“Should we change the name of the Conference for next year?” This was the final question asked at the Intrapreneurship Conference last week, and it is a good insight on where the field is currently at: just about to scale up (or across, not sure yet), but still fragmented between different spheres.

The following article by Matthieu Bister, divided in 2 parts covering the three days of the conference, will try to grasp the state of intrapreneurship in Europe based on the different interventions of the speakers.


Open Day on Social Intrapreneurship – December 11, 2013
Partnering to improve the social impact of companies


One quote alone wouldn’t be enough to cover the richness of the content shared by the speakers on this first day, each coming from their respective background. Antoni Ballabriga, from BBVA, still managed to represent the spirit shared by all of them when he said “We now work with the people behind the customers. The business case is there.”

‘Now’ is a reminder of all the hard work that has to be done to get to a new state in a given company, while ‘Business Case’ presents the reasons for which to do Social Intrapreneurship. ‘People’, though it is here an explicit reference to the customers, can also imply looking at the people behind the corporate decisions.


Any change, especially when talking about human behaviour change, is hard. And not only it is hard, but it also require a lot of different factors to work at the same time for it to succeed. The first and main factor is definitely the individual behind the change –the famous intrapreneur.

Dr David Greyson from the Doughty Centre at Cranfield University, in his keynote, summarized the 3 dimensions of the person: the mindset of merging social values with business values, including the specific values and interests of their company; the behaviours of learning and networking; the skills of entrepreneuring, story-telling and building a team.

Regarding the team-buidling skills, Iñigo Blanco from Mondragon Team Academy, presented how necessary it is to work in a team if you want your change project to go through. From always starting from the ‘Why’ of the team to the importance of being always on top of what’s going on, Iñigo shared insights of his work at MINN.

Ville Peltola, from IBM Finland and founder of the Finnish Institute of Intrapreneurship, emphasized how the attitude of the person is more important than their skills –a perspective shared by Juan-Jose Juan: “We hire the people working in our Innovation Dept. based on the influence they have”-, and reminded the audience of the Ten Commandments of the Intrapreneur.

Finally, when you have found those individuals and started to support them in their work, Juan-Jose Juan from Vodafoneshared some tools to keep them engaged: provision of high-tech equipment to make it an experience cool to live for the intrapreneurs; using the internal ways of celebrating to ‘pop out the champagne’ when innovations succeed; and then managing the ideas and challenges formally to make the best out of them.

The second factor to enable intrapreneurs is the context in which they are evolving. Their environment can be facilitated by creating a culture of innovation, or a “change culture” as Antoni Ballabriga from BBVA named it, or else by creating a culture of intrapreneurship through 7 organizational behaviours, summarized in the CHANGES framework from Dr. David Greyson.

A company can also put some formal processes in place, as Ismael Pulido de la Calle from Endesa presented. Their online platform of ideas management has engaged 1,718 participants in the past 1.5 years, and has given power to the people in the organization to boost the innovation culture in the company. Joe Agoada, himself a social intrapreneur, shared how much he understood the power of intrapreneurship when he joined a multinational not-for-profit organization which allowed him to increase the reach and scale of his projects thanks to their existing structure.

Another key factor to take into account when pushing for a change project, when going from “then” to “now”, is to navigate the political system of your organization, as Maggie De Pree and Heidi Kikoler, from the League of Intrapreneurs, also shared on the last day of the Conference. This not only implies having the humility to let someone else take credit for your action –and if you don’t, you will get people really frustrated as Joe Agoada experienced once when he was the one giving an interview in lieu of his ‘superiors’-, but also can mean leveraging someone else’s ego to get your project through, as Michael Anthony from Allianz did when he developed a micro-insurance project after the 2004 ‘Indian Ocean’ tsunami, a program now worth $20M.

In order to challenge, bypass and change the immune system of the company, a recurring theme throughout the entire conference, the intrapreneur will have to find a sponsor –“the higher the better” according to Antoni Ballabriga- who will help them; they also have to find their own resources –an action that could even be inspiring to others as noted Iñigo Blanco; or even physically hide as reminded Ville Peltola about the famous Lockhead Martin’s Skunkwork story.

In the end, you might even come to the point where you acculturate the system –a new concept from Antoni Ballabriga -, i.e. you make the company evolve thanks to all the evangelization work you’ve been doing in the company.

Business Case

The moderators of both panel discussions essentially asked the same crucial question to the speakers: what makes the business case of a social intrapreneurship project ? –“Why Intrapreneurship?? If you’re not selling traditional KPI (Key Performance Indicators) for intrapreneurhsip, what are you selling?”, by Raf Weverbergh, and “How did you get the first ‘Yes’?” by Maggie De Pree.

The first answer to the question seems actually too obvious to be true. “Because it just makes sense”, as it could be summarized, is usually not what you would expect to tell your managers, but that is nevertheless the idea behind it. Dr David Greyson introduced this through his insightful “Every great social issue is a business opportunity in disguise.”, and both Iñigo Blanco and Ismael Pulido de la Calle also mentioned that the change project should not even be one if the business case was not obvious since the start of it.

When talking about the challenge of pitching a story rather than numerical KPI, all the speakers were aligned on the fact that, by nature, social intrapreneurship has ultimately to challenge this way of thinking, this mindset focused on the numbers. The most inspiring quotes include:

–         “Intrapreneurship should not do ROI (Return on Investment) calculations –ever”, by Ville Peltola

–        “You have to tell and share your emotion. You have to keep as an intrapreneur the core brand value, but you have to transform it. The point is not to change people, it’s the emotional experience.”, by Markus Hipp from the BMW Foundation

–        “Social Intrapreneurs know how to tell stories.”, by David Greyson

–        “Need to change from P&L (Profit and Loss) and BSheet (balance sheet) logic to knowing the real impact of our business in people” (tweet), as well as new metrics of banking by Antoni Ballabriga.

