. For intrapreneurship programs you’re not looking for incremental improvement ideas, rather exceptional, disruptive ideas with lots of ‘unknowns’. Where and how you collect these ideas can very much depend on the organisation of your company and its ideation funnel. Consider how your organisation collects such ideas and make sure they remain relevant to your core business and structure. A good hint is to involve people from the operative business units in the early stages of the process. You’ll need their commitment throughout any project, as it’s usually important for the finer details of executing an idea.
Team Selection: Get The Right Mix
Choosing the right people is essential for any innovation project – and that’s a truth that confirms itself over and over in our daily experience. The teams are the most important ingredient for a strong intrapreneurship program. You need people who are intrinsically motivated, have the necessary drive and the right mindset. But the diversity of a team is also a definite success factor – bringing people from different backgrounds and business units together accelerates the innovation effects. We recommend hosting an innovation assessment center to learn more about the applicants and test if they bring the right requirements with them.
Look for Innovation Maturity
The mindset we mentioned in the last point is worth a little more detail. We see teams performing better in an intrapreneurship program if they’ve already been exposed to some basics of innovation, are interested in entrepreneurship or have been in touch with the startup community. It’s ideal to find people with some sort of ‘start’ in innovation, because this innovation maturity accelerates really fast once they start working in a team with similar people.
Map Out Projects Stage by Stage
Structure can be a defining factor for a program’s success. Going from idea to market is a challenging process, and we’ve seen that a very structured approach to progressing the idea into a new business model has offered the biggest value. Stage-Gating can be implemented in order to stop teams going too far before certain milestones have been reached. This method puts the emphasis on the idea to be developed while ensuring a long-term program. And that usually means more chance of success!
Intrapreneurship is more than just another innovation program – it’s a step towards transforming an organisation into a creative, learning and self steering organism. This transformation does take time. There are structures which need to be broken up and decades-old mindsets which need to be challenged. But at the end of this transformation process the company is enriched by many engaged, motivated intrapreneurs who are just waiting to find new, creative ways to solve future challenges.
Looking for direct help with your intrapreneurship program? Get in touch with Pioneers Discover, our consultancy arm, on firstname.lastname@example.org