In an age where the business environment has never been more competitive, companies must leverage every tool available to them to maintain market share and get ahead. Innovation plays a key role in holding onto competitive advantage, and is the backbone of a company’s new products, services and processes.
But how do companies, especially large organizations, remain dynamic, flexible and fast enough to spot new opportunities and capitalize on them before their competitors beat them to it? The answer lies in a successful intrapreneurship program.
The structure, bureaucracy and rigid internal processes of established businesses often stifle innovation, but intrapreneurship, the concept of enabling employees to behave like entrepreneurs within the organization, is allowing companies to continually adapt and redefine themselves.
Organizations such as 3M, Lockheed Martin and Google are examples of businesses getting it right with a strong focus on harnessing their employees’ creative power. At 3M, employees came up with Post-It Notes, at Lockheed Martin they produced a number of famous aircraft designs, and employees at Google came up with Gmail, AdSense and Google News.
All of these ideas were the result of in-house intrapreneurship programs, including Google’s famous 20 percent rule, hackathons, contests, skunk works and informal employee pitches to executives. Giving employees the freedom to capitalize on new ideas not only fuels growth, but can be the source of a company’s ongoing competitive advantage.
Design your own successful intrapreneurship program with help from the Academy for Corporate Entrepreneurship. Get in touch for a consultation today.
How intrapreneurship programs benefit organizations
At the Academy for Corporate Entrepreneurship, we help smart companies embrace intrapreneurship. The benefits to the organization are huge, but there are also the benefits to the employees. Let’s take a look at some of them.
Employee morale and productivity go up
A report produced by Gallop shows that lost productivity as a result of disengaged employees costs organizations billions of dollars on an annual basis, and can hurt the growth of a business. Well-run intrapreneurship programs provide an opportunity to avoid this situation, by engaging employees in work that is challenging, interesting and meaningful to them.
When employees are involved in a project that they are passionate about and invested in, it is likely that they will complete their regular workload as quickly as possible so that they can work on their passion project. To achieve this boost in productivity, the organization must develop a culture in which employees know that their contributions are valued and rewarded.
In addition, when employees are motivated and passionate about their work, not only will they give more, but this passion also inspires and motivates other employees, creating a positive cycle of increased morale and productivity throughout the organization.
Recruitment and retention becomes easier
Individuals with an intrapreneurial mindset are more likely to be attracted to companies that encourage creativity and provide an environment in which employees are free to pursue new ideas with the necessary organizational support. Potential employees may choose to work for a company with a successful intrapreneurship program, over a company offering a better compensation package, simply due to the incentive of a more rewarding job.
On the other side of the coin, from the employee perspective, high levels of job satisfaction result in lower levels of staff turnover.
The characteristics highlighted in a personality test for entrepreneurs show that passion and motivation are some of the most important qualities of a successful entrepreneur. A well-supported intrapreneurship program allows employees to channel their entrepreneurial spirits and feed their passions, but within the confines of an organizational setting, thereby allowing employees to feel fulfilled in their roles. It also avoids losing a promising employee who might have left the business to pursue an entrepreneurial idea on their own.
As well as job satisfaction, employees are provided with enhanced career prospects. Staff responsible for running projects develop strong leadership and organizational skills that stand them in good stead when it comes to future promotions. Similarly, being linked to a successful project can give an employee the opportunity to stand out and carve new avenues for rapid advancement within an organization.
Revenue and organizational growth receive a boost
Successful intrapreneurship programs create value, which in turn benefits an organization’s bottom line. As well as allowing businesses to react to new opportunities, ideas generated from intrapreneurship are also vital to a company’s pipeline of new products and services. These future revenue streams safeguard the organization and contribute to its growth.
In addition, intrapreneurship can lead to innovation in a company’s processes, driving internal efficiencies that allow it to become more profitable.
On the flip side, lack of innovation can be the death of a company. There are countless examples of organizations that failed to innovate, resulting in business failure. Blockbuster, Polaroid and more recently Toys “R” Us, have given us examples of companies that might have survived had they placed more emphasis on innovation and adapting to their competitive environment.
Getting started with an intrapreneurship program
Implementing intrapreneurship in your organization may not be as difficult or take as long as you think, provided you follow a defined process for introducing innovation. Here is a brief overview.
The first step, is to identify your intrapreneurs. They will usually be recognizable from their working style, which may be challenging the status quo, and they will likely be keen to take on new projects that bring change to the company.
Once you have identified your intrapreneurs, the next step is to bring them together to brainstorm ideas. The goal is to produce disruptive ideas that will lead to radical innovation, rather than incremental change.
To avoid a high failure rate for the ideas produced, it is important to include a discovery stage. This allows the idea to mature and be tested in the real world, based on customer or market evidence.
Finally, you should test the feasibility of your ideas. Through this process you may guide your intrapreneurs, provide innovation training and give feedback.
The Academy for Corporate Entrepreneurs (AfCE) can provide expert support to help you in designing your own intrapreneurship program. We help organizations create great corporate entrepreneurs by transforming company culture, engaging employees and stimulating innovation.
To learn more, get in touch for a consultation and get started on creating your own intrapreneurship program today.
Intrapreneurship programs with AfCE
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…
03. 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?
04. 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?
05. 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…?
07. 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…?
08. 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?
09. 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: [email protected]
Founder & CEO