There are people within established organisations who are drivers of innovative change; creators of new products or service lines; and leaders of entirely new business ventures spinning out from the core. But who are they? And what did they have to do to succeed?
In March we hosted the Corporate Entrepreneurs London community in a crowded venue in Central Working Victoria.
We were joined by three intrapreneurs, telling their stories of change.
- Maria Lodetti, Senior Manager in the User Centricity Team of Mars Inc, talked about how the user-centricity movement at Mars has really created grassroots change in mindset and the approach she has adopted for engaging with different parts of the organisation.
- Jean-Baptiste Limare, Admiral Group PLC and Head of Veygo, shared his experience of starting Veygo from within the Admiral Group and critical success factors for intrapreneurial ventures.
- Erik De Kroon, ex-VP at WorldPay Futures and now CEO of Yordex, spoke of his journey at WorldPay where he launched and took to market a new online payment service.
Through their case studies, we have learned the top five things every corporate intrapreneur and innovation manager should do:
1. Create an internal movement
Most influencing is not top-down, but horizontal, so corporate innovators shouldn’t forget the role of champions from all corners of the organisation to build a genuine community.
Instead of updating processes, protocols and digital transformation at first, it might be more effective to change how people think to start from a small group and leading by example.
A shift in mindset is more likely to spread through the whole organisation in this way, especially if supported by positive results and quick wins. Communication within the group and then engaging with a broader corporate community is key to reduce confusion, spread the message and influence change. A well-integrated organisation would then allow for a smooth adaptation of innovative cultural changes.
2. Find a Mentor
Mentors and advisors are invaluable for intrapreneurs just as they are for entrepreneurs — especially if they are the right people from the broader organisation. Intrapreneurs work in an organisation with many smart, experienced and influencing professionals from all areas of the company; this is a key advantage of being an internal-entrepreneur and something to be harnessed.
Just as startups need mentors and advisors because they need expertise and credibility, corporate entrepreneurs need mentors to help navigate the internal politics, master the expectations of executives, be aligned with key company metrics and, last but not least, gain access to the vast resources available within a large organisation.
Moreover, a mentor gives a corporate entrepreneur justification and confirmation of their work, which helps in bringing forward new and original propositions for the organisation.
3. Embrace the responsibility that comes with autonomy
When large companies eventually give intrapreneurs the autonomy and the resources needed to delve into new ventures, corporate entrepreneurs are allowed to realise their entrepreneurial ambitions in a safer environment.
This might often mean feeling alone, swimming against the tide while having the eyes of the entire organisation suspiciously staring at them. The truth is that the entrepreneurship journey is never an easy one, whether it’s outside or inside a large organisation. It’s just a different taste.
In return, and often overlooked, is the responsibility to give back.
However, corporate entrepreneurs have additional responsibility — and reward — of sharing their successes with the rest of the organisation. This means celebrating the trust and opportunity that has been given to them, to boost the morale and narrative of the organisation while shaping it for a new direction.