Babele is a technology and consulting company founded by Emanuele Musa and Ruxandra Creosteanu that works in the fields of collective intelligence, business modeling and social impact. Babele have pioneered application of open strategies and collaborative business planning, providing their online platforms to universities, incubators, networks and corporations in 4 continents. You can find a link to the Intrapreneurship Paper here: https://babele.co/home/events/intrapreneurship/
“In life, change is inevitable. In business, change is vital. “– Warren Beaty
In my 40 year professional career, I have been an entrepreneur and an intrapreneur because I believe innovation, creativity, finding solutions is not just the domain of entrepreneurs. Institutions, organization, corporates and big businesses all need to generate breakthrough ideas for growth. The top-down, strategies, expensive R&D divisions and structured innovation process are not enough. So I was excited to receive an email from Emanuele Musa who with his co-founder Ruxandra Creosteanuhas written a white paper on “Intrapreneruship” and are rolling out their model to companies. Intrapreneurship they argue is a way of “democratizing innovation activities”
In this article we have extracted some of the salient points, insights and trends from their white paper and created an extended summary. We hope this will lead to interesting discussion and sharing of stories of how we can all apply theentrepreneurial qualities to companies as intrapreneurs.
Disruptive change and innovation, digital businesses and a new business paradigm are some of the well-known terms used describe the current global business environment.
Behind these trendy words, there is only one idea – the world and business are changing at incredible speeds – and companies need to change with them.
Change and innovation are no longer simply nice things to have for a company – they’re mandatory. The business environment changes so rapidly, that according to a Deloitte study, over 88% of the Fortune 500 companies from 1970, do not exist anymore.
So the main question is – how can businesses change and keep on innovating? Fostering intrapreneurship is one of the answers.
The term ‘intrapreneur’ was first defined in the 1960s by Pinchot—Dreamers who do. Those who take hands-on responsibility for creating innovation of any kind within an organization.
To put it simply, an Intrapreneur is an employee who has the mentality of an entrepreneur – people who can identify opportunities and are willing to take the time and actions to explore them.
Every company has some intrapreneurs working inside – managers should recognize them and give the intrapreneurs the resources they need to pursue their intrapreneurship projects.
How To Recognize The Intrapreneur
In order to characterize an intrapreneur, it is important to examine the qualities of an entrepreneur and adapt them to the context of working in a company.
Translating the above mentioned qualities to Intrapreneurs, Babele recommends some of the following primary ways of identifying them.
Until recently, innovation activities were only assigned to the R&D department – employees with a technical background, in a lab, separated from the rest of the company trying to come up with new products.
As much as R&D departments deserve thanks and merit for some of the greatest technological advances in the last century, they also missed the mark.
One of the most important examples was the “New Coke” experiment in the 1980s.
Trying to win the “Cola Wars”, Coca-Cola developed a new formula for its iconic drink. The company replaced the old Coca- Cola with the “New Coke”, engineered in the R&D labs to help Coca-Cola win the war against Pepsi. However, this was done without proper prior market research or overall company involvement and ended up being a failure.
The New Coke lasted only 2 months on the supermarket shelves in the US and customers were so aggravated by the change that they called the Coca-Cola HQ to complain.
Keeping the innovation activities in a lab separated from other departments can lead to many similar accidents.
This is when intrapreneurship comes into play – it’s a way of democratizing innovation activities. It allows businesses to easily involve and engage all the interested stakeholders in the innovation process in an organized way.
Intrapreneurship allows companies to be disruptive and develop a new way of doing business (or new products or processes) within the structure of the organization. It also creates a way for organizations to innovate like startups, while being as organized as corporate.
Intrapreneurship also puts employees and their creativity in the center and transcends hierarchical organizations, being a bottom-up approach.
Change – intrapreneurship helps companies keep up with it and adapting to new ways of doing business.
Most innovative activities nowadays focus on optimizing processes and products rather than encouraging disruptive change – mainly because it’s safer to do so and easier to invest in something more familiar to us than something completely new.
This is how firms get caught up in what they are doing and they miss the new business opportunity (ex: Blockbuster versus online video streaming platforms).
According to Deloitte, at least 20% of all employees exhibit entrepreneurial activity – companies just need to recognize these intrapreneurs and give them the resources to develop their ideas.
Facebook organizes internal hackathons (innovation non-stop sprints where employees develop MVPs) a couple of times a year The Facebook “Like” button is the result of such hackathons.
Google encourages employees to spend at least 20% of their working time on innovation projects – gives them access to prototyping resources and mentoring. Gmail started as a side project.
Telekom organizes UQBate – an internal corporate accelerator.
Before examining the detailed process of building intrapreneurship programs, some principles have to be set. Madhavan Ramamujan came up with the 3 commandments of innovation. They are:
Although these commandments might seem a little dramatic, they are underlining that innovative projects should answer to a need, be valued by people and have a place on the market.
Another important thing for successful intrapreneurship programs is management involvement – even though intrapreneurship is a bottoms-up approach (the ideas are coming from “ordinary” employees), management has to be the catalyst of intrapreneurship initiatives. It has to provide leadership and build the innovation culture.
One of such initiatives is the Circle Of Intrapreneurs founded by Tim Heard and David Spears. They are a global movement designed to guide and inspire young leaders to develop and deliver business ideas within large corporate organisations that can both generate profit and have a positive social impact. Find out more about them here: https://www.circleofintrapreneurs.com/.
According to Harvard Business Review, there are 8 primary elements for successful intrapreneurship programme:
There are different types of intrapreneurship programmes. They include;
Hackathons – hackathons are “innovation” sprints – multidisciplinary teams work continuously for a set amount of time (usually 48 – 72 hours) to build a prototype to solve a predefined problem.
Idea Fair – employees upload project ideas on an internal platform and the most voted ones go into the prototyping phase.
Sandbox Fund – a special fund that provides seed funding (ideas in the building phase) for intrapreneurship ideas.
Innovation Time – employees are given a specific amount of working time they can spend on working on intrapreneurship projects.
Even if these types of programmes have different organizational models and incentives, they follow similar development stages. These stages are:
Another important part of intrapreneurship programmes is communicating and engaging stakeholders in the programme. This is why a clear Communication and Engagement strategy should be defined. Some ways to do this are:
In light of these insights, issues and findings elaborately discussed and explained, the need for companies and organisations to adopt Intrapreneurship programmes into their business modules is evident.
For any business that wants to ensure continues innovation and overall sustainable development, intrapreneurship is not optional; it is a mandate that must be ingrained in the culture of the business environment. What do think? Share your thoughts.