Innovation Management: Shaping the Intrapreneurial Journey

Navigate the fascinating realm of intrapreneurship to capitalize on the untapped potential of your employees through innovation management and embrace change with an audacious vision.

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Innovation Culture
Leonardo Varella-Cid
Leonardo Varella-Cid
Co-Founder @ InnovationCast
April 23, 2022

Innovation Management: Shaping the Intrapreneurial Journey

Innovation is the lifeblood of success and the driving force behind sustainable growth. As markets and technologies continue to advance at an unprecedented pace, organizations are compelled to adapt, envision fresh business opportunities, and pioneer novel solutions to stay ahead of the curve. Within this dynamic environment, intrapreneurship has emerged as a transformative approach. According to Deloitte’s Innovation Study, a staggering 37% of Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and 29% of their business counterparts firmly believe that intrapreneurship will prove to be a game-changer.

The term “intrapreneurship” describes a concept that has gained considerable momentum in recent years, heralding a new era of corporate innovation. Intrapreneurs are fearless pioneers who think like entrepreneurs while operating within the boundaries of an established organization. They possess a rare blend of creative thinking, adaptability, and risk-taking that enables them to navigate corporate structures and champion innovative ideas from conception to fruition.

Embarking on an intrapreneurial journey—one that challenges the status quo and reshapes industries—demands a seismic shift in corporate mindset and a willingness to embrace risk and ambiguity. The path from mere thought to tangible impact is an intricate process that requires strategic guidance and adept ideation management. In this article, we delve into the fascinating world of intrapreneurship and explore how nurturing a culture of innovation within a company can lead to groundbreaking products, services, and business models.

Whether you are an aspiring intrapreneur seeking to catalyze change within your organization or a leader aiming to invigorate your company’s intrapreneurial culture, this article will provide valuable insights and practical guidance to give real meaning to your endeavors.

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Cultivating the Intrapreneurial Mindset as Part of Innovation Management

To foster the intrapreneurial mindset, organizations must engage in innovation management and prioritize a culture that nurtures and rewards curiosity, experimentation, and calculated risk-taking. This begins with leadership setting a clear example by promoting open communication, supporting novel ideas, and acknowledging that failures are opportunities for growth and learning. An intrapreneurial mindset flourishes when employees feel encouraged to propose new projects and are given the autonomy and the means to test their ideas.

In addition to creating a supportive environment, organizations can cultivate an intrapreneurial mindset through various initiatives. For example, dedicating time for employees to work on personal projects that align with the organization’s goals, known as “innovation time,” can be an effective way to stimulate creativity and intrapreneurial thinking. Furthermore, hosting innovation challenges, hackathons, and cross-functional brainstorming sessions can spur collaboration and enable employees to leverage their diverse skills and perspectives. Celebrating innovation sends a powerful message that creativity and intrapreneurial efforts are valued and rewarded.

Characteristics of Intrapreneurs

Intrapreneurs embody a distinct set of characteristics that differentiate them from traditional employees. While not every employee will naturally possess all of these traits, identifying and nurturing individuals who exhibit intrapreneurial qualities can be a strategic move for organizations seeking to bolster their innovation capabilities.

  • Visionary Thinking: Intrapreneurs are forward-thinking, constantly scanning the horizon for emerging trends and opportunities. They envision possibilities beyond any current limitations and strive to create groundbreaking solutions.

  • Proactiveness: Rather than waiting for instructions, intrapreneurs take the initiative, identifying problems and devising innovative solutions. Their proactive nature empowers them to tackle challenges head-on.

  • Resilience: Intrapreneurs are not deterred by setbacks or failures. Instead, they view these experiences as valuable learning opportunities, enabling them to adapt, persevere, and continuously improve.

  • Adaptability: The business landscape is ever-changing, and intrapreneurs quickly adjust to new circumstances. They embrace uncertainty and remain flexible in their approaches.

