Guides to Innovation at Scale: Intrapreneurship Programs

Intrapreneurship Programs: An Introduction

Intrapreneurship programs are a great tool to have in your innovation kit. Described by MIT’s Sloan School for Management as “acting like an entrepreneur within an established company”, it allows an organization to identify, nurture, and support talent from within its own ecosystem.

No one knows your business better than the people who work there every day. Improvements to existing operations and new ideas worth exploring are things that these colleagues, known as ‘intrapreneurs’, ponder on a regular basis.

Having a scheme in an organization that gives leaders a way to identify these intrapreneurs and give them a framework to develop their ideas helps a business to stay relevant. With 88% of Fortune 500 companies in 1955 becoming obsolete by 2015, passing up on this opportunity can have dire consequences for the organization’s long-term health.

As a way of fostering this culture of innovation, intrapreneurship programs rank among the best out there. In this guide, we’ll discuss both how these programs can be introduced into a business environment and outline the numerous benefits they bring to an organization.

How To Set Up an Intrapreneurship Program:

Imagine that a company wants to use its program to gather ideas on new products and services. Through this lens, we will now illustrate the stages of a successful intrapreneurship program.

To begin with, getting the buy-in of the intrapreneurs is crucial. To identify who they are, think of the people who are viewed as leaders, highfliers, and natural entrepreneurs within the organization, even without a program like this in place.

They will have ideas that are ready to go. Now they need company infrastructure that allows them to develop these ideas into proposals that they can take ownership of. Without this framework, these people will explore other avenues, including leaving the business to start their own company.

Some text, a video, or even a physical presentation provided to these individuals that outlines the objectives of the program is the ideal way to begin, as they can use this to refer to when formulating their proposals.

How to Capture the Ideas:

Now that the buy-in of these intrapreneurs has been secured, the program can start to move forward. The first step should be to gather the formative proposals for new products or services that these intrapreneurs have come up with. 

A page that asks some basic questions, so that the company can understand what the problem is, what the solution suggested is, and what benefits this can bring, is an effective way of doing this. These questions should be detailed enough to answer those basic points, without being so specific that they create a barrier to entry for even the most energized intrapreneur.

Once these proposals have been captured, reviewing them is the next step. Initially, it makes sense that this is done by management colleagues, especially those tasked with overseeing your innovation strategy. As the process matures, however, a great way to ensure that an intrapreneurship program continues to nurture and support the natural entrepreneurs within the business arises.

Giving this task to those colleagues who have created a successful solution keeps them engaged with the scheme whilst also optimizing their specific expertise. Using them to judge which proposals should be explored further and which should be rejected makes the management of the program more consistent.

Progressing Successful Ideas:

Following a first successful screening, the intrapreneur needs to develop their proposal further. As the purpose of the program is for this process to take place in-house, it is vital that the intrapreneur is allowed to do this on company time. Managers need to be prepared to allow these individuals time away from their normal responsibilities, but this shouldn’t mean that the intrapreneur is left without support. 

To ensure that this time is spent productively, we recommend using a business canvas. These tools act as trouble-shooters for a proposal that all users can contribute to. It’s at this point that the value of utilizing your entire organization comes into play.

This stage ensures that the intrapreneur has considered their proposal from every possible aspect. Everyone has a blind spot, so this gives the intrapreneur a chance to shore up their proposal ahead of the next and final part of the process, which is pitching.

The chance to get in front of board members, CEOs, and other senior management figures is not something afforded to most intrapreneurs in their day-to-day jobs. By getting to the pitching stage, this grants them senior exposure and the chance to get sign-off on their proposal.

Key Considerations:

A key element of the intrapreneurship program is feedback. When a proposal is declined, at whatever stage, the intrapreneur should be given a reason why. Without this, any future proposals they submit are likely to suffer from the same issue, leading to dissatisfaction and disillusion with the process for that intrapreneur.

This is the basic structure that an intrapreneurship program should take. There are opportunities for customization, as with all workflows, to better suit any unique business needs, but this is the general framework that a company should build from.

Why Run an Intrapreneurship Program?

The benefits of introducing an intrapreneurship program can extend to anyone in an organization, as well as the business entity itself.

From the perspective of the intrapreneur, as well as offering senior exposure and the potential for promotion, it delivers heightened job satisfaction. By having a transparent environment that shows the company is committed to hearing any and all ideas submitted, intrapreneurs feel more able to explore solutions they have without fear of reprimand.

As an employer, this makes retention of staff much more likely. In this sense, a way of justifying running an intrapreneurship program is looking at the consequences of not having one. Doing so often results in a situation where a disgruntled employee leaves to start their own venture, which can easily and quickly become a competitor, an outcome which no business is aiming for.

Finally, from a business point of view, it allows for the fostering of an in-house innovation culture and an avenue through which to view the relative health of the company. By cutting down the barriers that currently exist, innovation is made more achievable. When this is the case, ideas are generated in a much greater volume and at greater regularity than before, and scaling of the program is much easier to achieve.

As well as this, intrapreneurship programs that are run through platforms that have built-in analytics software allow for real-time monitoring of how the scheme is operating. With elements such as idea funnels and leaderboards, platforms like Wazoku provide access to data that shows a business who is engaging and who is not.

Conclusion:

In this guide, we’ve introduced the concept of an intrapreneurship program. We’ve also shown how to create one, both organically or by using the established Wazoku platform. Finally, we’ve used our experience with these types of programs to underline why they have proven so successful in identifying, nurturing, and supporting intrapreneurs.

Every journey that ends in a successful intrapreneurship program, begins with someone in an organization taking a risk. Innovation is, inherently, the practice of optimizing the unknown. So, whilst it may seem an impossible task now, setting up an intrapreneurship program could see an organization be the next to reap the endless benefits that they can bring.

About Wazoku:

Wazoku is a pioneer in open innovation, crowdsourcing, and innovation at scale. For more than two decades, we’ve been helping our clients deliver sustainable and scalable innovation practices. As both for-profit and for-purpose, our software and expertise have been used to gain competitive advantage and overcome humanitarian crises around the globe, all of which is underpinned by the belief that anyone can be an innovator.