CASE: How we found the right intrapreneur for one of our latest corporate startup projects.

Presentations on speed dating evening with potential intrapreneurs

For one of the projects we’ve been involved in lately, one of our challenges was to find the right intrapreneur to take the lead on an ongoing innovation project. When I say that “finding a qualified intrapreneur with the right fit for a corporate innovation project is very hard”, that’s an understatement. There are so many criteria you have to keep in mind, when making your selection. Check our previous blog post for the skills of the perfect entrepreneur. At the latest edition of Intrapreneurship Conference (in New York), we noticed that many corporates struggle with finding the right intrapreneurs to pursue their innovation trajects. Therefore we want to share on of our latest experiences in challenging the way to find a proper intrapreneur.

Allow me to get you on the same page about this project by explaining it shortly. In the beginning of 2015, our client (SD Worx) asked us to help them reinvent one of their existing products during a one-week Hackathon. Research and customer interviews showed us that this product was outdated, so we advised our client to think further than their competitors and to rebuild it completely. Together, we created a whole new service, which was identified as ‘a game changer in the industry’ by the management.

Because of the strategic angle, there is a huge overlap between this new product and existing business units & ongoing projects. Therefore, we advised our client to treat this product as ‘a corporate startup’. Since a corporate startup is a startup, we needed to find a dedicated lead for this project = an intrapreneur.

This is what we did:

First of all, we chose not to use the existing internal HR/Recruitment channels. Why?

  • We needed involvement of C-level to motivate the intrapreneurs
  • The existing (project based) corporate startup team had to be involved in selection of their ‘dedicated lead’.
  • The fast evolution of the corporate startup would change the selection criteria during the recruitment.

We launched an internal recruitment campaign with a flow of 6 steps. Each step can be seen as a challenge with its own approach. The goal: find the right person at the end of step 6.

Challenge 1: Reach all +1000 employees, also those who are not job seeking

What we did: We spread ‘mysterious posters’ all across the SD-building with a message would mostly attract people with a intrapreneurial mind/skill-set.(credits to Sir Ernest Shackleton to inspire us with his successful Antarctica campaign.)
Outcome: Hard to say exactly how many people saw the poster, but the desired buzz was created. People contacted Leen to ask what this was all about, to mention the creative angle of the campaign.

Challenge 2: Capture those who are triggered by the campaign (= intrapreneur potentials) before they lost interest due to information overload or time concerns at the moment of viewing.

What we did: The link on the poster took ‘curious employees’ to a landing page on which they could leave their email address to receive more information.
Outcome: 120 people gave their email address. More than 10% of the entire workforce.

Challenge 3: Provide more info about the intrapreneurial role & give interested people the ability to apply for the role.

What we did: The people who showed interested and wanted more information received a description of the role and the skill set via a landing page with an application form.
Outcome: The conversion rate of the ‘more info’ page to this one was barely 20%. The reason, we believed, was that this page did not open automatically. Employees received a link and the hassle to copy the link and paste it in a new tab stopped most smartphone users. Therefore, we sent the link to all 120 interested people via email. This solved the issue.

Challenge 4: Make a selection on relevance between the interested candidates.

What we did: We selected the potential intrapreneurs based on a mix of motivation, qualities and their answers to the 3 questions of the online (Typeform) application:

  • Which improvement of your hand are you most proud of at SD Worx? Please give the situation, what you did and how it resulted. (shows entrepreneurial attitude)
  • Give us a suggestion to make sure SD Worx will still be a pioneer 10 years from now. (shows vision)
  • What do we have to arrange or take care of with your manager if we ask you to be 100% available from November on? (Shows readiness to jump and availability)

Outcome: 14 people applied for the role, we selected 8 for the next phase.

Challenge 5: Verify skills and intrapreneurial potential of selected employees.

What we did: The selected people got invited for a 2-hour evening session with 2 activities. First, everyone was asked to pitch themselves, mentioning why they are the ideal candidate for the job and how they see their involvement of they do not get the role. Secondly, we organized a speed dating interview session to verify the ‘intrapreneurial skills’ such as stakeholder management and vision in 5 minute cycles. Interviewers were the topic experts in our team and management of SD Worx. Topics: startup mentality, business maturity, stakeholder management and network, technical understanding, vision, content (related to startup), availability and handover (this one was by someone of HR). 
Outcome: In 2 hours (and a brief discussion in our team afterwards), we managed to select the intrapreneur we needed and as an extra we got 5 ambassadors that would stay involved with this project out of personal interest.

Challenge 6: Clear schedule of intrapreneur and free up from current role.

Outcome: the first 5 steps took about 6 weeks. This last step a mere 2 months.

To conclude, there 3 types of intrapreneurs and what we proved with this successful campaign, was that it is possible to find new intrapreneurs in the organization (Type 2 and 3).

  1. Established intrapreneur: Easy to find but hard to rip out of their current responsibilities.
  2. Potential intrapreneur: Having the skills and mindset, but not applied in professional context yet. Hard to find and will need extra support for internal credibility.
  3. White raven intrapreneur: Right profile, first intrapreneurial results, but not identified as intrapreneur yet. This type you need to find before they either put their shoulders under a bunch of projects or leave the company because they don’t receive the responsibility they require to be motivated.

Did you ever try to find a new dedicate lead for a corporate startup in your organization? Did you hear about other ways to find intrapreneurs before?Please share it in the comments, recommend this article and maybe we use your input as an example in our next talk at the intrapreneurship conference in Brussels.

Originally posted on our Board of Innovation Blog