Empowering Corporate Entrepreneurship: 5 Methods To Make A Difference

During our journey through California, we have discussed our personal views on Corporate Entrepreneurship. However, neither of us was completely satisfied and we realized that a key piece was missing.

We were driven by the question, how an entrepreneurial mindset can be implemented and actually brought to life in an organization.

We do not work for start-ups, in fact we dedicate our time to large multi-national corporations. We both hold positions related to innovation aiming for a shift towards game-changing, long-term sustainable products, processes and business models.

Nevertheless, we believe that also established corporations are in need to incorporate the spirit of entrepreneurship with its attitude, the inner hunger for change, actionable and creative business approaches.

Following the statement Silicon Valley being less of a place, but more of a mindset, our journey resulted in inspirational thoughts, after meeting numerous entrepreneurs, investors and corporate innovation managers adding a piece to our mission.

Our hunger for a set of methodologies that are pragmatic, simple and easy-to-execute got first answers. These practices contribute to empower, implement and establish a long-term entrepreneurial culture within an existing corporation, consequently leading to Corporate Entrepreneurship.

We do not claim to completeness nor a scientific standard, but simply following the need to share great methodologies for corporate entrepreneurs.

Before introducing the methodologies, we realized that we needed to clarify our understanding of Corporate Entrepreneurship. Having a common perception on its values helped us to comprehend how the methodologies contribute to the values:

Vision. When each employee is able to clearly state where the company is heading to, everyone knows in which direction to move, to think — and to innovate. While big corporates face difficulties in breaking down their vision for every single business unit, this seemed key for all Silicon Valley start-ups. Everyone knew the overall target, including the strategy and their individual part in the game.

Openness. Entrepreneurial teams share openly their activities, their dreams and concerns and their personal opinions with team members and also the team leader. This creates a high degree of transparency and a great exchange of information and knowledge. On the other hand, this develops an environment that allows discussion without boundaries, people expect a direct, open, but very constructive feedback to ideas, opinions and daily behavior. All in all, this leads to a natural culture of openness. We feel that this is key for creating new ideas, challenging future business decisions and having all team members pulling on one string.

Attitude. We understand attitude as a very personal mindset that corporate entrepreneurs bring along. It stands for an outstanding level of curiosity, eagerness for more and inner desire to change for the better, combined with a hands-on mentality to not only observe opportunities but actually to seize them. Trial is attached to potential failure, wherefore motivation has to be intrinsic and not only depending on companies’ incentives. The attitude of a corporate entrepreneur naturally questions a status quo, without being explicitly asked to do so.

Team Spirit. Empowering individualism and power of single leaders is something we see as opposite of a collectivistic approach being represented in how entrepreneurs structure their teams. While we believe in the concept of leadership, innovation comes from teams, from multiple impulses being supported. Bring together the right people, give them space, and big thinks will happen. This is not only a principle MBA students of Stanford University learn, but also one of the reasons why team constellations of startups are its most important asset. An entrepreneurial team enjoys being with each other, while learning, challenging and developing each team member.

Resource Responsibility. The more conscious and aware one is of the resources at-hand, the more efficient one will deal with them. This means to identify direct and indirect resources a company offers and manage them with great responsibility, which we often experienced as challenging in large corporations.

Keeping these values in mind, our motivation was to find methodologies on how an organization can implement and live these values, besides having entrepreneurial mindset on their company agenda. We observed recurring patterns that need to be considered when applying the methods:

· Be very responsible for the given timeframes. More time won’t generate more outcomes, always stick to the suggested timing.
· Judging too early will harm out-of-the-box ideas. Leave space to let something happen.
· Make outcome visible for everyone (e.g. whiteboard)
· Agree on immediate actions

Stand Up
Especially weekly update meetings tend to be perceived as a waste of time, although sometimes it is the only time a complete team gets together.

The stand up meeting aims to optimize update meetings while adding another level of exchange, transparency and team spirit.

1. Initiate a daily (!) ‘stand up’ meeting every morning at the same time (e.g. 10:45h) for a max of 15 minutes inviting all members of the team or project group

2. The stand up meeting consists of 3 key questions that everyone answers while standing together, ideally in your actual office room. The location aspect is crucial as this will become a daily routine.

A) What did you achieve yesterday?

B) What are your tasks/to-do’s for today?

C) Is there anything that harms your proceedings?

3. Make sure you as initiator start with answering, it will help the team to feel comfortable.

While this method seems challenging in the beginning, you will very soon experience a new way of how the team interacts, leading to colleagues giving e.g. proactive feedback to projects of others in the group. This is where Corporate Entrepreneurship starts, exchange of knowledge that optimize one’s single understanding.

