Take the leap and start intrapreneuring – fast

One of the fantastic experts joining us for this year’s edition in Barcelona, is Hamish Forsyth. Hamish is Managing Director and co-founder of OneLeap, which helps the world’s leading organisations be more entrepreneurial, by working with the world’s best entrepreneurs. OneLeap helps your company build innovative new ventures and improve existing ones – fast. You can find a detailed outline of their approach in this recent Harvard Business Review article

We had a chat with him about their unique approach for driving innovation and wanted his best piece of advice for implementing intrapreneurship. He started sharing his fundamental belief about innovation:

“Successful intrapreneurship is partly about processes and tools, but mostly about behaviour and culture. You can’t change  easily. But that change happens by getting people to do, rather than trying to get the mto understand new models.

That’s why we pair up would-be intrapreneurs and senior executives with proven entrepreneurs to work together to build a prototype venture. Instead of being lectured, it’s a hands-on learning experience that delivers ongoing feedback and, crucially, a joint achievement”

How on earth do you get these top execs to change that quickly?

It works because it’s a collaborative process from day one. Another reasons is that real entrepreneurs with a proven track record are credible with executives tired of trainers. We only select credible entrepreneurs with a practical mindset into our community. Our entrepreneurs also need to have the confidence to speak honestly and, importantly, despite their achievements, they can’t have a huge amount of ego.

So, what is your secret recipe for your success?

Aside form giving a lot of attention to the personalities and qualities of entrepreneurs we select, we are careful in selecting the participants from the organization as well. We don’t just invite the typical innovation champions (CMOs, innovation directors), but also the skeptics. We also include people from compliance and general counsel. By engaging them in the process and giving them responsibility for making and pitching something, they see things differently. They see themselves differently, and get a sense of creating they did not have before. This helps prevent the corporate immune system from kicking in.

Now about intrapreneurship. How does your approach help in driving intrapreneurial initiatives in an organization?

To take one example, many intrapreneurial ventures fail because they don’t get the momentum required, languish and die inside the organisation. One approach we take to combat this is building ventures based on scarcity. A key difference between intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs is the amount of  resources they have access to. Ironically, shortage of resources can help entrepreneurs gain momentum.. They are forced to design and develop ventures based on what they can easily and cheaply access and by partnering early on with others to share the burden.  This means they start faster, get products in front of customers faster, and get feedback faster.  This same momentum and fast feedback cuts through internal resistance.  So our entrepreneurs work closely with an organisation’s entrepreneurs to help them develop and systemise this approach.

Secondly, as with many things, intrapreneurship starts at the top. If you see that your boss takes risks, you understand that it is OK to do so yourself as well. We like to involve top executives in the hard, embarrassing parts of intrapreneurship – for example showing a stranger on the street a mockup you have made.  We can video this and share leaders’ experiences with their teams.  As a leader, this can be scary and sometimes embarassing, but it is crucial if you want your people to take risks themselves.

What is your best piece of advice for implementing intrapreneurship?

Don’t draw up big plans for one or two “perfect,” well-resourced intrapreneurial ventures.  Instead, get started on multiple smaller ventures quickly and spread the risk. Your speed has a serious impact on your organizational culture.

It’s important to take multiple “little bets” because even with the best people most bets will probably fail – that’s the nature of entrepreneurship. If you bet on one grand project and it fails, your entire intrapreneurship strategy will be condemned.  I’d rather have teams working on and learning from 10 micro-resourced new products or services, than one very well resourced, rigidly defined project venture has been over-thought.

Then there’s politics. In my time working for the UK Prime Minister’s  strategy team, I learnt a bit about politics. In that environment, it is tempting to start with a grand plan, thinking that you could drive it with the clout of the Prime Minister’s office. But ultimately that does not work. If you have a great idea, start it small, quickly and get real results.  Real results delivered quickly, even on a small scale, can help cut through internal politics.

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Are you ready to take the leap and start implementing intrapreneurship in your organisation? We still have some tickets left for the Intrapreneurship Conference in Barcelona which will take place in a week time (11/12/13 December 2013)  join us !