Innovation Perspectives – Leveraging Intrapreneurs

This is the second of several ‘Innovation Perspectives‘ articles we will publish this week from multiple authors to get different perspectives on The Importance of Innovation Strategy. On the heels of Braden Kelley’s kickoff, here is another perspective:

by Steve Todd

If a corporation lacks a cohesive and well understood innovation strategy, can it still be productive and creative? I believe the answer is yes. Individual pockets of innovation can result in new products and services that significantly add to the corporate bottom line.

The downside of this approach is the amount of potential corporate energy that gets left on the table. Corporate intrapreneurs should be aware of and rallying around a well-defined innovation strategy. If they are not, then the company is missing out on a great opportunity to generate (and deliver!) breakthrough innovation.

The Role of an Innovation Strategy

I like this simple definition of a corporate intrapreneur: an innovator that conceives and delivers an idea at a large corporation. Every business unit has these types of individuals. They are uniquely creative, they are extraordinarily productive, and they collaborate well. They have successfully guided their idea through the hands of marketers, designers, testers, documenters, and salespeople. They are influential.

And their business units want to keep them right where they are.

Without a corporate innovation strategy, that’s right where they’ll stay. They will continue to innovate within their stovepipe and grow their core business.

A corporate innovation strategy must unite intrapreneurs by encouraging collaboration among them, without undue disruption to their respective business units!

Best Practices in Creating the Innovation Strategy

A corporate innovation strategy that effectively leverages intrapreneurs has the following characteristics. If implemented properly, it:

  • searches for, identifies, and engages corporate intrapreneurs
  • enables corporate (and global) relationships via social media tools
  • provides a career growth track that rewards intrapreneurial collaboration
  • gathers intrapreneurs for idea submissions and innovation summits
  • provides opportunity for external collaboration with industry and university experts
  • sends them to customers for bi-directional conversations

This strategy should be “loosely centralized” within a corporation, and is often funded as part of the office of the CTO.

Integrating Innovation and Corporate Strategies

This type of innovation strategy establishes a strong intrapreneurial community. When critical changes in corporate strategy occur, new directions and edicts can be directly presented to the most influential innovators in the corporation. They can collaborate amongst themselves and brainstorm new ways to combine technologies and meet market needs. They can recommend the creation of new business units with new processes. They know how to get “new things” done and can influence their co-workers to implement the strategy.

Intrapreneurs become stifled when they remain in their stovepipes. Get them to collaborate across boundaries and expose them to corporate direction.

And most importantly, get them in front of their customers.

You can check out all of the ‘Innovation Perspectives‘ articles from the different contributing authors on The Importance of Innovation Strategy by clicking the link in this sentence.

Steve Todd is a high-tech inventor and author of the book Innovate With Influence. An EMC Intrapreneur with over 140 patent applications and billions in product revenue, he writes about innovation on his personal blog, the Information Playground.

Steve Todd




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