When intrapreneurs are given the chance to work on a new innovation program, they can’t wait to get started. They can’t wait to open their new innovation lab, corporate accelerator or run an innovation sprint. This is the energy of the entrepreneur and comes with the territory. In a previous article, I argued that before starting such innovation programs, intrapreneurs must take the time to learn from those in their company who tried before and failed. These people can be a great source of information about what works or doesn’t work inside your company.
But here is another interesting and possibly surprising fact for you — your program is not the only activity centred around innovation that is happening inside your company at the moment. There is a lot of buzz around innovation these days and a lot of leaders are trying to get involved. I have learned that companies have a way of spawning a lot of random innovation programs — all claiming to do the same things and all with different or even competing objectives. A little unsettling isn’t it?
Begin With Discovery
In some large companies I have worked with, innovators are constantly running into each other. They are asking for the same resources, building similar products and even talking to the same customers. There is a lot of competition and duplication of efforts, which is a great waste of time and talent. This burst of innovative activity has become a real problem. Every leader now wants to be recognized as an innovative rockstar in the making.
Don’t join in on this waste of time. Don’t be one of those intrapreneurs who just want to get started and is willing to do anything to get their piece of the pie. Always be thinking about how you can create value for your company using innovation. So take some time to find out exactly what is going on, who is doing what and where inside your company. This will ensure that your own efforts are not either crushed, diluted or even obliterated in this program mishmash!
You will soon discover that these innovation activities sit at different layers within the company from top to bottom. Leaders within various divisions and departments will often kick off their own programs without paying much attention to what else is happening in the company. This is your chance to make great connections. Just as you connected with those who tried and failed, you now need to talk to those people running current innovation programs to learn:
- Why the programs were set up? What are they trying to achieve?
- Whether these programmes focused on creating new revenue growth, transforming the company or both?
- How much impact are they actually having on either creating new revenue growth or transforming the company?
- What challenges are they facing? What are the main enablers and blockers with the company?
Once you have all the answers you need, you can then take the time to map all the innovation activity taking place within your company. You can also score each program in terms of its potential to create new revenue growth and transform your company. After mapping all the innovation programs in the company, you will be able to identify gaps and opportunities for you to make a meaningful and sustainable contribution. If you take a closer look — it will be possible for you to find opportunities to form alliances and collaborate. In other instances, there will be great programs that simply need to be supported by your efforts
Understanding what is happening inside your company is important. The people running these programs can become your allies, depending on how you approach them and how you conduct yourself. Rather than acting as if it is a zero-sum competition for resources, try to forge a path that allows you to create value and make a unique contribution to your company. You will be glad you took the time to slow down and understand your environment.