The Art of Intrapreneurship

Those of us who are trying to help ours or a consulted business get to “Future Business” can be called “Intrapreneurs”.

If you are one of these people, you should take some time for Guy Kawasaki’s excellent books about start-ups. Reality Check” is primarily about brand-new start-ups, but it has many important messages for those of us who attempt to innovate within companies.

You may not have to deal with hiring new resources or tracking down angel/VC financing, but you certainly do need to build a good team and you do need someone to dedicate budget to your idea. Buy’s lessons about how to direct your efforts are very helpful.

Below are my spin on some of Guy’s advice

  • Kill the cash cows – In his words, “Cash cows are wonderful – but you should milk them but not sustain them until, pun intended, the cows come home”. He suggests that if you do not innovate, two kids in a garage will do it for you.
  • Reboot your brain – Most practices inside a large company are designed in successive stages (eg. Check with everybody, get consensus, focus groups, design, re-design, test, test, launch in the same old way as always) and/or designed for evolutionary continuous improvement. These will not work for a brand new idea
  • Find a separate building – He suggests that the building be nearby but distinctly separate and distinctly low-budget to create an air of suffering. Swan Note: be careful here if integration with the parent is essential. You do not want to be seen as outsiders if you need any of the parent depts. for your success
  • Hire infected people – Passion is paramount. Obviously resources must be capable, but do not focus too heavily on background/skills to the detriment of passion.
  • Give hope to the hopeless – as you are able to achieve some level of success, those in the company who are frustrated by the bureaucracy will reach out to you. Maintain a relationship with those people. You need all the support you can get.
  • Put the company first – remember that you are not a 100% entrepreneur. You are part of a larger company. Keep your employer’s best interests front of mind at all times. You will face challenges because some will react violently to any conflict of interest with a cash cow.
  • Stay under the radar – once you have the initial buy-in and budget, resist the temptation to continue growing your executive sponsorship. It will create more flak than air-cover. If they come to you, then show them you are working on it and wherever possible make them believe it was their idea. Swan Note: if you are going to need effort from other depts., get the buy-in from that dept up front. Once you are in full swing, you may be perceived as a threat to the core and therefore get push back.
  • Collect and share data – be prepared with all of your cost and revenue projections so that when attacks come, you are prepared
  • Dismantle when done – help everyone who participated both re-integrate with the parent and hopefully improve it for their experience

There are so many other great ideas in this Guy’s book. If it’s not already in your library, I highly recommend it.  As Frans Johansson discusses in his book the Medici Effect, breakthrough ideas often come from alternate disciplines.  So, even if you are not an entrepreneur, you will likely gain some insights about how to better innovation in your job.

Best of luck with your own intrapreneurship. Please post your comments regarding best practices you experience.


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