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Why Corporations Should Train More Intrapreneurs

Posted on Thursday, Oct 16th 2014

Consider this scenario:

A large technology corporation has a few hundred products that are sold to thousands of enterprises and small-medium businesses.

Because of the fast pace of change in technology, every single product in the portfolio experiences market pressures of various kinds. Competition from startups. Integration requirements with external products. Architecture changes in the technology stack. New capabilities due to new discoveries.

How does such a corporation stay on top of the constant need to innovate, and not get disrupted by an upstart?

My answer: Train the Intrapreneurs.

Every single organization has large numbers of highly technology savvy professionals in engineering, as well as some in sales engineering. Then there are product savvy people in sales, product marketing, professional services.

What if the organization created a systematic, regular process for each of these talented individuals to participate in innovation drives … call for ideas, so to speak?

And what if those showing promise were to be formally trained in the process of how to flesh out an idea – validate the value proposition with customers, size the market based on business model and pricing model assumptions, position the product, assess channel alignment with the corporation?

My experience says, every single corporation is sitting on aspiring entrepreneurs who want to manifest their entrepreneurial chops. However, for various reasons, they are unable to do so at the given moment. These closet entrepreneurs would tremendously appreciate the opportunity to be Intrapreneurs and help the corporation unlock this latent value.

Some corporations have actually started these initiatives, and we’re involved in them through our Incubator-in-a-Box program. What I find fascinating is the level of domain knowledge inside these corporations, and how much of it is untapped. An engineer who works in the professional services organization, thereby getting to integrate a product with a suite of external products, has deep understanding of the customer requirements adjacent to the core product his company sells. Customer intimacy exposes him to the pain points in a way his boss three levels up would never get to experience. But there is often no process for the boss three levels up to know that someone in her organization has unearthed a significant business opportunity!

This opportunity could, without huge additional investment, unlock $300 million additional revenue. The channel is the same. The customer base is the same.

But identifying the opportunity needs a special kind of thought process: that of an entrepreneur.

Some organizations are afraid to train their employees in entrepreneurial skills. They apprehend exodus.

Well, if someone is to leave, (s)he will leave anyway. But the truth is, people who work at large companies often have a somewhat lower appetite for risk. While they’re tempted by the idea of entrepreneurship, they may not quite have the full motivation to go out and set up shop on their own.

They will, if you give them an opportunity, be thrilled to contribute as an Intrapreneur.

If you’d like to discuss your organization’s Intrapreneurship program, please feel free to reach out via LinkedIn, or share your experience here.

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