Intrapreneur: A person within a large corporation empowered to take direct ownership for creating a solution through assertive risk-taking and innovation.
This is not a new concept. In fact, the American Heritage Dictionary first featured it in its 1992 edition. And even though the term it is more than 20 years old, it still gets decent press (such as in this recent Forbes article: 2014's Most Valuable Employee: The Social Intrapreneur)
So why 2.0?
Historically, the heralded examples of intrapreneurship were things like Skunk works, the McIntosh project and the first Xbox, which all started at the margins of their mother companies and earned a notorious reputation for doing things their own way.
In the last few years, the startup community went through a renaissance of some sort. Startups have redefined themselves, created interesting frameworks and tools and made themselves ever more innovative, efficient and disruptive.
But as startups are becoming smaller, leaner and meaner, so is intrapreneurship. A group of 4 or 5 employees, linked together by a common purpose and using startup techniques can create large impacts.
Here are some of the more popular concepts you should know about.
Business Model Generation
Talk to a Startup about their Business Plan and you will automatically look like a retired banker adding numbers on a crank calculator. Startups now rely the “Business Model Generation Canvas” to create business models that are robust and thorough while also being lightweight, flexible and that adaptable as new data comes to light.
How does it help businesses?
From experience, an alarmingly large percentage of teams actually don’t really understand the business model of the product/service they are working on, or even “what a business model is”.
In other words, they know WHAT they do but they often don’t have an excellent grasp of the WHY. Spending time understanding the business model broadens your thinking and opens up a lot on “non-linear” options.
Lets take a product team as an example. Most product teams reaction to an issue is to work on the product. But sometimes, the way we talk about the product is the actual issue. Or maybe it’s the channels we are using. Product teams typically don’t think beyond the product itself until they explore the business model and understand that their success is based on the complex dynamics that go beyond the product. As a result of exploring the broader model, they will be tempted to try things outside the product. This is also a great way to boost engagement through an enhanced feeling of ownership and responsibility.
The Lean Startup movement
This movement teaches that any new venture starts off with a large number of uncertainties (ex. we think that customers are willing to pay 6.99$ per month for service x). The key to success is validating these assumptions in the fastest and cheapest way possible in order to build products and services on validated learning. This makes startups dramatically more efficient.
How does it help businesses?
Even thought we might not always realize it, we make a lot of decisions based on “educated guesses” and hunches. And in truth, we really can’t test all of them. But lean startups are really good at identifying key hypothesis and testing them.
A collective insurance company is working on a program where reps are sent to office locations in order to engage the user base. The assumption is that this interpersonal contact will lead to more conversion.
· How a big company thinks: “How many reps do I need? How much is this going to cost? What is the expected ROI?”
· How a startup thinks: “How do I even know that this is going to work? Better test it by sending a single rep to tour 4 locations and measure results”.
The reason really is that startups cannot afford the cost of being wrong too often. So they validate assumptions fast and cheap (a point I made at length in a previous article, Build experiments not products).
Recently, I was talking to an intrapreneur working at a large financial institution. He was working on assumptions about a competitor’s account opening process for small business banking. The organization’s internal process required him to request a competitive study that would take 4 months, cost 30k$ and deliver a report.
Instead, he and 3 colleagues spent 400$ opening a number company and then they applied for an account at their competitors’ branch. So not only did they validate the process quickly at a fraction of the price but he also got a personal experience of his competitor’s process.
That’s it for now…
Intrapreneurship is a rich and powerful concept for those interested in performance, engagement and innovation at companies of various sizes.
I promise to get back to you guys with the following:
· Using lean analytics to drive decision-making and design.
· The tension between autonomy and collaboration between intrapreneurs and their organizations.
· Intrapreneurs: how to spot and support them.
That’s it for now, as they say. Keep your eyes peeled. There’s more of that where it came from!