What are the building blocks for a successful intrapreneurship program?

Running Intrapreneurship Programs? Here’s How To Get Results in 2017

Interested in starting an intrapreneurship program in your company but don’t know where to start? Or perhaps you’re not seeing the results you were hoping for with your existing program?

We spoke to Jan Kennedy, CEO at Academy for Corporate Entrepreneurship and a director at the Founder Institute, for his thoughts on developing successful intrapreneurship programs within corporates.


Why intrapreneurship, again?

Before we dive into the tactics of designing and running successful intrapreneurship programs, let’s take a step back and set the right focus. Why is intrapreneurship important?

Jan believes there are four main — and often overlapping — drivers of intrapreneurship:

Intrapreneurship can help organizations attract and retain talent.

“This is not about hierarchical management and getting the most productivity per hour.

It’s being allowed to work a little bit more creatively, a little bit more as an entrepreneur would on the outside, but doing it with the overall goals of the organization in mind.

We’ve seen many examples of if that is not allowed or encouraged within the organization, a lot of these people will just leave. They can end up becoming your competition.”

Intrapreneurship can increase employee engagement.

“70% of employees are just disengaged right now. We need to give them projects where they can actually take full ownership.

There’s been studies done, within Intuit, for example, when you give employees intrapreneurial opportunities, the amount of engagement that’s reported by that employee increases.”

Intrapreneurship helps businesses find new growth opportunities.

Companies are under threat from increasing competition and face new pressure to find growth opportunities. In the past, businesses have been able to grow simply by expanding into new markets in new countries with their existing product offerings, but that’s no longer enough.

Intrapreneurship is a source of innovation, or a way to innovate faster.

“It comes back to how the company got started in the first place: someone coming up with an idea and having entrepreneurial spirit, capitalizing on a business opportunity. I think the more intrapreneurship you’re doing in the organization, the more that will lead to actual innovation results, which then can fuel growth,” says Jan.

But Jan isn’t talking about the innovation you typically see with traditional R&D. “It’s a broader innovation. You don’t have to have innovation in your title to be able to do it. Anyone can potentially be an intrapreneur,” says Jan, adding that intrapreneurship isn’t just about breakthrough innovation.

“It could be ideas around new processes, new systems. It’s maybe a different way of doing something, and not necessarily inventing something completely new.”

Intrapreneurship also takes a different approach from traditional R&D with how it approaches innovation, says Jan.

“R&D tries to create the solution first and then look at where the need is, but intrapreneurship is more about understanding customer needs first, and then working backwards to find a solution.”

To run a successful intrapreneurship program, Jan recommends that companies hedge their bets by using a discovery phase, implement a mentoring program, find the best team for the job, and learn from their experiences — even the failures.

Hedge your bets

In Jan’s experience, companies often jump to incubation too quickly and then are not satisfied with their results. Instead, he recommends validating the idea first through a discovery phase.

“The incubation is very much about building the solution, and now it becomes a technical project. But before I build a product, I have to understand who my customer is and am I solving a problem for that customer?” says Jan.

“We call this the discovery phase. It’s the phase after ideation, or coming up with an idea, when we test that idea.”

By going through the discovery stage, companies find that 50% of their ideas will be proven viable to go into incubation. And from those ideas that go into incubation, the success rate is increased by a factor of eight.

As Jan explains:

“A lot of companies are investing about $250,000 in an idea. This is a typical amount of investment that an early stage entrepreneurial idea would get for seed funding.

What we say is: don’t invest the typical $250,000 per idea upfront, for building the solution. Instead, invest only $25,000 in each idea so that they can go through a discovery stage. That’s one tenth of the initial investment.

Then, invest the amount that you were going to invest originally, $250,000 in the five ideas that make it through the discovery phase. This time, it’s not ten ideas, it’s five ideas.

From those five ideas, because they went through the discovery phase, you’re likely see an 80% success rate. We’ve now proven we’re actually working on the right thing. That’s quite simple math.”

Without the discovery stage, only 10% of ideas are successful. By working through the discovery phase first, you not only increase your success rate, you also invest less money into the process overall.

These statistics are based on seven years of data from the Founder’s Institute work with entrepreneurs, but Jan has seen similar results with corporates. As well, corporates have an added advantage to most entrepreneurs: their people and resources.

“In corporates, when I work with teams in intrapreneurship programs, it’s teams of people. It’s actually four or five people in a team pursuing an idea, rather than just one person or entrepreneur.

In that regard, the corporate is at a huge advantage, and has much more resources than an entrepreneur to enable an actual implementation of the project if they choose to,” says Jan.

