"Blogging innovation and marketing insights for the greater good"
Business Strategy Innovation Consultants

Blogging Innovation

Blogging Innovation Sponsor - Brightidea
Home Services Case Studies News Book List About Us Videos Contact Us Blog

A leading innovation and marketing blog from Braden Kelley of Business Strategy Innovation

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Inspiring Corporate Entrepreneurship to Fuel Innovation

by Robert F. Brands with Jeff Zbar

Inspiring Corporate Entrepreneurship to Fuel InnovationIt's been said that successful people either are entrepreneurs - or think like entrepreneurs.

Look around your company. Are you surrounded by entrepreneurs? Is your team comprised of people who take ownership of any project or task that comes across their desk or inbox? Do they embrace challenges, possess the process, and take responsibility - for successes and failures alike?

Some may come away thinking that 'corporate entrepreneur' and 'employee' are contradictory. They believe that entrepreneurs take the ultimate risk - ditching the security of the day-job, as it were, and facing the personal, financial and psychological challenges of business ownership.

That's one definition. Another would be 'corporate entrepreneurship'. This realm is inhabited by people who - though they receive a paycheck signed by someone else - see the organization (or at least their small domain within it) as their turf. This is the most valued type of employee.

Innovation and corporate entrepreneurship are inextricably intertwined and fuel well-reasoned risk taking. Especially in large organizations traditionally risk averse, innovation drives leaders and teams to become more corporate enterprising. This process encourages growth from within, which helps set the stage for leadership continuity.

As a business leader, you must build an environment that tolerates such entrepreneurial thinking. It's the leader's job to encourage such entrepreneurial thinking - to exude and build trust, to embrace the risk to fail, and to inspire people to take well-reasoned chances.

In the book, "Grow From Within: Mastering Corporate Entrepreneurship," co-author Robert Wolcott discusses how companies can enable and support 'internal entrepreneurs' to achieve innovation-led growth. Such entrepreneurial thinking drove IBM to realize some $15 billion in new annual revenues from 22 Emerging Business Opportunities, and Whirlpool to realize $4 billion in revenues from companywide innovation efforts - "despite global recession and the steep drop in housing markets," notes one review.

emerging models of corporate entrepreneurship
The authors reveal four models of corporate entrepreneurship laid out on an axis of organizational ownership (on the horizontal) and Resource Authority (on the vertical). Each possesses unique and specific characteristics. The Opportunist (bottom left), takes no deliberate approach to entrepreneurship; the Advocate (bottom right) evangelizes for it; the Enabler (upper left) provides funding and executive attention, and the Producer (upper right) establishes full service groups with mandates for corporate entrepreneurship

Applying Robert's Rules of Innovation, the Advocate, Enabler and Producer can thrive in this environment for each has corporate support. They have executive support, from Inspiration to Net Reward, needed for innovation borne of corporate entrepreneurship to thrive.

Yet for corporate entrepreneurship to thrive, it needs more. It requires the structure and culture. Assuming the right people are in place, leadership must provide divisional and business unit autonomy. How can you lead your organization to a climate of corporate entrepreneurship?
  • Like innovation, Define what entrepreneurship means. The phrase "Corporate Entrepreneurship" must mean the same thing organization-wide. Moreover, leadership must delineate objectives and point the way as part of its vision and mission.

  • Incubate and nurture. Corporate entrepreneurship doesn't flourish without guidance. It starts small - and grows through encouragement. Begin with small projects heavily supported by leadership. Those success stories should be heavily communicated as such. They then will become the lead project to pull the rest of the group or other entrepreneurial-minded teams along.

  • Create a reward system. Risk and reward, when properly aligned, can foster accountability. Rewards - whether in the form of praise from immediate managers, attention from leadership, or the chance to lead future projects or task forces - are powerful motivators. They also can help solidify the creation of stronger corporate entrepreneurs.

So look around your organization. Are you surrounded by employees - or entrepreneurs? The difference may be not only the way they think, but they way they're being nurtured.

Don't miss an article - Subscribe to our RSS feed and join our Continuous Innovation group!
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Robert F BrandsRobert Brands is the founder of InnovationCoach.com, and the author of "Robert's Rules of Innovation: A 10-Step Program for Corporate Survival", with Martin Kleinman - to be published in March by Wiley (www.robertsrulesofinnovation.com).

