Intrapreneurship is starting to peek its little nose into companies all over Europe. CAC40 groups are starting to wake up and smell the Google 20% time and think “We should do that!” Great. And yes, they should.
Intrapreneurship is an invaluable tool to find the company’s ideas of tomorrow with the employees of today. It can inject diversity into the workplace. It can give smart people, who would otherwise have been pigeon holed into the same job forever, a chance to show their skills and creativity. The internal incubator is truly a way of inserting a bit of startup culture into a big group. BUT (you knew there was a ‘but’ coming) it can’t be top-down. It just can’t.
The data increasingly shows us that ‘grit’ ‘passion’ ‘personal investment’ whatever you want to call it, is the only thing that matters when it comes to starting a company. It’s the highest predictor of success and we’ve all seen it before. Someone who is truly determined to make their business work. The person who gets up early and goes to bed late because she’s working away at making her company great. Well, this is the Innovation Director’s biggest problem when she decides to put an internal incubator in place inside the big company she works for. The rewards for grit, passion or personal investment, when it comes to business, are generally all for the person who put in the work. The founder or team of co-founders. They had the guts, so they get the glory. This is not the case for intrapreneurship. An intrapreneur will work to develop an idea they have for their employer and then, (and this doesn’t always happen but often does,) they will go back to their normal job. If they were really motivated, they will have had a taste of what it is to be an entrepreneur, so they will possibly leave the group, or they will go back to their normal job but totally deflated and unmotivated.
How to ensure this doesn’t happen?
At Present Perfect, we develop intrapreneurship programs for big companies and our experience has taught us several things. Here are a few tips if your company is looking to start an internal incubator.
NO TOP-DOWN PROJECTS!
This is key. We’ve seen it a few times now. Companies have some people that are in the high-flyer club and they think “Well, this guy is super smart, let’s give him a project and let him fly with it.” No. You can’t put your project in someone else’s mind and expect them to get excited about it. They’re going to work on it in their own time. They’re going to give up their evenings and weekends to do this. It has to be something they believe in. It has to come from them.
DON’T EXCLUDE THE RECEPTIONIST
Intrapreneurship should be open to EVERYONE in the company. Anyone who works in sales knows “You never know who or where your next sale could come from” and the same is true for intrapreneurship. You don’t know that the receptionist or the mail boy isn’t your company’s own Elon Musk. Intrapreneurship should be an equalizer, and that’s what makes it such a change agent, so open up your call for bids to everyone. From C-levels to entry level.
MAKE IT FUN
Why do people love working for start-ups? Because they’re not tied to a cubicle. Because they can create the company culture they want to work in. Because there’s foosball tables and results-only work environments. This is a lot harder to create when making the company inside the company, but you have to try. Make intrapreneurship fun. Don’t do it in a meeting room in the company, do it somewhere new and inspiring. Celebrate every victory and create a place that is safe for people to take risks.
No top-down dynamic.
Don’t exclude the receptionist.
Try and make it fun.
Just a few words of wisdom from a group of people that make internal incubators in French companies. We would love to hear from you. Please comment or mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org