If you’re working with innovation in a big company chances are that you’ve hit the wall a few times although you felt your project could have good implications for your company by bringing it in a new and better direction. At REBBLS we set out to uncover how passionate intrapreneurs in life science and biotech can improve their success. We knew we couldn’t do this alone, so we partnered with Diplomatic Rebels, an intrapreneurship advisory firm, and 20 experienced intrapreneurs from the industry. This article is a summary of what we learned.
Streamlined processes for innovation is likely to fail bringing forward transformative innovations and absorbing new ways of working that can support the fast-paced development cycles needed today to stay competitive. It is why passionate individuals with bright ideas seeking to change how things are done and how the company’s capabilities can be recombined differently for new opportunities i.e. intrapreneurs – are important. It’s however a difficult job, and it’s not enough to just work hard if you’re swimming against the stream. Thus, getting tailwind in pockets of the organizations and working smart to get support is necessary not to burn out. This is the idea behind being a diplomatic rebel; to have change and innovation as the agenda, the rebel, but using diplomatic methods to win support, the diplomat. We used the bellow 5 advice from Diplomatic Rebels as a framework to unravel best practices on effective intrapreneurship in our industry:
Learnings from our Discussions
Accept and embrace resistance: When you’re doing new type of projects there can be several reasons why you can run into criticism e.g. misunderstanding, doubt in business potential of technical feasibility, ‘not-invented-here’-syndrome and much more. Yet, many of these critics might be based on excellent insights into the venture that can help you get to the right critical assumptions much faster. Thus, by embracing their criticism and listen instead of ignoring you might accelerate your impact. Rules were made for a reason: In front-end innovation, you can’t comply with all rules, norms and corporate politics. It will suffocate your project before you get to the lab bench. Yet, the rules will likely be a big helping hand once the venture transitions over to a more operational phase. This also alludes to the insights we received from LEO Innovation Lab new venture journey as pictured bellow. In light of the above, finding champions for your project in areas of the organization that can support you fast track through corporate procedures will make life easier down the road.
Ensure air cover: When doing projects that are radically different in the organization, several examples supported the fact that a manager that gives you cover for the intrapreneurs to operate by shielding off all attacks from the corporate immune system is essential for success. In larger projects, the managers manager (typically the VP or Executive) needs to function as a second line of defense. Create high level mandate: By getting freedom to operate from the top of the organization can work as an air cover, like the point above advocates, but it can also give a recognition to the fact that this activity is high on the agenda and is important for the future of the company. An example of this was given by a company represented in the workshop that told us that at the inception of a new transformative innovation effort, the entire Executive Team signed a letter supporting the effort, which was send around to stakeholders of the project. This gave the team a strong mandate and a sense of urgency to deliver. Use artifacts: In having a team/tribe on an intrapreneurial mission, mindset, culture and organizational conditions are important. To codify the cultural fabric using artifacts is helpful. It can be through different visual remedies, like stickers, logos, and mascots or perhaps the beforementioned letter that was used for recognition and mandate in a frame exhibited in the office. It can remind the group about the purpose and provide and identity everyone can rally behind. Have a tribe jam dance with many different dance moves (diversity of skills): When putting different personality types and skillsets together, good things happen. To have a successful tribe, make sure that the tribe isn’t bound by a similar way of thinking and acting, but a shared purpose and mission. Remember to appreciate the manager making it possible: In talking about ‘writing love letters’ and ‘making people shine’, many realized that perhaps one’s manager is the one we most often forget to compliment. Perhaps we should remember to appreciate the managers more that are taking the tough battles for us to be able to be intrapreneurial in the workplace.