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Intrapreneurship – Three lessons from the field

By Joanne Jacobs

Last night, Disruptor’s held a roundtable on the topic of entrepreneurship with participants from the public, private and not-for-profit sector. We discussed the following topics.

  • What does it take to bring new ideas, products, and ways of working into a workplace?
  • How do you get people to own solutions?
  • How do you build coalitions to make this change happen?
  • What do you need from senior managers?

We began with four stories from different organisations using different techniques to drive change.

Driving change through intrapreneurship

A not-for-profit wanted to work with a government department to identify new forms of workplace giving. We ran them through a half-day collaborative design thinking process using the Shared Value Canvas to get a common understanding of the problems and the co-create solutions.

A social services provider wanted to ensure its business was sustainable. We worked with them on consensus building and business case development. One of the key outputs from this was a wellbeing accelerator program.

A government department needed to roll out a new, core business system. We worked with them on a range of change tools including an online portal and search engine for all project-related materials.

A mining company wanted to tap into external expertise to develop new solutions to two key business problems. We curated and ran a 3-day hackathon with technical experts we had identified and qualified. A number of solutions were identified and one was piloted the week after the event.

These stories and the ensuing conversation yielded a number of lessons for intrapreneurs.

Lesson 1: If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together

The first is that you cannot do this alone. You need to build a coalition of supporters in the organisation by identifying those who support your idea and getting them on board. Then you need to tap into external networks of experts who can provide you with the insights and resources that you need for your idea to thrive. Many intrapreneurs are naturally good at building networks. The people that you engage at the earlier stages of the design and development process will have greater ownership of outcomes later on.

Lesson 2: Timing is everything

The second lesson is about timing and preparation. With the right networks and resources in place, you can move quickly and achieve breakthroughs in a day or a week. In you do not have those networks in place then everything will take forever or simply fail. We find that an effective hackathon requires 3 months of preparation – although we have done them with 4 weeks lead time.

Lesson 3: Leading leaders

The final lesson is about senior leadership engagement. While major investments will require their sign-off, you can achieve a great deal before you need to start talking in earnest to leaders. The innovation you need to bring may need to be customised based on the appetite for change among senior management. One client of ours is not allowed to bring in any external consultants as that would be an admission of weakness on the part of the organisation – so everything we do for them needs to appear in internal!

Many thanks to the participants who came on the night.

If you want to talk about intrapreneurship then please drop us a line.

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