If there is one thing that corporate employees can learn from entrepreneurs, it has to do with having a culture of innovation. Collaboration and mingling between intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs seem to be a key point of focus for anyone wanting to boost their corporate innovation for new products or services to emerge. The participants of the third edition of the Intrapreneurship Conference had the chance to experiment different ways of looking at innovation from a corporate perspective.
Welcoming delegates from all around the world –Spain, France, Switzerland, Finland, UK, Israel, Qatar, Japan, Canada- the Third Intrapreneurship Conference was taking place in the entrepreneurial heart of Catalonia: Barcelona Activa, the biggest incubator in the city. Barcelona Activa supports more than 50 innovative private enterprises that reinvent Barcelona through taking ownership over public policies. Supported by municipal, national and European funds, this centre for training and incubation hosts start-ups in different locations of the city, making it the perfect location for a gathering on entrepreneurial culture!
With 8 speakers and 6 workshops over the two days of the Conference, delegates had everything in hands to make intrapreneurship happen in their company.
Innovation Culture & Processes
Rob de Graaf, from the Innovation Services department at Philips serving both internal and external actors, started the two days by sharing that, at Philips, intrapreneurship is a mean to accelerate innovation, showcasing the success of meethue. In itself, innovation is all about the culture and the behaviour of people in the company, as Rob de Graaf and Philippe Méda, founder of Merkapt, respectively said: “Innovation is not just about technology. It’s mostly about behavior. Do people have ownership over the company?” (tweet) and “What made you a success is killing you right now: you need to change.”
Following are a few insights covering different ways to innovate in a corporate setting.
For Juan-Jose Juan at Vodafone, innovation lies on 4 fundamental pillars: 1- Customer Innovation that allows to identify future products and areas of transformation; 2- Strategy and Ecosystem Innovation through partnerships and cocreation; 3- Internal Innovation by employees leading by example; and 4- Accelerating internal new business, using ones’ own people to focus on a specific innovation.
For Philippe Méda, a real innovation comes when the company is working toward being at a ‘magic spot’, balancing two dimensions. He is presenting two kinds of values that a company can try to get: the premium (which is the financial profit) and the benefit for everyone in the market, i.e. being an active member of a market ecosystem. While recognizing that at first money won’t come as fast as if one was optimizing for only one of the two dimensions, Philippe Méda believes that investing in both dimensions is the only way to innovate on the long-term: “For example, if you do only consulting (Premium), but don’t play a role in a network and have fun in the ecosystem, you’re not benefiting all.”
Noam Wekser, from Oracle, made the participants experiment different innovation practices developed around Goldenberg and Mazursky’s innovation templates for product innovation. Using simple tools as the Forecasting Matrix, Noam Wekser made the participants map internal and external variables of a product –a baby diaper cream– to try out innovation using existing knowledge and collective work.
Similarly, Neil Fogarty, from his expertise in supporting corporate entrepreneurs with Spark Global Business, introduced the SparkWaveTM, a curve outlining the different steps a company will follow in order to stay innovative year after year: looking at things differently; being in a start-up mode; storming; structuring and forming; and eventually reaching a Google-like Sweet Spot before risking to drift in counter-productive stalling and sliding modes.
In conclusion, innovation is more about the cultural setup of the company than its products or services, and ones need to find the right balance between formal processes and informal behaviours.
According to Neil Fogarty, a major risk facing companies is to fall into Fadism, when innovation just becomes another fad around the workplace.
Intrapreneurship Culture & Processes
While intrapreneurship is a lot about the skills and attitudes of the person trying to bring the change from inside their company, there is a lot to do in the setting in which the intrapreneur evolves. As Neil Fogarty put it in his upcoming book Boost! Enabling Intrapreneurs: “Intrapreneurship is an organizational investment into developing a structured approach to using improvement, innovation and invention to achieve something new and inspirational whether this is for social or financial returns or both”. From fostering a culture to setting up processes, all the speakers shared best practices and success stories.
According to Hamish Forsyth, co-founder of OneLeap, a culture of intrapreneurship is by far more important than any standalone process or program that a company can set up: “@hamishforsyth says behavior, culture, and execution are key for intrapreneurship, supported by a process. Ideas not the problem” (tweet). Behavior, at first, is really about physical practice of trying out new things; for example making employees build something together, and the building experience comes out as the most inspiring thing.
Then, to initiate the right culture, Hamish Forsyth shared the example of a senior executive going out in the street with a new idea and trying to sell it without the baking nor the name of its company. And finally, execution is about designing things based on what is available rather than waiting on for resources, like kids are doing with boxcars. Neil Fogarty also shared a framework presenting four cornerstones of an intrapreneurship culture: Accelerating things; Embracing the corporate context –“If you fail, you’re out”; Innovating –initiating new ideas; Incubating –developing new ideas.