–        “It’s beyond shared value. It’s about rethinking the roles.” (tweet), as well as “Powerpoint presentations and big spreadsheets won’t convince managers. A press release of 3 years from now can tell the full potential of the idea.”, by Gib Bulloch from Accenture Development Parnters.

In order to stop looking at the KPI, P&L and BSheet to measure your business success,a good way to start is by looking at the ‘people behind your customer’ and focusing on the relationship you have with them. Instead of focusing on giving to people what they want, companies now have to focus on looking at improving their customers’ life through both what they do and how they do it, as strongly advocated for by Juan-Jose Juan, Antoni Ballabriga and Stéphanie Schmidt from Ashoka Europe.

The most inspiring story of the day was then shared by Esther Sarsa from the Danone Group, when she explained how one of their intrapreneurship-initiated program was training women who have been or are still suffering domestic violence. Through the support, the women have had access to the opportunity of becoming Danone Ambassadors at points of sell in shops. As a result, not only sales have increased for the company, but more importantly those women now have the chance to have more control on their life.

From a certain perspective, when the social intrapreneur is trying to bring their social values in the company practices, they might be overlapping with their CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) department –an organizational function that would force everyone to work on social issues if it was to disappear instantly according to Michael Anthony.

On one hand it seems indeed obvious that social innovation should come from anyone in the organization, not just from this ‘siloed’ entity that CSR departments sometimes are; on the other hand though, Joe Agoada warned the audience about not using explicit “Innovation titles” for individuals too fast as it then becomes harder to take risks, and Esther Sarsa also precised that all the marketing projects which ultimately brought up financial profits and positive social impacts were actually originally started as CSR initiatives, making a case for the role of this department in focusing on social innovation.


The third key learning of the day was about the importance of the human beings within the company.  One important discussion turned around the choice to make, as an intrapreneur, to probably be less paid than if one was to embrace the traditional up-the-ladder path. Given the risky, innovative and challenging nature of intrapreneurial initiatives, it is indeed likely that it won’t result in the traditional financial bonuses at the end of the year.

While it might be scary for some, it is actually the ultimate point of social intrapreneurship! If you push your company to look at things broader than financial KPI, then it is just natural for you to look at things broader than your personal finances. After creating, obviously through intrapreneurship ways, Accenture Development Partnership, a not-for-loss company within Accenture reinventing the model of serving NGOs, Gib Bulloch was surprised at the number of people ready to cut their salaries to be part of the initiative: “It is not about making a fortune, but about making a difference” (tweet).

Recognizing the value of the human beings within the company also increases dramatically the level and the quality of its Employee Engagement. For Juan-Jose Juan, of Vodafone, actually looking and paying attention at the diversity of the people in a company is currently the first challenge the private sector is facing. By not doing so, companies deprive themselves of the richness of people, and they also don’t see the potential of leveraging new technologies to empower their employees in their work: “Corporate systems should be as easy as playing Angry Birds” (tweet).

Stéphanie Schmidt reminded the audience than there is currently only 11% of ‘highly engaged’ employees in the world, with 61% of disengaged employees and 28% highly disengaged, highlighting the potential for more social innovation from within.

In terms of processes, it is once again up to the companies to engage their employees in a specific way in order to leverage their potential for social innovation. An efficient way to empower intrapreneurs is to give them the same tools as social entrepreneurs currently have. For Stéphanie Schmidt, there is a “tremendous” potential in connecting intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs: “With their different visions and languages, intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs are the first point of connection between existing large companies and the community-focus of social enterprises”.

Another important way to improve the social innovation of the corporate workplace is to invite the beneficiaries to the table. “Inclusion is the key to getting the management to say ‘yes’ to your idea” noted Joe Agoada. Also, Esther Sarsa explained how she brought the women to the table of decision so they could explain themselves to the managers what their needs were (and ultimately become the Danone Ambassadors), and Antoni Ballabriga asked directly the customers what a “Responsible Business” meant to them. Open your doors to human beings –your company will benefit from it!

Launch of the Social Intrapreneurship Programme

The partnership between CSR Europe, Ashoka Europe and the BMW Foundation is already a beauty in itself according to the MC of the day Jan Noterdaeme, senior advisor on external relations at CSR Europe: “Ahoska take the best of civil society and the best of companies. They also take the best of European culture with the best of American drive. BMW Foundation are active everywhere in the world, supporting entrepreneurs; they know that nobody has the monopoly of a solution: they have a core asset in the partnerships they form. And CSR Europe is a network comprising large, mediums and small companies that are on the journey of learning, with Enterprise 2020 as our flagship.”

This partnership aims at promoting the concept of social intrapreneurship Europe-wide through supporting 3 areas: companies (best practice exchanges and assessment tool); intrapreneurs (awards and networking); and EU government (pushing for a EU CSR Strategy 2015-18). The three organizations launched the programme as a call for partnership with everyone present in the room, and even beyond!


The conclusion of the day was brief and powerful as Jan Noterdaeme shared the keywords that resonated with him the most: Happy – Prototype – Guerilla – Ordinary people for extraordinary things – Team intrapreneur – Do not play adult in business – Passion – Dreams – Disruptive Innovation.

Stay tuned for more reflections on the Intrapreneurship Conference by Matthieu – posted soon!