Innovation through intrapreneurship
Facebook’s Likebutton. The Post-It. The Playstation.
All these inventions have something in common: behind them is a privileged mind and a company. And they are all usually mentioned when speaking of corporate entrepreneurship.
An intrapreneur can seem like a rarity in any organization: someone who has a vision, is creative, capable of challenging the norm, and has a high degree of initiative and autonomy.
But are they really that rare?
Intrapreneurship: when the environment is everything.
This article published in the Harvard Business Review argues that they certainly exist, provided they have an environment that favors and promotes innovation, with prior knowledge of existing needs in the market.
Another example: the digital camera, conceived by an engineer at Kodak. Without taking anything away from the invention, time has shown that cameras have finally been discarded in favor of mobile phones.
Kodak found itself with a great product, but they did not continue investing in it to make it evolve; they did not innovate as far as they should have. Digital photography with quality features shortly became the norm in smartphones, and digital cameras, as we knew them, were forgotten (we recently discussed a similar case here, with the example of Netflix and Blockbuster).
In any case, the story shows how without a vision and a global commitment to innovation, the inspiration of a privileged mind can go to waste, or the idea can die if it does not evolve at the same pace as the market does.
Today, innovation is a debt that no company wishing to be competitive should acquire. There is a gap between the speed of technological disruption and the agility of companies who must adapt to it and deliver products to the market.
Innovation must be an all-inclusive concern that goes beyond what is written on Post-Its.
Finding a company with a Marketing department in the middle of the 20th Century was something of a rarity, even though today it is seen as something essential. Along those same lines, as the article points out, it is practically unthinkable for a company not to have an Innovation department that passes on its DNA to the entire company, affecting its structure, employees and processes.
Therefore, corporate entrepreneurship will only click if there is a common innovation strategy.
And companies need a strategic plan that institutionalizes innovation within the organization.
Intrapreneurship programs: focusing on innovation
To avoid a lack of focus, or the Kodak effect, HBR’s article notes the following priorities when establishing an innovation management model. As we shall see, people, their place in the spotlight and their recognition, have much to say in the matter. According to the article,
“It starts at the top with (1) leadership and an innovation culture willing to commit (2) system-wide resources and (3) a governance process that can deliver on a clearly articulated (4) mandate and scope for breakthrough innovation. An inclusive (5) organizational structure with interfaces between different parts of the company incorporates the (6) processes and tools and (7) metrics and rewards required for an innovation cycles that takes longer than incremental product innovation. Lastly, companies need (8) skills and talent that are differentiated from traditional R&D or new product development roles.”
Open innovation communities, with a clear methodology behind them, are one of the most effective channels for the execution of corporate innovation and intrapreneurship programs, because they allow companies to take advantage of their diversity and establish a common framework where all employees participate.
The article insists that being permanently innovative is not only up to hiring a handful of star signings.
Digital disruption forces companies to be in a perpetual betastate and innovate with all their potential and resources. Hence the need to make innovation democratic among all employees.
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