Labels: , , , , ,

AddThis Feed Button Subscribe to me on FriendFeed

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Influencing Your Innovation Potential

Interview - Steve Todd of "Innovate with Influence"

I have the pleasure of knowing Steve Todd (the Rockette on the left), a Distinguished Engineer for EMC Corporation with a hand in generating over 140 patent applications and billions of dollars in revenue. Steve has a great sense of humor and is the author of "Innovate with Influence - tales of a high-tech intrapreneur" - a new book that tells the story of his intrapreneurial adventures and quest for innovation. I had the opportunity to interview Steve about innovation, influence, and needs of the innovation workforce.

Here is the text from the interview:

1. When it comes to innovation, what is the biggest challenge that you see organizations facing?

Some organizations struggle to identify and tap into the expertise that exists outside of their organizations. Individual employees are at their innovative best when they can learn and collaborate outside of their own teams. Unfortunately, the working reality for many employees is to focus on productivity solely within their business unit. Corporations can help by encouraging employees to lift their heads up and explore new areas of interest. Ultimately, however, it's up to the employee to take a few risks of their own.

2. Any other tips you have for innovators on how to build their influence?

My quick tip for innovation is an easy-to-remember mathematical equation: Innovation = Productivity + Initiative + Collaboration. Always be productive on whatever tasks you are given. Get them done early and then take the initiative to learn something new. During your learning process, seek out experts and collaborate with them on new ideas.

3. What are some of your favorite tips for limiting your meeting participation?

I typically don't bring my laptop (or any other device that is web-enabled) to any meeting. I do this to give my full attention and engagement to the topic at hand. If I am tempted to bring my laptop, this means that I'm not very interested in the topic, or that I have more productive ways to spend my time. In this case I will double-check the agenda with the meeting organizer, and often ask them to post their agenda on an internal forum and add my comments in lieu of attending. If I can't wiggle out of a questionable meeting, I will attend remotely, set my phone on mute, and get some work done in parallel.

4. Do you have suggestions for effective cross-border virtual collaboration?

I use my corporation's social media toolset (known as EMC ONE) and shy away from corporate email. I've been working with St. Petersburg, Russia and Shanghai, China on some new product ideas, and I always attempt to make those conversations public. Somebody else in the world is always interested and has a unique perspective that can only be brought to the table using EMC's intranet. Since I work in EMC's Corporate Headquarters (Massachusetts, USA), I will usually try to entrust project ownership of the collaboration to my foreign co-workers. They like nothing better than to deliver something that they dreamed up in the initial stages.

5. Do you ever feel that you've limited your influence by limiting your executive visibility?

No. I'm in my third decade of delivering innovation and my lack of executive visibility has rarely limited my influence. I rely on building strongs bonds between my manager and his/her superior. THEY are the ones that have executive visibility; my team and I are the ones that deliver the end result to the customer. If this "chain of three" (myself, my manager, and his/her superior) are united in building an idea that brings great value to a customer, then selling an executive on a new idea is fairly straightforward.

6. What are some of the biggest barriers to innovation that you've seen in organizations?

The biggest barrier to innovation is the relegation of research into "ivory towers". Large corporations that sponsor dedicated "innovation centers" are often removed from the pain of customer problems. Ideas that flow out of a research center are often rejected by the developers in the trenches. Everyone has the passion to create. Innovation expectations should not be limited to people that work in a specific research facility.

7. If you were to change one thing about our educational system to better prepare students to contribute in the innovation workforce of tomorrow, what would it be?

I would encourage teachers to search out opportunities for global student collaboration. Partner with students in China, Russia, South America, etc. Students are used to this type of dialog with their friends; get them used to doing it in the classroom. Focus on world-wide issues that are important to our times, and encourage the students to propose their own ideas to their global peers. Students will quickly realize that they cannot innovate to the fullest in the workforce of the future unless they participate in global collaboration.

My book review of "Innovate with Influence" can be found here.

Braden Kelley is the editor of Blogging Innovation and founder of Business Strategy Innovation, a consultancy focusing on innovation and marketing strategy. Braden is also @innovate on Twitter.

