HOW TO DESIGN INTRAPRENEURSHIP PROGRAMS
Innovation Managers, HR & Talent Development Directors, Organisational Change Managers and Incubator Heads of Fortune 500 organisations are all trying to better understand how to structure Intrapreneurship related programs. Such programs can be used to generate growth, innovation, talent retention and employee engagement but they are still in their infancy.
At the Academy for Corporate Entrepreneurship we believe that Intrapreneurship is the act of behaving like an entrepreneur in order to evolve ideas into new ventures that have an impact for the organisation. Through our work with the Founder Institute, the world’s largest start-up accelerator launching 1000 companies per year with a 79% survival rate, and the experience of our vast network of Intrapreneurship mentors, we’ve identified 10 factors that must be considered when designing Intrapreneurship Programs for your organisation. These factors help shape a solid program for you to get started with and can then be further adapted to incorporate the learnings from your initial experience of implementing the program.
Each factor below leaves you with a cliff hanger to consider. To get input and record your answer for each factor, go to our free Intrapreneurship Program Design Tool and you’ll get a full report of your answers and access to our White Paper.
3 Team Selection
4 Innovation Maturity
5 Slack Time
7 Core Program Structure
8 Work Flow Structure
9 Slush Fund Support
10 Train the Trainer
Nothing happens with out sponsorship. However, we have seen sponsors get excited and want to create visibility for their project across the organisation before participants have even covered much ground. This can distract teams from their project and can cause for the ideas as well as the sponsor to come under fire from other leadership. It’s best to start small and quietly, and later advertise the success as the ventures mature and you’ve learned how to implement such programs. You don’t even need to change the language to “lean startup” or “intrapreneurship”, rather use more comfortable internal speak to disguise it as “market research” or “product development” etc. When targeting a sponsor consider how you can use Intrapreneurship to solve a problem / challenge they have and offer to run a small quiet pilot. Consider where your sponsor is most likely to come from…
Not everyone can be an Intrapreneur but anyone can contribute to an idea. For intrapreneurship programs we are not looking for incremental improvement ideas, but rather the differentiated and disruptive ideas with lots of “unknowns”. Where and how you collect these ideas can very much depend on who your sponsor is and why. Consider how your organisation already collects such ideas to make sure they remain relevant to your cause…
3. Team Selection
For innovation projects we always hear that you have to select the right people! We hear constantly that incubators fail because the wrong guy was in charge. But who is the right person? Using social science testing and real world data from the performance of over 35,000 entrepreneurs, it is now possible to accurately predict if an individual is a good fit for intrapreneurship or not. You can dramatically decrease your failure rate with launching new ventures if you recruit intrapreneurs who have ‘Intrapreneur DNA’. Consider taking our test here. How will you select the right people?
4. Innovation Maturity
This factor could also be considered as “mind-set”. We see teams performing better in an Intrapreneurship Program (to explore new ventures) if they have already been exposed to some basics on the need to innovate and what is happening in the world of start-ups. This may range from having simply read the book on Lean Start-up, to engaging with the local start-up community or already building your external network with other Intrapreneurs or having participated in Design Thinking and Lean Start-up related workshops. Do participants and sponsors understand why Intrapreneurship is important to the organisation?
5. Slack Time
You don’t need a full-time incubator to get started with Intrapreneurship, and you don’t need to be in Silicon Valley. You also don’t need lots of money to “fund the innovative ideas”. Early stage ideas need time to mature and therefore a part-time approach can be very attractive for corporates. The time allocation can also not be restricted to “innovate on Fridays” but rather spread out as the project needs it. We are finding that teams investing about 10hrs each per week is a good balance between managing day to day responsibilities and being able to push the intrapreneurship project forward. Consider how much time participants can invest in order to commit to the team and project with out interruptions…
A common mistake is trying to role out programs that include hundreds of people before you’ve even learned how the program needs to operate in order to work for your organisation. That’s a good way to kill it off before it gets started! How many teams should enter the program? We typically recommend to start a pilot intrapreneurship program with 1 cohort consisting of 2 teams so that you can have a benchmark. Each team consists of 4-6 participants (potentially cross-functional) and of different personalities. Once a cohort has completed the process, you can start to scale up your number of teams. You also have a 1 or 2 quick wins you can show case internally to encourage further adoption. How many teams can you imagine ramping up to as your program grows…?
7 Core Program Structure
Potentially the most important and defining factor (hence the image above). Going from idea to market is a mystifying process. Through developing thousands of entrepreneurs, we’ve seen that a very structured approach to progressing the idea into a new venture 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 option is typically used when the emphasis is on developing the idea more than developing the participants and will cause the program to run longer using more resources.
Many corporates rely purely on internal “experts” to help teams launch new ventures. We view this as an additional advisory role necessary for industry expertise and helping navigate red tape. Leveraging the knowledge of external entrepreneurship / intrapreneurship mentors who have themselves launched new ventures is critical to keeping teams on track, honest and accountable. We’ve seen programs that are supported by mentors / trainers both physically and virtually. Physical engagements certainly add to the experience and culture amongst participants but require participants to be in the same location or to travel and the training cost can be higher. Virtual engagements allow for anyone to join as part of a virtual team and can be very time efficient although some participants struggle with collaboration technology. Do you feel that your organisation is taking a “structured approach” to fostering corporate entrepreneurship…?
8 Work Flow Structure
There are numerous considerations as to how and when teams will work during the program. From when to allocate time to what online collaboration and communication tools can be accessed. When will they check in with mentors? Who will contribute to which assignments? When during the week can they run customer experiments and re-group as a team? Even when using simple tools that entrepreneurs would use daily, we see many teams needing to circumnavigate corporate firewalls and find workarounds. Having a designated Program Director in constant communication with the team helps with the work flow of the program. What aspects of your organisation’s culture and IT systems may impact your teams?
9 Slush Fund
Even though teams may receive some theoretical introduction, assignments and mentoring, bringing the project to life requires other skills and fast turnarounds. We have found that the use of a Slush Fund can be critical in supporting the teams to move quickly with out road-blocks and red tape, so that they can conduct experiments as startups do. This is especially the case when the team is not truly cross-functional with design and development skills. We allocate the Slush Fund to a variety of services that are required during the team’s journey and work can be turned around within 24hrs! What extra support may your teams need…?
10 Train the Trainer
For the program to have a sustainable impact and transform culture over time, capabilities need to be transferred and spread across the organisation – so that you are creating an “army of corporate entrepreneurs” as I discuss in this key note. This is how you can scale efficiently to hundreds of Intrapreneurs whilst continuously transferring the latest learning’s. Innovation Catalyst Programs at Intuit and GE are good examples of this. How will you scale intrapreneurial capability?
To help you get started on these points, use the free Intrapreneurship Program Design Tool and gain access to our White Paper with your full report at the end.
Don’t be shy to get in touch directly for a free consultation about designing your own program: firstname.lastname@example.org
Founder & CEO