5 Tips for Intrapreneurship.

Surfer in challenging wave to symbolise the risk taking  of intrapreneurship

Intrapreneurship is one of the ‘buzzwords’ of 2010. We’re finding growing numbers of business leaders are keen to explore how to bring the spirit of entrepreneurship alive in big companies.

So, what can you do to encourage intrapreneurship and help it succeed in your organisation?

The word intrapreneur was first coined by Gifford Pinchot III. His 1985 bestselling book ‘Why You Don’t Have to Leave The Corporation To Become an Entrepreneur’ became a best seller.

More recently with the impact of globalisation and the faster pace of technological change it seems that that many companies have identified intrapreneurship as a strategy that may help them bring products to market faster, and possibly do so with fewer resources.

Is this something for you? Here’s five tips to help you develop an intrapreneurial mindset.

1.       Build Diverse Teams

Diversity in teams generally benefits innovation projects.

Entrepreneurs think carefully about making each place on the team count and involving the people who can really contribute. This may mean selecting people who have skills in one or more of the areas that are relevant to your project.

It might mean drawing on a mixture of people from within your organisation complemented by some specialists from outside your organisation.

2.       Keep It Lean and Nimble

Entrepreneurs are always conscious of the rate at which they are ‘burning cash’. This is the phrase that describes what happens when they are working on product development or service development prior to having any revenue coming in.

You’ll never experience quite the same imperative to ‘keep moving’ if all your team members are on contractually agreed monthly salaries. However, there is much to be learned by keeping a very close track on costs as you develop your product. If you and the team are thinking of pushing the deadline back you need to question whether you are taking the easy option? What will be the impact in the market place of a later launch? It’s not just about lost revenue but also missing out on ‘first mover advantage’.  

Remember, while you may have historically competed with other large, relatively slow moving corporations, in future you may be competing with lean and nimble start-ups who are hungry to take ownership of a niche. Their financial constraints may mean they cannot delay.

Ultimately, are you doing everything to keep your costs down? Would you spend it if you were using your own money?

3.       Stay Connected to The Rest of The Organisation

In the past, some organisations have tried to encourage innovation by creating a ‘skunkworks’. This was a term developed by Lockheed Martin. The idea behind this was to enable innovators to work together in a separate place without the ‘constraints of the organisation’.

There can be benefits to the skunkworks approach but also a downside. If you’re expecting people outside the skunkworks to help implement your innovation and they have not received any communication about the project until just before launch, then they won’t feel particularly invested in ensuring that product is a success.

If you’re working with a team ‘in the spirit of intrapreneurship’, consider all those whose help you might want later; share the highlights, get some feedback about prototypes, keep them involved.

It’s also worth remembering that ‘selling’ your innovation concept internally within your organisation is excellent practice for later when you need to sell it externally to potential customers.

4.       Make Use of Company Resources

Entrepreneurs sometimes advocate the ‘beg, borrow or steal’ strategy to add to their resources. This might mean calling in favours from friends who do software programming or bartering for goods and services.

In the corporation you have many resources available to you – draw on them. Your project may appear to be in a new market for your company but it’s likely that colleagues in a range of departments can help you directly or access their network to help you. Ask for market data and advice from your colleagues in the relevant function. Speak to you sales colleagues about identifying customers to contribute to your market research.

5.       Save Time and Money by Using Technology

Successful entrepreneurs will often look for a technological solution to get things done. This is because they know that it may be cheaper than getting a person to do it.

Such a mindset can also be helpful to an intrapreneur in a large company. Consider doing your market research on line for free using simple software like Survey Monkey. Or, if your challenge is more complex you may need to pay a company to help you undertake research on line. However, this might be quicker and cheaper than convening focus groups and awaiting the moderator’s report.

Similarly, think about the cost of travel to meetings? Would a webinar/Skype work on some occasions?

Whether you actually want to call yourselves intrapreneurs within your organisation or not, there may be benefits to your ongoing innovation programmes by taking a more intrapreneurial approach.

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