Labels: , , , , ,

AddThis Feed Button Subscribe to me on FriendFeed

Book Review and Innovation Summary - "Innovate with Influence"

Innovate with InfluenceA few weeks ago I received "Innovate with Influence - tales of a high-tech intrapreneur" by Steve Todd in the mail. "Innovate with Influence" is a short (134 pages), easy, and pleasant read - almost like sitting down with Steve over a cup of coffee. Given that most innovation books are written by innovation consultants, it is rare to get a a first-person account from the innovation trenches, direct from an actual intrapreneur.

As an intrapreneur, Steve (and the book) don't concern themselves with a lot of theory, but instead on how you go about getting innovation done. And if you harbor the illusion that you have to burn the midnight oil to innovate, Steve has generated over 140 patent applications and billions of dollars in revenue for EMC from the solutions he has worked on, and still managed to leave at 5 o'clock along the way.

The book gives a first-person account of Steve's career, the projects he has worked on, and his approach to innovation. His keys to success?
  • Getting things done early

  • Building and leveraging influence

  • Actively managing his career

  • Actively managing his visibility

  • Managing work-life balance to maximize creativity

  • Combining expertise, customers, and adjacencies to create innovation

  • Doing the important things first

So, if you'd like to get a different perspective on innovation, and see what it looks like through the eyes of an innovator, I highly encourage you to check out "Innovate with Influence". I'll leave you with one final concept from the book that speaks to the potential innovation that corporations leave on the table every day.

Many companies don't actively managing their portfolio of innovation potential across their divisions and business units, to look for new opportunities from combining new discoveries and capabilities spread across the organization. Steve refers to this idea as corporate potential energy and defines it like this:

"Corporate potential energy is the product innovation stored within corporate employees that has the potential to be converted into other forms of product innovation."

My interview with "Innovate with Influence" author Steve Todd can be found here.

Braden KelleyBraden Kelley is the editor of Blogging Innovation and founder of Business Strategy Innovation, a consultancy focusing on innovation and marketing strategy. Braden is also @innovate on Twitter.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

AddThis Feed Button Subscribe to me on FriendFeed

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Optimizing Innovation - Dr. Guido Petit of Alcatel-Lucent

by Braden Kelley

Dr. Guido Petit of Alcatel-LucentWe are happy to bring you some of the key points and insights from Dr. Guido Petit's talk at the Optimizing Innovation Conference, which was held October 21-22, 2009 in New York City.

Dr. Guido Petit, Director of the Alcatel-Lucent Technical Academy spoke about Optimizing Innovation through Entrepreneurial Boot Camps. The program had its genesis back in 2002 after massive layoffs at the company. At that point in time, the CEO decided to focus on making innovation the job of everyone. They started in Belgium with an idea generation site that they built. They received maybe ten idea submissions per month in Belgium after launching it.

But, then they decided to put a car on the parking lot and offer it as a prize. Submisions tripled to thirty per month. So, they got 150 ideas in the 5 months of the car contest. Eleven people were selected to pitch their ideas to senior leadership out of the 150 ideas. But this car prize promotion was a mistake. In the end we made one person happy and 149 people unhappy. This is not sustainable.

As a funny side note, the person who won the car, was someone who rode his bike to work every day, and he sold the car after one week. And after contest the volume of idea submissions dropped back to 10 per month, and none of the eleven selected ideas made it into a product (including the winner).

But, the guy with the second place idea proposed starting a program to help people learn how to develop their ideas. This evolved into our entrepreneurial boot camp.

"Let people pursue their passion."

The Entrepreneurial Boot Camp takes place over three weekends (Friday + Saturday) - with the Friday being donated by the company and the Saturday being donated by the employee, and then a dry run, and finally a Super Friday for people to pitch their ideas (all together this takes place over about three months - spaced 2 weeks apart).

For the program, we set expectations that idea subissions must be for a new business that will be worth 50-100 Million Euros in 3-5 years:
  • Otherwise we just get a lot of process improvement ideas or suggestions on improving the food in the cafeteria

We partner with the Flanders Business School on the program and typically have five teams of five people with a senior manager as part of the team as a coach (for a total of six people). We generally have five or six teams per boot camp.