Once again, even though intrapreneurship is a lot about the individual leading the change, a key element that can make a huge difference is about putting together a mentoring program, as shared by Stéphanie Mitrano, also from Merkapt. For Stéphanie Mitrano, a mentor is someone within the company who voluntarily –and this is really important that there is no financial compensation– plays different roles for the intrapreneurs. In order for the mentoring program to be more than a lunch chat once a month, there are four necessary conditions that a company need to set in place, and then it can start designing a formal mentoring program.
The three ingredients of the program are the mentor and its necessary qualities, the intrapreneur needing support and being engaged, and finally the right fit between both, on both interpersonal and professional plans. In order to get to the right fit, matching events can be organized within the company; and if a mentor is not selected by an intrapreneur, then it is good feedback to get formal training to this mentor so they can get the necessary qualities to be good in this position! Finally, measuring the impact on the intrapreneurship project is probably the best way to assess of the quality of the mentoring program.
Another element of a corporate intrapreneurship program is about bringing entrepreneurship in the workplace, for instance through creating internal ventures, as shared by Olivier Leclerc from Alcatel-Lucent. Starting with an inspiring quote “Innovation is the responsibility of everyone within a company” (tweet), Olivier Leclerc shared how he developed and led an intrapreneurial Bootcamp within his company during 6 years. Engaging at first only the 1% of employees focused on technical innovation, during its third year the Bootcamp was already open to all the 10,000 employees of Alcatel-Lucent throughout Belgium and France. The Bootcamp, run once every six months, first collects ideas through an existing IT platform in the company, and then narrow from about 35 propositions to five selected teams pitching their projects.
The openness of the process stays until the end, with all the employees being invited to attend this event, on top of the Innovation Board made up of sixteen individuals from everywhere in the corporate group. Before pitching, the teams of intrapreneurs follow a 3-month training from experts and entrepreneurs coming from partner Business Schools and incubators. In the end, despite losing 30 participants out of the 150 participants, including 10 starting new businesses, the program has allowed successes like the diversification of the products portfolios; some revenues from the projects; a new image for the company; and a reinforced employees engagement through a culture change.
An individual in a team
Even though the context in which the intrapreneur evolves is important, the skills and attitudes of the individual are still the major factor leading to the success of the project or its failure –or, rather, ‘pivoting’. While mentors and training programs will help develop the skills, there are a few basics traits that any intrapreneur should consider before jumping in a change project.
As all of the speakers shared it, intrapreneurship is about moving the company forward, which implies a lot of ownership over the well-being of the company. But it is not enough. Pro-activity is the complementary attitude needed to make innovation alive in the workplace.
According to Neil Fogarty, it actually goes to the point where “Intrapreneurship should be inspirational” (tweet). To do so, it implies to be proactive on a few dimensions including the willingness to fail and take risk, the readiness to be a real troublemaker or at least to be perceived like one, the possibility to invest time into the change projects, and the capability to do everything on top of the Business as Usual and the existing daily tasks of your regular job.
Complementing the ownership over corporate success and the proactive attitudes, an intrapreneur has to be a real team player, as already shared by Iñigo Blanco on the Open Day about Social Intrapreneurship. To do so, one has to develop a high level of both Emotional Intelligence and Collaborative Intelligence, two concepts presented by Neil Fogarty. He also introduced the imahigh.com personality profiles allowing people to increase their self-awareness by attributing them a color: Yellow people focus on the big picture and talk a lot; Red people are task oriented and make good project managers; Green people are process and structures oriented, making spreadsheets their favourite tool; Blue people are all about other people and do great mentors.
In summary, the League of Intrapreneurs has compiled all those skills and attitudes in a tool belt available on their website. Maggie De Pree and Heidi Kikoler explained the tools through collecting the experiences of people in the room, as well as through sharing stories of successful intrapreneurs. They gave among others the example of an employee at Nike who managed to make a compelling business case by selling to senior executives a simple graph showing how obesity can be fought through increased activity, implying financial profits for Nike in the process.
In conclusion of those 3 days of Conference on Intrapreneurship, socially-oriented or not, it is somehow possible to answer the final question that was asked in the group –“Should we change the name of the Conference for next year?”. The field is indeed getting broader and broader as the years go, going from innovation processes to intrapreneurship culture and individual skill sets. But, in the end, part of intrapreneurship is actually being able to navigate diversity in both the corporate system and in oneself.
Even though intrapreneurs are not the Swiss Army Knives the entrepreneurs are, as mentioned by one of the participants, they still have to understand a lot of different things and rely on a lot of different actors in order to lead their change projects to success. Is Intrapreneurship a field about to explode under the pressure of its complexity… or is it actually getting more complete and easy to scale up thanks to its complexity? Maybe the fourth Intrapreneurship Conference will be able to give some insights!