This is the seventh in series of articles that describe the unique traits of a corporate intrapreneur.
The first three habits (productivity, initiative, and collaboration) accelerate idea innovation in a corporation. The next two habits (3-Box time Management and Plus-2 Visibility) allow an intrapreneur to accelerate the development of the idea.
The most difficult habit remains! “Bridges” (or bridge building) is depicted below as the next important step in the idea delivery process.
Intrapreneurs like to have their prototypes analyzed and chosen for funding. The ability to experiment while simultaneously delivering on Box 1 commitments is one of the hardest balancing acts of all.
Yet intrapreneurs find a way to keep their ideas alive using a variety of different techniques. They find a way to propose a new product while simultaneously delivering the old one. This habit, depicted below, builds a bridge from the old product to the new.
Intrapreneurs distribute their time among the three boxes on the left hand side of Figure 16. They are delivering Product X while simultaneously exploring new ideas and problems. They use the results of the work in Box 2 and Box 3 to build a bridge to a new product offering (Product Y in what becomes their next Box 1). Building the bridge takes a lot of work and a lot of time. It also may take a lot of people, and these people are typically busy with Box 1 activities of their own.
How, then, do intrapreneurs build the bridge? The answer lies in their unique ability to keep ideas alive by inspiring and then leveraging human capital. Intrapreneurs commonly leverage human capital from one of four areas:
- Interns. College interns are a wonderful thing. They often do not show up in a business unit’s headcount. They are easier to hire than full-time employees, especially given the fact that they may only be available for a few short months. They are typically eager and productive. It is often less risky to have them work on something new (as opposed to relying heavily on them in Box 1). Interns are a great way to quickly build innovative new ideas, and the enthusiasm innate in intrapreneurs can be highly motivational for a college intern.
- New employee training. New employees are often assigned to Box 1 activities. It typically takes new employees a while to get up to speed. Savvy intrapreneurs will take them in and help them to cut their teeth on some of the newer ideas. When introduced to Box 2 and Box 3 activities, the new hire may begin to mimic intrapreneurial behavior when they are ultimately moved into their own Box 1 job.
- Outside of the business unit. Intrapreneurs are, by their very nature, collaborative. They are keenly aware of the work going on in other business units. They are quick to recognize slack in other organizations and present those employees with the opportunity to contribute to new ideas. These collaborations, of course, often involve engagements between two different intrapreneurs from separate business units. A well-connected intrapreneur will often look to pull in resources from field engineers, too. Anyone who looks even marginally underutilized is fair game.
- Pitching co-ownership. Most people enjoy being a part of a successful endeavor. An intrapreneur motivates employees within their own business units by articulating the value of Product Y. Co-workers quickly realize the contributions made by intrapreneurs and recognize that by dedicating part of their own time to Box 2 and Box 3 in support of “their” intrapreneurs, they will be lining themselves up for the best work if and when Product Y is approved. If they participate in the beginnings of Product Y, they become known as the best candidates to kick off the formal development.
By applying the tenets of bridge building, the intrapreneur creates a volunteer team that, together, turns valuable ideas into marketable products. In the process, the intrapreneur serves as a mentor to many. The end result is a Product Y proposal that usually has the teeth and the legs to be adopted as a new direction in the organization, given that the intrapreneur has a strong track record on the seventh and final habit: they finish.
And finishing is intrinsically linked to the foundational habit of all intrapreneurs: productivity.
Steve Todd is Director at EMC Innovation Network, and a high-tech inventor and book author “Innovate With Global Influence“. An EMC Intrapreneur with over 180 patent applications and billions in product revenue, he writes about innovation on his personal blog, the Information Playground. Twitter: @SteveTodd