Innovation and intrapreneurship: How to unlock the power of your people
Some years ago, the Kinneir Dufort team were running an innovation workshop for Roche Diabetes Care, on the subject of lancing devices. These extract a drop of blood from a fingertip, to be used in blood glucose tests that people with diabetes often have to repeat several times a day. We were looking for new solutions that were more convenient, less painful, more hygienic, and more discreet. We had assembled a multidisciplinary team including category and product managers, country representatives, clinicians, scientists, engineers and designers and had curated a range of creative and analytical exercises to explore the topic, looking at it from different perspectives, with the goal of building a wall of new ideas.
During one session just before lunch, a quietly-spoken engineer took a small cardboard box from his bag and placed it on the table. Inside was something that looked like a primitive version of Doctor Who’s Sonic Screwdriver. It was a prototype of a lancing device with a 6-lancet cartridge, which would allow the user to always have convenient access to a fresh, clean needle. The controlled action also produced an almost painless result.
It was, what proved to be, a winning idea, almost ready-formed. All that it needed was the oxygen of exposure to the right people and the defined objective that the workshop provided. Fast-forward to today and 3 product generations later; Accu-Chek FastClix remains one of Roche’s most popular and successful products. The lesson of the story is that there are gems of ideas, scattered amongst the people in your teams, waiting to be discovered and unlocked.
KD has long experience of running innovation workshops and programmes with a range of clients and we’ve seen similar stories played out, if not always so overtly, where great ideas come from people whose job title doesn’t include innovation or design. As innovators and designers, we are often the creative professionals in the room, but we’re constantly inspired by the creativity we’re privileged to help facilitate and co-create with the client teams we work with.
You don’t have to hire us to bring out the innovation in your team – although we’ll be happy to talk to you if you do. Ideas will only prosper if there is a fertile culture of innovation within your organisation. To do this, a number of organisations have adopted the model of intrapreneurship, which seeks to encourage individuals within the organisation to act like entrepreneurs, and internal teams to act like startups.
One such organisation is Barclays Bank, and I’ll be speaking to Tim Heard, Head of Intrapreneurship at Barclays Ventures at the Global Innovation Forum on 18 November at 1:10 pm about what he’s learnt and how to make this work in your organisation.
Creating the conditions for innovation and intrapreneurship to flourish can depend on an organisations culture and ambitions, but several key aspects will always be important:
- People – identifying people with the passion, ambition, determination and leadership qualities to make things happen is vital, as is encouraging people and teams with a diversity of background experiences and responsibilities (remember to include quiet engineers with cardboard boxes under their desks!)
- Freedom – intrapreneurs must be allowed to experiment, learn and fail without micro-management and judgement if new and disruptive ideas are to emerge
- Working environment – working differently, to be decided and implemented by the intrapreneurs should be permitted, including bending the rules if necessary
- Motivation and incentives – win-wins, for the intrapreneur and the organisation, should be clear – ultimately, there needs to be alignment of the intrapreneurs with the objectives of the organisation
- Real results – innovation is not just about ideas; it’s about making them happen – intrapreneurs should be set up and supported to follow their idea to implementation
One particularly anarchic and bold approach is Adobe’s Kickbox programme. Developed by Mark Randall after being asked by Adobe management to train Adobe employees in his entrepreneurial innovation methods, he created kickbox – which comprises a red cardboard box, containing a pen, some post-its, a get started guide, a coffee voucher and a $1,000 seed funding in the form of a pre-paid credit card. The box is available to anyone with an idea and requires no pitch or approval.
The system places trust in the individual, as CEO of their own idea, to develop, prototype and test their concept, with no corporate overhead (Randall worked out that the approval process cost more than $1,000 in management time so the system actually saves Adobe money!). The system is self-managing, with a progressive series of 6 boxes, and a checklist of criteria for moving up to the next, such as demonstrating purchase intent with real customers. Adobe subsequently went on to make the Kickbox available as a set of open-source tools to any organisation wishing to deploy directly or modified to suit their needs.
People are the most valuable asset of any organisation. Unlocking their creative power and entrepreneurial passion is good for innovation, but also good for culture and business.
Talk to us about how we can help you can get the most out of your people by:
- Working with you to define your innovation approach
- Developing bespoke innovation processes and assets
- Accelerating ideas and programmes with hackathons, design sprints and co-creation workshops