1. Don’t sieve out ideas, even if they seem – at first sight – too far away from your core business
Scenario: my vision is to build a smart truck weighing system in order of preventing bridges to collapse. I work at Swisscom.
First of all: it is important that you start doing something at all. Or as Simon Sinek pointed out «Dream big. Start small. But most importantly start.» That is what we’d like to transmit to an intrapreneur’s mind during the project. It’s out of question that a strategic fit is highly important in corporate innovation, but usually an initial idea matures and transforms during the first two months. Having an idea does not necessarily mean that it covers a specific and not yet met customer need. Being able to define the particular customer need can be a true cornerstone. An example: let’s imagine that a project went from its original idea – a laundry sensor that announces when your laundry machine has finished its job – to a business-focused B2B «plug and play» analytics solution – https://thingdust.com/. Well, quite the turn. In this case, your task as a coach is to give the intrapreneur some inputs regarding possible pivots. Avoid forcing her/his to shape the existing idea so that it fits the company. A true intrapreneur will always find a resolution. #peopleoverideas
2. Kill your darlings if they don’t work out!
Scenario: you’re a sponsor and your gut feeling clearly tells you that a specific idea is worth giving a try. But the intrapreneur does not have what it takes to get home to port.
It takes some months with a project before one can rate someone to be «fit» enough as an intrapreneur. So, everybody gets a chance. Design the first phases of the program as svelte as possible in terms of support, so that they can both validate the idea and their entrepreneurial ability. After all, only sponsor initiatives submitted by true intrapreneurs. Even if an idea might seem worth pursuing, you really need having the guts to veto it if you see that the person behind it can’t face the challenge. And no – believe us, we speak from experience – handing over the idea to someone else at this early stage does not work out too well.
3. Say goodbye to the solution and start with the problem
Scenario: my goal is to develop an app that helps me scan food products in supermarkets in order to find out how ecological they are.
It is often observed that an intrapreneur starts a specific project with a very clear vision of what the end product shall look and feel like. You as a coach might have a guess that there exist more effective ways than putting the cart before the horse. There are two ways of approaching this situation appropriately: 1) strongly advise the intrapreneur to review the starting position, validate it with user research (surveys, interviews, secondary research) so that the optimal solution based on the collected insights can be found. Or 2), if your guidance of relinquishing the solution goes unheard, help them construct a prototype. It may fail quite fast and bring them back down to the reality of hard facts so that they can move on eventually. Please mind: your part is to enable learning – despite of the chosen way. So, never offer your opinion on whether you consider the solution good or bad. Because in the end you don’t know either.
4. Yes, an intrapreneur should really be given the opportunity to solve a strategic problem
Scenario: I think with a change of our sales channel we would be much more successful than with partner X.
Some projects have the potential of being a more effective strategic impact than others. Well, it might at first sight be impossible for just one person to alter a core business decision, especially if this person doesn’t have the management’s support yet. However, this does not mean at all that you cannot work out a specific idea – simply because this subject technically belongs to the management’s task. As a coach, it is essential to impel the intrapreneur to sharply outline the project’s first two months so that he/she can be realistic on what is possible and what not. This might be also a great opportunity for the management to both get an external and diversified point of view regarding this strategic project and to onboard the intrapreneur. Yes, it does happen!
5. Nope, there’s no need of having a functional prototype for testing market demand
Scenario: it takes a functional version of this AR interface. Otherwise, I cannot test the usability with customers. That’s why I need 100k.
No doubt, putting wood behind the arrow is always a good idea. But not in the first few months of starting an idea. During this period, all you need is to prove to yourself and to your potential sponsor that you came across a true market opportunity. You don’t need a functional prototype therefore. Usually, this presumption is a sign that the intrapreneur’s idea is too complex and that there are way too many things to consider at once. As their coach, you should help them both realizing this complexity and extracting the idea’s core elements aka the value proposition. Done so, test for the market demand (do it via smoke tests, interviews etc.). A sound value proposition will more likely provide the required budget for building a functional prototype in the proof of concept (POC) phase. Explained that way it usually resonates well with the intrapreneurs.