Intrapreneurs have a key role in helping organisations innovate sustainably in an increasingly uncertain paradigm. What are the recommended behaviours for intrapreneurs and leaders to work effectively across the three innovation horizons?
What’s the role of intrapreneurs across the different horizons of innovation?
Intrapreneurs are employees who think and act like an entrepreneur within a business. They apply problem-solving, creativity, communication skills and critical thinking to deal with ambiguity and to become agents of change and growth for their employer.
As innovators, their role is to spot issues to be solved or opportunities in the market to be seized by an innovative initiative.
This means putting in place a series of behaviours that enable them to be effective across the three horizons:
- Intrapreneurs need to be aligned with the overall strategic objectives of their organisation.
Where do senior leaders have the ambition to be in 5 – 10 years time? What are the short term objectives they want to achieve during the financial year? What are the strategic bets they are willing to explore?
Knowing this will allow them to focus their creativity and problem-solving mindset on the right challenges for horizon 1, 2 and 3 innovation.
- Intrapreneurs need to keep themselves up to date with the most recent industry and technology trends.
Whether it is following thought leaders on Twitter or LinkedIn, or attending webinars and networking events, they should devote at least 5% of their time to keep themselves updated about what is coming next, both in their market and from a broader technology perspective. This will help them expand their thinking to areas where opportunities for horizon 2 and 3 innovations may arise.
- Intrapreneurs need to create strong connections across the organisation.
Whether it is having casual lunches, regular catch up over a coffee or even being active on the company’ slack channels, they are required by their role to have eyes on the ball. Is anyone being frustrated about the complexity of certain tasks or procedures?
Is anyone implementing new technology in a specific area of the business? Has a new strategic partnership just been signed? Intrapreneurs need to know this so that they are able to come up with great horizon 1 ideas.
One last point about metrics. Not all companies provide open access to KPIs from across the business. Sometimes we have observed divisional or department leaders being secretive with their metrics as a way to protect themselves from criticism or scrutiny.
While we appreciate this, we also would like to stress how important it is for innovators across each level to get a snapshot of what is happening across the organization. Transparency encourages anyone to acknowledge problems or spot opportunities, thus unleashing horizon 1 and horizon 2 innovation.
What can leaders do to foster innovation across their organization?
Intrapreneurs are not lone geniuses working in silos. On the contrary, they are often the average employee equipped with the right mindset and toolkit. Learn more on how to upskill them here.
Leaders’ behaviour can have a tremendous impact in empowering intrapreneurs and have them deliver innovative solutions across the three horizons. This is why in our Intrapreneurship Guide we say that Intrapreneurship is like a tango, it takes two (namely Intrapreneurs and Leaders).
Innovating internally by leveraging existing resources is one of the most effective ways to achieve sensible outcomes in a cost reduction paradigm. By engaging with internal talent who know the business, the industry, customers and internal processes better than anyone else, leaders have the opportunity to make innovation part of the DNA of an organisation.
In order to succeed, a few steps need to be taken into consideration. Top-down alignment being one of them. If the overall strategy is not clear enough, the attempt to unleash internal entrepreneurial talent may not succeed.
Entrepreneurial employees can’t be fast and autonomous in launching new initiatives unless they have clarity about the strategic direction, and which metrics will define success.
In fact, “I don’t have a clear view on what the key business objectives are that my organisation cares about and would like me to focus on” is one of the most common complaints we hear from Intrapreneurs we work with.
What should leaders consider doing:
- Get clarity from top execs on the overall strategic objectives for the organisation, and how success will be measured. This will help with innovations across the three horizons, particularly with levels 2 and 3.
- Assess what the strategic ambition means for their division or department by getting together with peers in a series of workshops. Again, this will help with innovations across the three horizons, particularly with levels 2 and 3.
- Define a series of KPIs that will be monitored within their division or department, getting a snapshot of the current situation and defining a vision for future success. This will particularly help with horizon 1 innovations.
- Make sure anyone across the team has access to the KPIs monitoring in real-time. Again this will help particularly with horizon 1 innovations
- Organise internal all-hands meetings to share the strategic vision and the KPIs in simple terms. Asking someone external – eg your partner – to review the deck for the event might be of help to make sure everyone will be able to understand it. This will help with horizon 1, 2 and 3 innovations
- Empower the entire team with entrepreneurial tools and techniques, with courses like our Intrapreneurship foundations. This again will help create a common understanding of what it means to have an entrepreneurial mindset across the organisation, thus helping with horizon 1, 2 and 3 innovations