There’s much more to intrapreneurship than enabling teams to come up with ideas for new products and services.

Done right, and when given enough time, intrapreneurship is a vehicle and a playground for introducing new ways of working, busting silos and accelerating culture change. This is the approach taken by Sophie Bialaszewski (Lloyds Banking) and Elisabeth Eude (Nokia), as they shared on stage during #IntraCnf Stockholm.

From Espresso Martini’s to KIW-e’s – here are their stories.

About Lloyds Banking Group

Lloyds Banking Group is a major British financial institution formed through the acquisition of HBOS by Lloyds TSB in 2009. Lloyds Banking Group’s activities are organised into: Retail Banking (including Mortgages and Sole Traders); Commercial; Life, Pensions & Insurance; and Wealth & International. Lloyds has extensive overseas operations in the US, Europe, the Middle East and Asia, and about 75 thousand employees worldwide.

Innovation Drivers

Technology disruption is always at the forefront of Sophie and her team’s minds. Five years ago they didn’t have a mobile banking app – today they have a million mobile customers. But digital has transformed customer expectations: they’re not comparing their current bank with another bank, instead they want to bank the way they order their Uber, or the way they track their Domino’s pizza order. Lloyds wanted to make sure that they kept apace with change in terms of the customer experiences they provide, and knew how they could fit into and shape the emerging fintech ecosystem.

Their Approach: Holistic Change

Sophie and her team set up several innovation labs, each with a different focus. They have a fintech discovery team tasked with keeping abreast of emerging technologies and trends, so when other parts of the Group are creating strategies this team encourages them to think 5-10 years into the future rather than just the next 1-2 years; they have an innovation culture events team; they have an internal accelerator working with other parts of the Group, helping them to derisk any future investments they might be making; and they have people innovation labs, which provide employees the skills and capabilities they need to be successful in a digital world. This holistic approach, with a focus on culture, products and training, helps Lloyds drive an overall culture of innovation throughout the Group.

Digital Espressos

The first thing Sophie did to get an innovation culture started was launch internal talks – on a Tuesday morning at 11am, she invited an external speaker to give a presentation to employees across the organization. Though only four people showed up to that first one, the talks have grown into Digital Espressos, where passionate speakers come in to talk about something they love. Held in their digital hub, over 150 people attend on average and recordings are available afterwards for those who couldn’t make it in person.

Espresso Martinis

From there, Sophie created Espresso Martinis – monthly evening meetup groups hosted by local tech companies and meetups, with panel debates and networking. The influx of external ideas has had a powerful impact on the mindset of people within the Group, helping them not just learn about, but form opinions on, new technologies and the fintech ecosystem.

Creating Experiences

Sophie and her team found that creating experiences that are out of the day-to-day workflow was an effective way to spur mindset change. In their innovation jams, they take people from a specific area of the Group, such as retail or insurance, and ask them to come up with a challenge question around their biggest customer pain point. From there, they choose the best 30-40 ideas and, after a 48-hour hackathon, present ten prototypes to executives and pay for the best one to go forward for testing and validation.

Collaboration For Culture

They also make sure to bring their people out of the building. Through partnerships with external startup bootcamps and accelerators, they put one or two of their executives into programs to act as mentors. They also take part in external hackathons, sending teams of intrapreneurs to work alongside entrepreneurs. The hands-on experience helps them come back and bring a lean, agile way of working to their teams.

Embracing The Unknown

Sophie and her team made sure to help the Group get more comfortable with risk and uncertainty. The first time they decided to take part in an external accelerator program, they brought people from the sourcing department to meet with the program leaders, which helped them feel more comfortable approving the project. Sophie has since created a governance framework within their internal accelerator that includes sourcing, legal, and risk that has enabled them to make quick decisions – so instead of taking someone 3-6 months to come up with a decision, they can do things in a couple of weeks.