Super Friday consists of 15 minutes per team, with 12 slides each to target all 12 points including vision, competition, solution, etc.
  • 30 minutes for Q&A

  • Participants don't want to lose because this is a great exposure opportunity

  • CEO, CTO and CFO of Alcatel-Lucent Belgium and venture capitalists make up the panel

    • Now VCs are knocking on our doors to participate

  • Only 1 of the 5 ideas will go into the incubation phase where market validation, fast prototyping, and a lead customer must be sourced

    • Sometimes ideas are transfered immediately to business units if they are close to core

One thing that we have found is that people don't always want to post their idea on an innovation web site, so we have these 'dating events'. Idea owners can pitch their ideas to anyone in the company at a dating event to attract supporters. This also serves as an opportunity to connect people. We encourage people to merge research, mktg, finance, engineering, and sales into diverse teams.

"Talented people are everywhere but... they are not connected."

We have found that in our organization the smokers are the connectors, and so we have made it more comfortable for people to smoke. This is not to say that we encourage smoking.
  • There are no salary levels when people smoke together

  • Our smokers tend to be very social

    • hey call people to go smoke

    • They also like coffee and beer

We do our best to promote success stories from the boot camps. The boot camps are 80% coaching and 20% theory. Boot camps are done on top of daily duties.

We encourage risk-taking and entrepreneurship with our boot camps:
  • A way to change the innovation mindset

  • They provide an opportunity to scout entrepreneurial talent (finding people that have skills that are not otherwise shown and to possibly redeploy talent)

    • HR doesn't know where the entrepreneurs are

  • 80% of the ideas coming through the boot camps address new markets - the other 20% are new technologies for existing markets

  • We include VC's and business school professors because they often have insights into new markets - either new or existing technology

The results of our boot camps so far?
  • 2 internal ventures

  • 3 projects in incubation

  • 5 proposals were transferred to existing business units

Setting expectations is important to get the good ideas. Managing expectations is important because all of the teams believe they will win even though only one can win. For those teams that lose, they will get feedback from VC's and our executive leadership in the room.

Successful teams don't always move onto the incubation or venture teams. Some have had nobody transfer into the venture team and others have seen 4 of 5 carry forward onto the venture team. GM's for venture teams can be hired from outside.

We started two ventures in 2008. It is still to early to tell if they will be successful. We can tell you though that the business plans of ventures were different at the end of incubation and the at the end of the venture period than they were going in.

We are on Boot Camp 8 and we have now put 200 out of our 1,800 people through our boot camps and the number of ideas and the quality of ideas are inevitably and expectedly trending down. So now we are opening our boot camps to Alcatel-Lucent employees outside of Belgium, and we are sharing the methodology with other companies like Exxon, Agfa, Philips, J&J, Picanol, etc. We are also going to experiment with joint teams from more than one company.

One nice outcome has been that the alumni still supply new ideas and are interested in being coaches the next time around. Surprisingly, only about 10 of the 200 people in the program have left the company.

Optimizing Innovation Conference

Braden KelleyBraden Kelley is the editor of Blogging Innovation and founder of Business Strategy Innovation, a consultancy focusing on innovation and marketing strategy. Braden is also @innovate on Twitter.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

AddThis Feed Button Subscribe to me on FriendFeed

Friday, October 16, 2009

Intrapreneurship and Open Innovation for Small Business

by Stefan Lindegaard

Open Innovation and Intrapreneurship for Small BusinessI have been asked to present my views on how small and medium-sized companies can move to the next level by implementing open innovation and intrapreneurship.

I am still working on the presentation, but below you can see some bullet-points I plan to include in the 3 hour-long session. What do you think? Am I missing something important?

Besides hearing your comments here, it would be great to get out and share this with other companies, organizations and event organizers around the world. Let me know if you would like to discuss these:

The Challenge
  • Growing a startup is very much about executing on a great product, idea or technology. However, as the company grows focus tend to shift towards control rather than keeping the visionary thinking and bold approaches that build the company. This must be re-ignited. Understanding open innovation and intrapreneurship can help do this.

All the best people do not work here
  • One key reason for Procter & Gamble to initiate open innovation programs was that they learned that for each of their 7,500 R&D people there were 200 people outside the company with equal skills and competences. An ignorant - and arrogant - company would ignore these 1,500,000 million people arguing they do not matter as they do not work for us. P&G did not ignore this. They understood they should connect their own organization with the best and brightest from the outside world. Given the size of smaller companies, this mindset becomes even more important.