  • Resourcefulness: Intrapreneurs are adept at leveraging the resources available to them. Whether it’s assembling a cross-functional team or securing stakeholder support, they find creative ways to bring their ideas to life.

  • Passion: Intrapreneurs are driven by a deep passion for their ideas and the impact they can create. This passion fuels their dedication, even when faced with challenges or resistance.

  • Collaborative Spirit: While intrapreneurs exhibit a strong sense of ownership over their projects, they value collaboration. They recognize the power of diverse perspectives and actively seek input from others.

The Types of Potential Intrapreneurs

Stanford University has categorized intrapreneurs into three distinct types:

Creators

Creators stand out with their innate drive to seek more efficient ways of accomplishing tasks and boosting productivity. They are the ones who constantly propose fresh solutions to existing problems and seem to be crafting new plans even before their initial ones have been fully implemented. Creators are brimming with optimism and enthusiasm, consistently striving to enhance and elevate their organization’s performance.

Doers

On the implementation front, doers excel at taking ideas and swiftly translating them into action. They can remarkably bridge the gap between concept and concrete results. Task-oriented and dedicated, doers become the driving force that propels projects toward successful completion. Their relentless determination and prowess in execution make them invaluable assets in the pursuit of innovation.

Implementers

Implementers are visionaries who have the capacity to perceive the bigger picture. They are goal-oriented and highly productive, demonstrating a remarkable ability to thrive under pressure while accomplishing tasks. Implementers spare no effort in executing well-thought-out plans and are often behind the implementation of innovative ideas within the organization.

Intrapreneurship thrives when these three types of individuals collaborate, each contributing their unique strengths to the overall innovation management process.

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Measuring Impact and Success

In one of the McKinsey Podcast episodes, the global management consulting giant’s partner, Ido Segev, shared his personal experience in relation to determining the impact of intrapreneurial efforts.

According to Segev, it is crucial to recognize that achieving profitability may take three to five years in the context of intrapreneurial ventures. While some customer-centric aspects may yield quicker returns, recouping the initial capital expenditure typically requires a more extended period. Evaluating the ongoing progress of such ventures demands a unique approach, distinct from the standard annual budget evaluations for established investments.

A practical method that has proven successful involves periodic assessments separate from those conducted by the CEO. For instance, a venture capitalist (VC) could engage with the intrapreneur on a quarterly basis. During these evaluations, specific parameters are scrutinized, such as burn rate, the number of clients acquired, and the cost of client acquisition. These metrics are then compared against a predetermined set of benchmarks established in the top-down business case.

Based on the outcomes of these assessments, decisions are made regarding the venture’s funding progression. The process determines whether the venture is ready to move from series A funding to series B funding or what further milestones need to be achieved to secure additional funding.

Embracing this alternative approach to business evaluation and funding is imperative for the success of intrapreneurial initiatives.

Examples of Intrapreneurs

As discussed in Deloitte’s Intrapreneurship Whitepaper, nurturing employee-driven innovations requires a conducive environment with ample time and resources. An exemplary illustration of this innovation management approach is Google’s renowned “20% rule,” which grants employees the liberty to dedicate one day per week to pursue projects outside their primary responsibilities. This freedom has yielded remarkable outcomes, as employees have utilized this time to explore and experiment with new ideas, giving rise to groundbreaking innovations such as AdSense, Gmail, Google Maps, and Google Earth.

Goldman Sachs, a prominent global investment banking firm, also took a strategic step towards fostering internal innovation by introducing Accelerate, a business launch initiative. This program is designed to empower intrapreneurs within the organization to spearhead new technology-enabled ventures. Meanwhile, Procter & Gamble, a major American consumer goods company, embraced intrapreneurship to build promising new brands from Singapore, leveraging experimentation as a critical approach. The company adopted an incubation funnel and methodology to nurture these new brands, identifying ones with billion-dollar potential and guiding them toward successful realization.

In case you do not possess sufficient resources to design an in-house system, you can simply opt for a market-leading innovation management solution trusted by the likes of Visa, DHL, and Vodafone:

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