The Outcomes (So Far)

Innovation has become business as usual for Lloyds now, with communities of people across the Group that are championing and trailblazing innovation. Over the last two years, their innovation labs have delivered around 50 experiments, many of which have been scaled and launched to 11 million customers, and a number of others have been picked up by the global media. Their people labs launched the UK’s first digital banking graduate scheme and a group-wide digital academy to upskill all Lloyds employees.

About Nokia

Nokia Corporation is a Finnish multinational communications and information technology company, founded in 1865. After the sale of its mobile phone business, Nokia began to focus more extensively on its telecommunications infrastructure business, marked in part by the the acquisitions of French telecommunications company Alcatel-Lucent and digital health maker Withings in 2016. They have over 100 thousand employees worldwide.

Innovation Drivers

Elizabeth wanted to create a company culture in which women get the same business opportunities as men, and are well represented in business domains and functions. To that end, in 2011 she created StrongHer, an employee network at Alcatel-Lucent for women. She and her colleagues have created, led and grown this initiative for over 6 years, surviving through turbulent company changes, thanks to some innovative tools, leadership and governance models.

Their Approach: Grassroots

Most startups fail within their first few years and one of the challenges is to “cross the chasm” and get large customer adoption. For intrapreneurs, the challenge to sustain their venture in the long run can be even more complicated – especially when your company gets acquired. Elizabeth knew that in order for her initiative to survive no matter what the future held, she had to start small and help employees not only feel ownership, but take ownership. It had to evolve as a grassroots, bottom-up movement.

Starting Small

She and her colleagues began as a small movement within Alcatel-Lucent, with the objective of simply raising awareness. They didn’t ask much of people who wanted to get involved – all they had to do was be passionate about the topic and agree to take action, and agree to the shared values and approach, so that whatever projects they wanted to launch were done within the loose framework of the group.

Scaling Gradually

The group invested a lot of time into the internal social network at Nokia, using it to spread awareness of StrongHer. They quickly became the most active group on the network, and colleagues from other countries began contacting them through the network to ask questions and get involved.

Innovative Governance

As the movement took hold, Elizabeth and her team realized they needed some structure – but they didn’t want a typical, hierarchal organization. They wanted the movement to grow and last, even beyond each individual member – if someone ‘in charge’ left, they wanted StrongHer to be able to easily continue on. So, they developed a central board with six co-leaders. Each area of responsibility, such as communications or finance, was managed by two people, a prime and a secondary, so there was always a backup person.

Local Antennas

Because so many colleagues from other regions were contacting them and wanting to run StrongHer initiatives in their area, they created what they called local antenna groups, and provided them with a simple, four-step starter kit so they could replicate what Elizabeth and her colleagues had done.

Gaining Exposure

To combat internal pushback, they began working on external visibility and exposure for StrongHer. They communicated with and got positive feedback from customers and partners, and used this to gain legitimacy and, eventually, internal sponsorship for more ambitious projects. They created marketing collateral, such as videos and brochures, and used them internally and externally to gain more exposure and support.

Going Global

Once they had grown to 15 local antennas, they realized they needed more structure. They put a decentralized global governance structure in place consisting of the central board, an extended board, the local antennas, network members, and customers, partners, and institutions. These levels are not structured as a pyramid, but as centres of influence who communicate with and help one another.

The Outcomes (So Far)

StrongHer survived through the transition with Nokia and is active in over 60 countries, with 35 local antennas and 1500 members, 22% of whom are men. They have won several awards, and were named the gender equality mainstream leader for the tech industry by UN Women. They have partnered with UNESCO to to promote gender diversity through partnerships with universities, social networks, and corporations, using best practices developed by StrongHer to increase the representation and participation of women across all industries.

The KIW-e program – which stands for knowledge, information, and wisdom for employees – uses the collective intelligence of the StrongHer community to support mentoring and learning from peers on a global scale.


Interested in hearing how companies like IBM, 3M, RBC, Telus and GE are getting results from their intrapreneurship programs?

Join the global intrapreneurship community for the next #IntraCnf in Toronto, 15-17 November 2017, with more than 25 intrapreneurs on stage, and 49+ practical sessions to join- covering everything intrapreneurship from start to scale.