Why is intrapreneurship so freaking hard? Or is it?!

Everything changes. And we see signs all around us. People change, markets change, systems change. Never before was the pace around us so high, the information overflow so strong , and the challenge to find orientation so hard. It’s (at least this is how I see it) like being on an expedition to a pole (not that I’ve been there, but I picture it that way) while it’s snowing. Nobody knows where to go, everybody tells you to head into a different direction … and the pole itself is also moving. People and companies claim to be the best, the very best (it’s true, totally true…). But to prove their point all they offer are alternative facts. Everybody claims to be a thought leader. In the end it’s the results people achieve (not what they claim) that convince. Stories from Apple, Kodak, Nokia, Uber, Facebook, AirBnB tell a tale. Companies try not to have a “Kodak-Moment” and they want to develop the next iPhone. But how do you get to be successful and mobilize an internal force that helps you to stay alive in constantly moving markets? People turn to internal and external startups and hope they are the next silver bullet that changes their fates and brings them fame.

Innovation is hard work, it needs to be trained, and it takes some time to implement it. Obviously we and our companies have to move and we need to do that quickly before becoming obsolete. But where to? Hermina Ibarra inspired me to think outside of the “box”. If people are stuck, they have to get “out” to get unstuck. Innovation happens outside of the comfort zone, obviously. But how do you make it happen. While thinking about Ibarra’s input, I realized that you only leave your comfort zone if you feel comfortable. You only do that if you’re confident that the change doesn’t overwhelm you. But if you want to do that on a company level, you got to do it on a personal level first. That’s also the same way with intrapreneurship.

“Business is about Marketing and Innovation. Those two create substance, the rest is cost.” Peter Drucker. Business then boils down to emotion. Innovation is the part that creates value and marketing tells the story so that the user can find himself in the solution. Innovation and your openness for it only works if you can control your emotions. You have to be able to reduce your and people’s fears. Otherwise they will constantly stand in the way. You also have to create excitement. Nothing drives innovation more than heart blood. Think about the wright brothers. They dreamed about flying and they wanted to see their dream come true. On the other hand, the US government gave a contractor 20 million USD and asked him to create a flying machine. Who do you think had the bigger drive?

Intrapreneurship, the act of launching entrepreneurial initiatives within a company, is exactly the same. People don’t want to commit errors and fail. It’s human. And companies don’t encourage them to. Companies don’t give room to practice. But if you don’t try anything new and if you don’t find out where you have to improve, it is very hard to achieve progress. Money alone doesn’t give you the right motivation to fail. Quite the opposite. Creating a safe environment for failure is one of the most important parts in intrapreneurship. It is about reducing risk for everybody involved.

Some of it boils down to planning. But how do you know that the plan is correct. I think the trick lies not in the plan itself, but the mentality of constantly planning. A plane has to redirect it’s course constantly and teams have to do the same while trying to get to a specific position in the market. Market projections are momentary snapshots of how you think the reality might look like. And you put your trust in it before you take a decision to act. That picture constantly needs to be revised. Intrapreneurship is not just a mere project execution. Its finding new ambitions targets for a company, mobilizing forces, executing plans and constantly revising them. In the best case, you have short cycles between different decisions. Otherwise changes or failure become to expensive. But like with the plane, you better know where your heading, how much fuel you need, and how you’re landing.

RedRock is at the intersection of strategy, culture and intrapreneurship, helping team from idea to proof of concept. Defining the what, identifying the why, and developing the how.

On this blog, we want to discuss tricky topics, tools and methods that help to demystify intrapreneurship and move you and your teams forward.

We would love to hear from you. Is intrapreneurship still freaking hard for you or do you have it fully embedded in your DNA? Just take a moment and let us know: