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Innovation & Intrapreneuring

The Five People of Innovation

The creation of a new product, service, process or system, from the first glimmer of an idea to the successful implementation and exploitation of the idea.

1.Idea people

Every human is capable of creativity. In some the talent is buried, trained out of them by schools, parents or bosses. In the information age, part of every manager's and every team member's job is to create an environment in which creativity is appreciated and new ideas are brought out of those who may have almost forgotten their creativity.


Ideas are like insects; many are born, but few live to maturity. Most people face a choice: go to their graves with all their ideas unfulfilled, or give up on 99% of them and take the time to push a few through to completion. Once you focus on making one of your ideas happen, you begin becoming an intrapreneur.

The Dreamers Who Do

Because they closely resemble entrepreneurs, we call the people who turn ideas into realities inside an organization "intrapreneurs." Intrapreneurs are the hands-on doers who make a new idea happen. They roll up their sleeves to get things done. They recruit others to help. Whether working on an idea that was originally their own or building on someone else's idea, they are the dreamers who do. Texas Instruments, well known for intrapreneurial successes like Speak and Spell and FLIR (Forward Looking Infra Red), studied fifty of their successful and unsuccessful new product efforts. In each of their successes there is one or more dedicated intrapreneurs who persisted despite great obstacles. Similarly, the common denominator of their failures was that every one of them lacked a zealous volunteer champion. Every one lacked an intrapreneur. Innovations just don't happen unless someone takes on the intrapreneurial role.

3.The Intrapreneurial Team

The purest intrapreneurial team consists of volunteers recruited to the idea by one or more lead intrapreneur(s). They form a core team which stays with the project from its early stages, well past its initial commercialization or implementation.

3M's Project System
In 3M's famous project system, an idea is brought forward by a team of three: one from marketing, one from research, and one from manufacturing. The commitment of the three members with functional skills means the venture has already passed through three different screens, and thus the project is given the benefit of the doubt and
is supported. The formation of the team points to the presence of an entrepreneurial leader who can attract talent and skills. This core team can then stay with the project until it becomes a full division.

4.The Sponsor

Sponsors support their people's ideas by protecting their work from the "corporate immune system" (so it helps if they have some management power) and by helping the group garner resources to implement their ideas. More specifically, effective sponsors: Create a compelling vision that calls for and guides innovation efforts.

Sponsors bet on people, not just plans. They take the time to coach and guide the intrapreneurial teams Anticipate political obstacles and block oncoming tacklers
Learn to be "one of the team" so they can share ideas without telling the team what to do

We have studied hundreds of innovations within large organizations. In every case, at least one sponsor with a close relationship to the intrapreneurial team guided them around obstacles and intervened with the hierarchy to keep the project alive. Just as there is no innovation without intrapreneurs, and no significant innovation without teams, there is no innovation in large organizations without sponsors.

5.The Climate Maker

When the Hewlett Packard climate began to turn against the entrepreneurial spirit, the founders came out of retirement to reaffirm the company's commitment to an intrapreneurial climate. They didn't intervene in any specific project, as a sponsor would. Rather they worked to create an organizational pattern and culture wherein businesses had intrapreneurial freedom and many effective sponsors could empower many successful intrapreneurial teams. Growth and profitability, which were beginning to stall, took off again. In the complex world of today's multinationals, it takes more than one or two climate maker to create an environment in which managers can become sponsors and intrapreneurs. It takes a widely shared belief in innovation and a sincere determination to keep it alive. Use the next chapter to see what kind of climate-making your organization needs most.

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