People matter more than ideas
  • Innovation is not only about finding the right idea or developing a great technology. A company must also be able to identify and develop the right people who can be matched with these ideas at the right time.

Innovation is about more than just products
  • Check the Ten Types of Innovation framework developed by Doblin. It is a great tool to broaden people's mind on innovation.

Think in terms of eco-systems
  • Today, one company does not compete against another company. Eco-systems compete against other eco-systems. Check this article by Hagel / Seely Brown to learn more: How SAP Seeds Innovation.

Control or contribution?
  • Big corporations can split their open innovation efforts on projects in which they are either are in control or just contributes with IPR or other resources. Smaller companies should only get involved in projects where they are in control or where their contribution is important and valued. The project should also fit the overall strategy of the smaller company.

Big corporations can drain a smaller company
  • Signs of this include long planning periods, difficulties in identifying and working with the right people and too much time spent on patent lawyers too early in the process. If these tell-tale signs appear, a smaller company need to evaluate whether this will become a drain of valuable resources that could be better spend elsewhere.

Where to look versus how to be found
  • Smaller companies need to be more active looking around whereas big corporation can focus more on being found and becoming a preferred partner of choice. Companies can look for projects and partners in their own networks (such as customers, suppliers and partners) or in external networks (such as universities, intermediaries and consultants).

Is the company ready for open innovation?
  • Any company must ask themselves why open innovation is relevant to them, how it should be defined to their situation, how it links with the overall strategy and how it can be implemented. Smaller companies must also prepare the organization for a cultural change, develop and implement a networking strategy and train their employees on innovation, stakeholder management and how to work with external partners.

Open innovation is about communication
  • Companies must understand the importance of communicating internally as well as externally. New social media tools such as Twitter (search and share information) and LinkedIn (identify the right people, search and share information) must be understood and leveraged.

I am looking forward to your comments.

Stefan Lindegaard is a speaker, network facilitator and strategic advisor who focus on the topics of open innovation, intrapreneurship and how to identify and develop the people who drive innovation.

Labels: , , , ,

AddThis Feed Button Subscribe to me on FriendFeed

Monday, October 12, 2009

Identifying the Innovators in your Firm

by Jeffrey Phillips

Finding InnovatorsThanks to Twitter, much of my research is done for me. I found a story linked on Twitter about the key innovation characteristics of leaders in innovative firms. That article was published by HBR.

The five attributes the authors identified as relevant for innovation are: associating (making connections across unrelated ideas or problems), questioning (especially focused on "what if" or "why not"), observation (especially observing behavior), experimentation (new experiences or exploration) and networking (especially with people from different industries or perspectives). Let's assume these factors are correct - from my experience they appear to be. Then, let's compare to what happens in many firms today.

First, there's little association in most firms today. Most organizations aren't interested in making connections across disparate fields of study; they are focused on maximizing the best practices within their industry. Rarely do we see ideas introduced from outside an industry unless it is introduced by an outsider.

Second, while there's plenty of questioning, it is most often used to belittle or denigrate ideas, rather than build them up. The knee jerk reaction in most firms when a new idea is generated is to seek what's wrong with the idea, rather than to build the idea or support it.

Third, the concept of observing customers or clients has been completely outsourced. Too few people spend time watching and observing customer behavior and trying to understand it. We've insulated ourselves from interaction and rely on cold, quantitative surveys. We often don't understand our customers' behavior or what that behavior means.

Fourth, there's limited experimentation outside of an R&D lab. Gary Hamel pointed out in his book The Future of Management that most firms have some product or service experimentation, but never experiment with management practices. More to the point, the authors define experimentation as new experiences or exploration. For the vast majority of firms, management is content to stick to its knitting.

NetworkingFifth, the first line item cut in any downturn is travel and conferences, so we by definition limit the amount of networking that is possible. In fact, in many firms there is little interaction with competitors, and even less interaction with firms in adjacent industries or markets. Innovation often happens at the intersection of two seemingly disparate markets or businesses, yet we've managed to wall ourselves off from any interaction with others.

The point here is that most organizations actively work against many of the attributes that would define good innovators.

So, if you are seeking to build an innovation team, or hire people with a greater proclivity for innovation, perhaps you should ask the following questions:
  1. Give us examples from your experience where you combined two concepts or capabilities from diverse situations or markets and created something completely new. Or, here's a (lego block, lincoln log) and a (band-aid, scarf). Can you create three interesting, useful new concepts from these raw materials?