Find your mentors

For many of us, intrapreneurship is a whole new way of working — certainly not something we were taught back at university. An experienced mentor can help with the transition. Ideally, a mentor would be an intrapreneur, having successfully run corporate innovation programs as well as having experience with start-up accelerator or incubator programs. They understand both worlds closely, says Jan.

A mentor can hold intrapreneurs accountable and — if the mentor is not part of your company — can help remove the biases that we have.

“Especially when pursuing new ideas, we all build up our own biases, and we think we’re on to a great thing. If you have an external mentor and you’re barking up the wrong tree, they will tell you, because they have no vested interest in whether your project becomes successful or not. They’re non-biased, and can point you in the right direction, and leverage their own experience as well to help guide you.”

Internal mentors can be helpful by giving advice on the current market and industry, and help intrapreneurs navigate corporate road blocks, but are not necessarily the right mentors to advise on how to build a start-up.

Build your best team

Not everyone is cut out to be an intrapreneur. Look for people who are willing to take risks, rethink their assumptions, collaborate with others, make decisions based on data instead of opinion, and be open to different ideas and different ways of doing things.

Jan recommends using psychometric or personality testing to build your team as a way to ‘de-risk’ your project.

“I think getting the right people working on the right topics is half of the problem, just as important as what is the actual idea that we’re pursuing. It’s the team, it’s the people that will be the cause for it to be successful or not, all things considered equal with the idea side of it. If you can scientifically select which team mates, or which people are better suited, then you are ultimately de-risking the scenario from day one.”

He’s worked with the Founder Institute to adapt their psychometric tests for entrepreneurs to make them suitable for intrapreneurs.

“It’s trying to find out if you would be, as a person, if you would be comfortable working in a certain way, which we know intrapreneurship projects do demand. It’s looking to see which people are more suited to that way of working. By doing that, you’re able to predict that this person will actually perform better with that type of task.”

Some people might excel at coming up with ideas, which is obviously very important — but that doesn’t mean they would be good intrapreneurs. To take that idea and develop it requires other characteristics — such as grit and determination — and you might find those characteristics in other people.

However, Jan does note that there is a strong correlation between passion for the idea and the overall performance of the project.

“Often when we see projects fail is when the person that originally had the idea is not allowed to be part of the team anymore. It gets handed over, and this often actually happens during incubation. The product team comes in and takes over, and they start developing how they think the solution should be. The original person that had the spark who was super passionate about the idea, he’s no longer involved. Then we see that the idea begins to fail.”

This assumes the intrapreneur is using data to inform their decisions and not simply getting caught up in their love of their idea.

“One thing we should note here is there’s a difference between having passion for the idea, and having passion for solving the problem. There will be multiple ways to solve the problem.

Don’t get married to the idea, get married to the problem,” says Jan.

Learn from it

Sure, you want your intrapreneurship program to deliver impressive results to show to management, but Jan says we shouldn’t disregard the learning that happens regardless of the outcome.

“From my point of view, success is about the amount of learning that happens. It’s the experience that these people have gone through. I think the great thing about entrepreneurial skills and mindsets is that the lessons you learn are very transferable,” says Jan.

“So they work on this specific project that fails, but they apply everything that they learn to the next thing that they’re working on, which makes them faster, makes them more effective.

They might fail again, but at some point, they’re going to make a big success of it, if they don’t give up.”

Of course, there are also other elements to consider when developing successful intrapreneurship programs, such as culture, leadership and sponsorship.

Jan recommends that organizations new to intrapreneurship start small: “Come up with two ideas, and two teams, to run a pilot to see how the process works in your organization. It’s not much to get started with figuring out if this is the right kind of process, and indeed how that process needs to be adapted to fit your organization.”

By committing to experimenting and learning, you are one step closer to building an intrapreneurship program that can help your organization attract talent, engage employees, find new growth and drive innovation.


Get Your Intrapreneurship Program To Deliver Results in 2017

Designing, implementing and running intrapreneurship programs is not an easy job.

From positioning to sponsorship, to selecting participants and forming teams, to applying the right methods and metrics- there are dozens of variables to work with, and there’s little or no margin for error. Your intrapreneurship program has to deliver.

To help intrapreneurship program leaders to get the most out of their programs, we’re hosting the Intrapreneurship Programs Lab: a 6-months program offering expert and peer support, providing personal and step by step guidance to navigate through your challenges and exceed your goals for 2017 and beyond.

More info and apply via https://cirqles.io/intrapreneurship-programs-lab-jan-kennedy/