INTRAPRENEURSHIP – HOW INTRAPRENEURS THINK AND WORK

This is the second part of a series of articles in which you will get an overview of the meaning of intrapreneurship. You will learn what intrapreneurship exactly means, how it works and what it takes for a successful implementation in the company.

THE WAY INTRAPRENEURS THINK AND WORK

Intrapreneurs are basically oriented in their work on customer use and focus on finding a solution to a relevant, pressing, fundamental problem for a customer. This means that the main tasks of the intrapreneur are to develop and implement solutions to problems until they are ready for the market.

Roughly speaking, the development and implementation process can be divided into the following phases:

  • Recognition of a problem and verification of the assumption
  • Development of a solution and verification with the customer
  • Creation of a business plan and reality check

Phase 1 is primarily about the problem and how relevant it is to the customer. This prevents investing too quickly in developing a solution on the assumption that there are surely already customers for this who need such a solution.

The bigger and more pressing a problem is, the more willing customers are to spend money on a solution. Another important factor in assessing the potential of the idea is also the number of customers who have such a problem. The most important thing is that a problem is precisely formulated and understood in depth.

Verifying these assumptions by talking to customers and those affected by the problem is already crucial at this point. Because only if the problem has been understood correctly can it be checked whether there are already solutions for this on the market and how well they are suited to solving the problem. After all, it only makes sense to develop a better solution if the existing solutions do not adequately solve the problem.

When developing a solution in Phase 2, intrapreneurs make sure that it matches their own interests and skills, fits the company where they are employed, and of course that it solves the identified problem.

Verifying that the proposed solutions are actually understood, accepted, and implemented by the  potential customers rounds off this phase. 

Ideally, intrapreneurs already develop a prototype of the product, which offers the most important functions for solving the problem, but is not yet fully modeled and developed. Even 3D printer models, a minimalist app, images or sketches can help the customer understand and test what the solution would look like. This improves feedback results.

The advantages of a prototype are also that changes can usually be implemented quickly, development costs are relatively low, and the time to completion is relatively short.

Relevant for phase 3 is above all how the product can be marketed and distributed, and what the contribution margins are. A business plan is created, which describes a well-founded overall picture of the product and business model (product benefits, market, competition analysis, swat analysis, production costs, marketing, financing, etc.). Only if money can be earned with the product, it makes sense to produce it. Intrapreneurs use also in this phase a prototype, which is however already developed further. Among other things, this can be used to conduct price and user tests on the market to see how demand might develop.

Each phase is characterized by the fact that the idea can be abandoned at any time if surveys or tests indicate that no success can be achieved with the approach being pursued. Financing is also provided only until the next stage, so as not to take too high a risk.

At the end of this process, the “stop-or-go” decision is made. Based on the business plan, the intrapreneur presents the business idea to a panel consisting of company representatives to make the decision whether to implement or stop the project. In the positive case, it is also determined in which form the business plan will be implemented (internal project, internal startup, spin-off, partnership, etc.).

Question for you: How are process innovations and product innovations tested in your company before they are introduced? Are there prototypes? Are tests also conducted with customers and suppliers?

BENEFITS OF INTRAPRENEURSHIP FOR ENTREPRENEURS AND EMPLOYEES

These days, employees want a little bit of everything: Creativity and routine, commitment and freedom, self-fulfillment and recognition, security and startup culture.

For companies, the main focus is on growth and the future viability of the company. Every euro invested should also bring a return on investment and advance the company.

Intrapreneurship in particular is a way in which all these interests can go together and thus result in the best of both worlds.

Existing companies offer a professional environment in which intrapreneurs can operate, as all the necessary resources are already in place. All relevant departments and experts needed for product development, testing and marketing are usually available within the company. An independent startup would have to establish all these areas first, which costs time that cannot be invested in product development. There are also customer and supplier connections that can be used for surveys and testing of prototypes.

From an economic point of view, it is an advantage for employees not to be dependent on the commercial success of the product for the time being, since they continue to be paid by the company. This creates security and intellectual freedom for the intrapreneur. Often the conditions remain unchanged, even if the employee works as an intrapreneur on an internal startup.

In addition to the economic factors, it is certainly very motivating for employees to start with their own idea more or less on a greenfield site, to independently create something completely new and to determine the framework conditions for the most part themselves.

For the companies, intrapreneurship also offers many advantages. Of course, intrapreneurship opens up the opportunity for new products and processes and thus the chance to conquer new customers and markets and to draw attention to the company.

But intrapreneurship also makes a valuable contribution to employer branding, because there are more and more employees who are looking for the security of a company, with the possibility of working like in a startup.

The costs for product developments are also manageable, as they are created in sections. Prototypes also have mainly basic functions at the beginning, which makes them cheap to develop.

If intrapreuership is implemented permanently in the company, the way of working gradually transfers to the entire organization, especially if there is an exchange of employees between an internal startup and the rest of the organization. This makes the company more agile and innovative overall.

Employees gain important experience that benefits their entrepreneurial thinking and actions. These experiences will be useful to them and the company down the road, regardless of whether the product developed is successful or not.

Question for you: Does your company have an idea management program or idea competitions/workshops in which all employees can participate?

To read more:

Part 1: Intrapreneurship – How innovation succeeds from within your own company. 

Part 2: How intrapreneurs think and work

Part 3: Success factors for successful intrapreneurship in your company

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