  2. What's your first reaction when someone offers up a new idea? If the response is to explore it further or build on it, ask for examples. Otherwise, next question.

  3. How do you gain insight into what consumers want and need as new products and services? 1 point for reading in the industry, 3 points for reading outside the industry, 5 points for putting on the consumer hat and acting as a consumer, 7 points for actually watching and interviewing customers about their behavior

  4. Give an example from your personal or professional life of something new you've taken on. Could be learning a new language, learning a musical instrument. Need evidence of the attempt, and persistence. Quitting after a week or so isn't good enough.

  5. Tell me how frequently you meet with people who aren't in your industry or have very different experiences or perspectives than you do. Do you intentionally seek out these interactions?

How often do you think your HR team asks these questions? If you've built a successful innovation team, did you ask questions like these?

Jeffrey PhillipsJeffrey Phillips is a senior leader at OVO Innovation. OVO works with large distributed organizations to build innovation teams, processes and capabilities. Jeffrey is the author of "Make us more Innovative", and innovateonpurpose.blogspot.com.

Labels: , , , ,

AddThis Feed Button Subscribe to me on FriendFeed

Friday, September 18, 2009

Are Startups overrated? Are intrapreneurs better bets?

by Stefan Lindegaard

Startup FailureStartups are great because they create growth and lots of jobs so let's pour lots of private and government money into programs that create more startups. Entrepreneurs and startups kick ass!

This is the common wisdom in most countries. Does it hold? I do not think so and an article in Borsen, a leading business daily in Denmark provided some interesting facts that support my view on this.

In short, the article argued that gazelle companies - defined as companies that have created growth each of the last four years and in total have more than doubled their revenues in that time span - create more jobs than other company categories. This is not much of a surprise as growth companies almost per definition need people to create growth.

The article showed a list of 50 companies that during 2005 to 2008 each had grown from 102% to 2172% in terms of revenues and created from about 20 to 900 jobs. More interestingly, only five companies had less than five employees in 2005 indicating they were pure startups. 45 of the 50 growth companies already had a platform to grow from leading to my point; established companies create more revenue, more profit and more jobs than pure startups.

What I really would like to see is that private and government funds currently used on startups are diverted to established companies setting up intrapreneurship programs. I am not saying that we should give giants such as Hewlett-Packard, BASF or Lego a lot of money and support to set up such programs. The big companies can - or should be able to - do this by themselves.

Intrapreneur SuccessBut the innovation community as well as governement people should take a better look on how we can help small to medium-sized companies develop a better understanding of intrapreneurship and help them set up programs aimed at identifying and developing not only ideas, but also intrapreneurs; the people driving innovation.

As some of you might not have heard of intrapreneurship before I have inserted this definition from Wikipedia:

"Intrapreneurship is the practice of using entrepreneurial skills without taking on the risks or accountability associated with entrepreneurial activities. It is practiced by employees within an established organization using a business model.

Employees, perhaps engaged in a special project within a larger firm are supposed to behave as entrepreneurs, even though they have the resources and capabilities of the larger firm to draw upon.

Capturing the dynamic nature of entrepreneurial management (trying things until successful, learning from failures, attempting to conserve resources, etc.) adds to the potential of an otherwise static organization without exposing those employees or self employed people to the risks or accountability normally associated with entrepreneurial failure."

Imagine all the jobs and thus growth and prosperity we can create if not only the large, multinational companies, but also the smaller, mid-sized and yet established companies really knew how to develop and nurture intrapreneurship.

Everyone working with intrapreneurship - including myself - have an interesting business case as well as a worthwhile cause to pursue. Let's go for it...

Stefan Lindegaard is a speaker, network facilitator and strategic advisor who focus on the topics of open innovation, intrapreneurship and how to identify and develop the people who drive innovation.

Labels: , , ,

AddThis Feed Button Subscribe to me on FriendFeed

Thursday, September 10, 2009

People First, Processes Next, Then Ideas

by Stefan Lindegaard

The chief thing you as an innovation leader must realize is that when it comes to making innovation happen, people matter more than ideas.

