Spearheading corporate entrepreneurship to drive innovation from within is no easy task and can become confusing to employees and top management if it is not orchestrated the right way.

While setting up the intrapreneurship program at Mazars in Singapore 2 years ago, I had come to learn that you need to work on several fronts to ensure the success of your program.

You will find below the 5 levers of corporate entrepreneurship and internal innovation to make sure you set your corporate teams for success in the experimentation of new business models & new technology, mindset / skillset transformation and the championing of a culture of innovation. This content is coming from a workshop conducted by my colleague Chris Locke — Managing Director, Internal Innovation at Rainmaking — a few weeks back as well as my own experience.

1. Strategy

Clear strategic objectives around innovation must be made explicit at the business unit level. Key themes and spaces where the business unit has an unfair advantage need to be identified to be able to focus on the right innovation activities.

  • Business Unit Engagement & Sponsorship: Business Units need to be engaged to help identify and solve key challenges through innovation that align to their strategy. This could be done through a collaboration and alignment workshop. Their buy-in and support is paramount for the success of your program. If they don’t care, you won’t go anywhere!
  • Strategic Assessment – Unpacking the Customer Value Chain: The current customer journey has to be mapped to find points of friction and identify which actor (incumbents or startups) is trying to solve this, and see whether there are areas where your company can deliver greater value.
  • Identifying Capability: performing an assessment of current capability to execute in an identified opportunity space is also essential as it helps map out which areas could be tackled through internal innovation.

These 3 elements will lead to strategic recommendations across the 3 horizons of growth from H1 (process innovation) to H2 (adjacent innovation) and H3 (transformative innovation). H2 and H3 are about business model innovation, moving away from the business unit’s current core business.

This is where a lot of programs and intrapreneurial teams fail as they are not always clear on what is worth doing. The program manager needs to make sure the right areas of opportunity – potentially addressable through an internal program – are identified.

2. Capabilities

Beyond existing capabilities within your organisation, you need the right approach to build entrepreneurial skillset and mindset.

This requires commitment from all parties. Most companies implementing such a program will likely have to deal with intrapreneurs that will only be able to dedicate 15 to 20% of their time. Some things can be done on a part time basis, especially customer discovery and validation, but when it comes to building an MVP and most importantly launching a new product/service & scaling it, full commitment with all hands on deck is advised as it will maximise your teams’ chances of success.

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3. Governance

Governance is a crucial part of a corporate entrepreneurship program.

How do you know when to double down on an idea or kill it? What should you do with an idea that has been spinning at the concept stage for 6 months? Who makes the decisions on which ideas progress?

  • Developing Stage Gate Criteria: Setting relevant stage gates is important to ensure that your teams are focusing on the right activity at the right stage; applying criteria that enable your organisation to determine when to progress, pause or stop work on an idea.
  • Investment Committee: A cross functional selection committee must be established and trained to assess ideas against the relevant stages and make evidence based decisions around whether ideas should progress or be killed.
  • Investment Thresholds: Correlated to each stage gate; the right level of funding needs to be set depending on the maturity of each idea; this helps de-risk investment.
  • Idea Management: Your organisation must create a systematic approach to tracking and archiving ideas; this data can be fed into strategy planning or inform future idea development to shortcut learnings.

4. Impact

What are the right KPI’s to assess whether your teams and their innovations are successful or not? Answer the key questions required to scope the critical KPI’s, take a current baseline assessment, and then track and report these on a regular basis.

  • Setting critical KPI’s: What are the key KPI’s that need to be measured? How do we define them and benchmark these against the industry? Innovation Accounting needs to be performed to measure reporting KPIs, governance KPIs as well as global KPIs assessing the overall performance of the program. Tendayi Viki and Dan Toma have written extensively on the topic.
  • Tracking and Reporting Cultural Impact: How do you track impact? What are the assessment & tracking mechanisms required? How do you report these metrics to key stakeholders in a meaningful and engaging way? This is a combination of engagement numbers from your communications campaigns promoting the program, the number of employees expressing interest in the next cohorts along with impact on your recruitment campaigns among other elements.

5. Communications

One of the key components to drive innovation culture across an organization is developing a comprehensive communications plan that targets key stakeholders both internally and externally, shining a light on the participants, acting as inspiration for the rest of the organization.

  • Cohort Communications: You can send updates to your cohorts of corporate entrepreneurial teams through collaborative tools such as Slack. A dedicated newsletter could also be sent to them on a weekly basis with reading materials ahead of training sessions or with updates about the upcoming stages of the program. It’s also important to make sure they are touching base with their mentors regularly for support and guidance.
  • Internal Communications: Informing the rest of the company is paramount to legitimising the work of corporate entrepreneurs and spearheading a culture of innovation. As other employees start seeing their entrepreneurial colleagues learn and grow through the various stages, some of them will want to take part in next cohorts. Intrapreneurial teams can for example present an update about their progress at town halls or business unit meetings.
  • External Communications: Intrapreneurs within your organisation will appreciate being supported and valued through external communications, be it a press release or social media updates showcasing their work and progress. Moreover, this can also be a great recruiting tool as companies can attract entrepreneurial talent and reinforce their employer brand.

Wrapping up …

This piece was originally published on LinkedIn.com and rainmaking.io’s blog.

Here’s hoping these guidelines will help you spearhead corporate entrepreneurship in your organisation. They come from my own experience as well as Rainmaking’s experience running internal innovation programs with Ramboll, IKEA and Llyods Bank.

You might think your company is not ready to implement this on its own. Well, we can help you!

Rainmaking is launching an open corporate entrepreneurship program in May 2019 based in Singapore, helping aspiring corporate entrepreneurs within corporates to ideate, test and launch internal ventures, startup style. It’s a 20-week long acceleration program for internal corporate teams. We will have 10+ teams from different corporates and different industries in the program.

Let me know if you would like to discuss this further.

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