Walk and Talk
As a very energetic and refreshing 1on1 meeting setup we discovered “walking meetings”. As the name implies, a meeting is being hold while walking, ideally outside the office. It follows a strict setup to fulfill its purpose:

1. Invite person for a max 30 min meeting.

2. Invite must contain the following content:

A) Your objective: What do you want to achieve with this meeting? Including a brief idea on why you believe the person can help.

B) 3 questions: What would like to have answered during the meeting? This helps the other person to be prepared and to know in which direction you’re pointing.

3. After the meeting, circulate your key outcome and to-do’s to participant to allow edits and to double check your understanding.

Your preparation as well as wrap-up is crucial to get things done, unlike regular meetings that often leave behind uncertainty and further follow-up meetings. Furthermore, preparations help to get others on board, clarifying what it is about and possibly adding other persons who might have a better understanding on the subject. While this methodology seems playful in the beginning, the active component in an unusual environment is a key driver to achieve a space of creativity, productivity and focus.

While the original sprint was invented by the Google ventures guys (http://www.gv.com/sprint/), describing a 5-day product developing process, we have discovered a quick idea generating method based on the ‘sprint’ being used by Silicon Valley start-ups. It targets to use collective intelligence to find new angles and opportunities for a pre-defined topic within a strictly limited time frame.

1. Invite a max. of 3 persons for a sprint session of 60 minutes. The participants should be chosen on your believe whether their perspectives/ experiences/ knowledge could add value (different organizational units, disciplines etc.).

2. Start with a brief introduction pitch to your topic

3. Initiate a collective brainstorming on opportunities while collecting unexceptionally all thoughts. Discussions on feasibility should be avoided (“We don’t judge”).

4. Cluster results and identify directions that seem to appear. .

5. Choose the top clusters and discuss possible ways on how this could be realized, including possible people to talk to, expected outcome, and how this adds value to the core topic.

This approach should be treated as challenge, not as a task with a guaranteed result. New ideas depend on a highly creative environment, bright minds and hunger for change — sprint is a method for exactly that providing a loose framework.

Make-Me-Better is a very personal method to collect holistic feedback and further develop a project, with not only the project itself being reflected but secondary also one’s personal skills.

1. Invite 3–5 people to your personal 60 Min. “Make Me Better” session, including a personal note why their involvement would be appreciated by you. It is crucial that you invite people who provide you a new/ different perspective on your project, e.g. another team, BU, division, company if possible or even from another field of business, e.g. experts, entrepreneurs, artists etc.). Feel free to invite senior executives as experienced participants, because more often than expected they have a high interest in ongoing projects.

2. Start with a brief introduction to your project including vision, objectives, how it benefits the company, current situation and of course first achievements and learnings. Finish your pitch with the request: “Make me Better”.

3. Open up session to participants who are allowed to ask comprehensive questions or express ideas on how to make the project better. Questions can be answered immediately by initiator, ideas should be collected without comments (“We don’t judge”) and visualized for everybody.

4. When participants have contributed, cluster and categorize outcome. Then, queries can be placed as well as the initiator’s questions regarding the ideas and its execution/ implementation..

5. Prioritize Top 3 ideas that immediately seem to have helped your project as well as your personal development.

Team Barometer
We have discovered team spirit as a major driver for Corporate Entrepreneurship, wherefore a team leader should be aware of how a team feels, its attitude and also areas that need to be improved. A team barometer is a great way to get your team talking, to get them share their feelings and as a result it leads to higher openness between the team members.

A few start-ups have a big scale placed visibly to everybody in their office, with a clear status-quo on how the team feels. We also experienced corporations who use the team barometer on a bi-weekly/ monthly basis by requesting a status update in the first place and discuss it in the group afterwards.

1. Create a simple template with 3–5 criteria with each a scale (High to Low etc.). Based on our experience and our discussions we have seen the following criteria in use: Fun, Impact, Learning effect, Openness in team andwork-life balance. Share this template with your team members individually and kindly ask them to fill it out by placing a bubble on each scale.

2. Collect the filled templates and create one overview for a group discussion.

3. You start with your own barometer, as team members might be reluctant to share this personal information. Then, each team member presents his barometer. It is crucial that each person has the opportunity to share his feelings openly. Other team members/ team leader are open to suggest ideas on how to improve low-rated criteria.

This tool might need a few iterations before it delivers its full potential and team members acknowledge the new developed team spirit. Combined with a short wrap-up on a team’s vision, mission and possibly values, we find the team barometer a strong statement towards openness and appreciation of everyone’s feelings.


Jonas Weber https://de.linkedin.com/in/jonasweber @Jonasonline

Konstantin Kretschun https://www.linkedin.com/pub/konstantin-kretschun/3b/b11/55a @KKretschun

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