Driven by pure players, the digital revolution is not only a technical and economic one: it is also the reflection of new forms of work and organization. Agility, speed, collaboration, these are all characteristics that allow these newcomers to innovate faster than large organizations.
Those large organizations face a real attractiveness issue: in 2016, only 35% of young graduates wanted to join a large group, and 36% aspired to create their own companies (1). Millennials, the youth from the 1980-2000 generation, seek companies that will fulfill their needs in terms of creation, responsibility, autonomy, and meaning.
But large groups offer many advantages for anyone willing to develop a strong-impact project: solid infrastructures, financial and human resources, collaborators, a large client base, etc.
In order to remain leader on their markets, large organizations have to adopt new work and organization methods that will help them attract these candidates and thus innovate better and faster.
Among these methods, intrapreneurship offers a strong interest: promoting entrepreneurship within a company by allowing the project leader to benefit from all the levers the company has to offer. The concept is not new – it has existed for more than 40 years – but intrapreneurship fits perfectly in the current environment, as described above.
Technically, intrapreneurship allows an employee to carry out an innovative project from beginning to end within their company all the while keeping their status – job and salary – and without taking any financial risk in terms of investment. On the company’s side, this concept means accepting the risks that are inherent to innovation and radically changing its culture and organization. It means reconciling the traditional operating model of the company’s core business with the new work and organization methods brought by intrapreneurship.
FABERNOVEL INSTITUTE accompanies its clients in the implementation of agile methods and the acceleration of internal projects. By drawing lessons from our different experiences, we identified good practices that allow us to avoid common intrapreneurship mistakes as much as possible.
MISTAKE #1: STAKE EVERYTHING ON THE RESULT
What matters is not the destination, it is the journey. The implementation of an intrapreneurship program within a company must not be determined only by the success of its projects.
To initiate the implementation of an intrapreneurship program already means your culture is changing. It means you are acquiring new work and organization methods that will help you create an innovation-friendly environment: reducing innovation time, mixing teams, involving top management, etc. The lessons are as important as the results. The company has to accept from the start that only few complete projects will come out of an intrapreneurship program, just as few company projects succeed for entrepreneurs!
MISTAKE #2: PROMISE TOO MUCH
The worst mistake a company could make regarding communication about its intrapreneurship program would be to guarantee too high results. The company has to be as transparent as possible when it comes to its intents and has to be particularly careful regarding what happens to the projects at the end of the program.
It is particularly important to identify beforehand the company’s commitment capability regarding projects led by intrapreneurs: allocated financial resources, of time spent by project leaders, and of commitment from the right internal sponsors.
If the implementation of such a program is above all inspirational, the company has to be as transparent as possible on the topic. It will be more interesting to surprise than to cause frustration.
MISTAKE #3: DO A ONE SHOT
The appropriation of these new work methods and their efficiency will only show over time. It is only once you have experimented several projects, hired several collaborators, that the benefits of an intrapreneurship program can be observed. Innovation is hard and requires several attempts.
Boosting is a first step, but the real stake of such a program is to keep the beat. The company has to contemplate its program in a long-term perspective and to dedicate the financial and human resources required in terms of organization in order to get real commitment from the collaborators.
On the contrary, in a media environment where “intrapreneurship” has become a buzz word, to do a one shot would be seen as a communication strategy and the innovation deemed superficial.
MISTAKE #4: SAVE INNOVATION FOR A FEW
Innovation is a shared concern and this should be understand as follows: innovation must not be a privilege of top management and has to be carried out by as many collaborators as possible.
What does it mean to open up innovation to everyone?
First of all, it means tearing down the company’s internal barriers. Intrapreneurship is based on collaboration: to create one team with collaborators from different departments (IT, Marketing, Design, Legal, etc.) who will work together in project mode.
And second, it means creating a common innovation language within the company, about the agile methods. In order for intrapreneurship projects to work, all parties involved (be it the project leader, the legal department, the purchasing department, or even management control) need to understand what UX, MVP, pivoting, and AB testing mean.
MISTAKE #5: STOP AFTER A FAILURE
It is generally quite tempting to stop after a failure. By nature, humans do not like it. It is even truer for large companies, who have a tendency to be more sensitive to a fast return on investment, and thus to ban failure. The consequence is limiting initiative on the collaborators’ part and depriving them of the lessons they could draw from such a failure.
Indeed, failure is a learning opportunity and it has to be sought. It allows a company to face feedback from its clients/users. Even more, sharing failure among collaborators has to be encouraged so that everyone can draw lessons from someone else’s mistakes.
What is important in intrapreneurship is that it is based on notions such as Minimum Viable Product and Test & Learn. In other words, this concept enables a company to carry out projects faster and with lower costs and to have their users test them. The cost of failure of these projects is then lower than that of a project that would have needed time and money. Better ten small failures than a big one.
(1) According to a study lead by Edhec NewGen Talent Center, June 2016
Interested in intrapreneurship and agile innovation?Contact Marine!