Innovation TalentTake a moment to think about that. Many innovation initiatives fail miserably because their leaders don't understand this simple fact. In fact, it is actually more important to have A-grade people than it is to have a slew of A-grade ideas because A-grade people can take a B-grade idea - or perhaps even a C-grade idea - and turn it into a successful reality. B-grade people, on the other hand, will struggle with even truly great ideas.

So before you get all fired up about generating a ton of ideas, first figure out how you're going to match those ideas to people who can make things happen.

As you start this work, here's another key point to remember: the skills needed to lead and manage a project within the existing core business - where innovation is likely to be incremental and resources plentiful - are significantly different from the skills needed to overcome the challenges and obstacles that greet almost any new business project - where resources may be hard to come by and the innovation involved may be significant or even radical. You need to staff new business projects with people having a mindset and toolbox that match this different challenge.

Innovation CoachingI recently coached teams working to create new business ideas with a big potential. The managers more or less thought this was business development as usual - as they usually do with core projects - and they did not understand the dynamics of such new business development or innovation projects. Their biggest mistake was that they attached people without passion for the specific challenge to the idea - you need people who have their heart and skin in the game when it comes to developing innovation projects, especially if it has some kind of radical or breakthrough potential.

You also need different people for the different phases of the innovation process. Just as some entrepreneurs are better at running a company at its very early stage and others are better at helping the business scale once the product is launched, so too are there intrapreneurs who are better suited both in terms of mindset and skills to various phases of the innovation process.

Where to Look

Once you accept the importance of finding not only the right ideas but also the right people - your company's potential intrapreneurs - how do you identify these folks? A few possibilities - from the simple to the more complex - include:

1. Look around you
  • One simple way to find the people you need is to look for people who persistently follow up on ideas they have previously put forth. You have scores of employees who submit ideas and expect others to deliver on this. Nothing happens in such cases. But if you can find one person who keeps showing passion and persistence about their one idea, you'll be farther ahead than if you have 600 people who each submitted an idea but who don't really have an interest in doing the hard work required to make their idea real. With one persistent and qualified contributor - and a good idea - things can happen fast.

  • Look for people who are persistent about their ideas, people who work on their ideas on their own and who perhaps even gather other people to help work on it. If the idea is good and you have this kind of person to drive it, you have something to build on.

2. Internal business plan competition
  • A much more formalized way to identify potential intrapreneurs is through internal business plan competitions similar to those held by leading universities. A well-designed competition accomplishes many things. It helps you identify intrapreneurs, moves ideas with real potential forward, helps participants upgrade their intrapreneurial skills and provides a method for matching these A-grade people with good ideas in the future.

3. Intrapreneur-in-residence program
  • Why not adopt the entrepreneur-in-residence (EIR) practice that venture capital firms use and create your own intrapreneur-in-residence program? The role of an EIR varies, but typically it involves an individual who wants to start a company. Sometimes the entrepreneur has already spent a great deal of time on an idea that the venture company might invest in upon further development or the EIR acts as a 'partner' and helps the venture capitalist evaluate potential deals where the entrepreneur has a particular expertise.

  • An EIR might also spend some time with an existing portfolio company to provide his or her functional expertise. In this scenario, the EIR will sometimes enter the company as a full time executive (typically CEO or some 'C' level role) if the company and the executive feel there is a good fit.

Creating IntrapreneursWhy not use this model to establish an intrapreneur-in-residence program within your company? This could be an adjunct to a business plan competition. Having identified people with intrapreneurial potential in the competition, you can assign them to the role of intrapreneur-in-residence for a set period of time. The key here is to define what role this individual would have; this should be based on what outcomes you'd like to achieve with such a program.

The approach is especially useful when companies work to develop a new platform of business activities that in the early beginning still consists of many small, early stage projects. You wait to see how this specifically talented intrapreneur should be brought into action and until you decide on a full-time executive role in one of the projects the intrapreneur consults on the many projects.

I hope you share my belief that people matter more than ideas. As a follow-up post to this, I will soon look into idea harvesting and filtering strategies and other techniques to make sure the ideas you generate are on target.

Stefan Lindegaard is a speaker, network facilitator and strategic advisor who focus on the topics of open innovation, intrapreneurship and how to identify and develop the people who drive innovation.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

AddThis Feed Button Subscribe to me on FriendFeed

Site Map Contact us to find out how we can help you.