Diary of an Accidental Intrapreneur

Startup Innovation

accidental intrapreneurI originally wrote this post on LinkedIn but think this site is a better home considering the subject matter so just bringing it over.

A lot has been written about what constitutes an intrapreneur and why its so important. I should know, I’m writing a book about the subject and have been researching it openly for some time now (lots of onward links in there). I believe I am also one but not necessarily by design. I happen to have become one through the series of choices I have made in my working life and some serendipitous circumstances.

So what I thought to do in this post is document my experiences that have led me to believe I am an intrapreneur (not in chronological order nor in terms of importance). You could also see this as my view on what constitutes the perfect intrapreneur. What do you think?

  1. Start and run a business. Strictly speaking this is not a prerequisite if you have already done something like it (intrapreneurial) inside a large organisation. But I’d say it would make you a far more well rounded intrapreneur if you have. I’ve run my own business for 6 years (before joining Yammer, a startup itself) so appreciate the startups perspective intimately.
  2. Work with startups. I’ve also been a mentor at Microsoft Ventures for the last 18 months and before that at Seedcamp. There is nothing quite like the smell of startup first thing in the morning and at accelerators like MSVentures and Seedcamp you get 24 hours of it with insight and inspiration that is infectious. Good for bringing back to the mother ship.
  3. Experience in large organisations.  Once more this is not a prerequisite but the work of the true intrapreneur is most likely to find roots in the soil of a large organisation. I’ve worked successfully with some of Microsoft’s largest accounts and have always worked with or in some of the worlds largest brands. In B2B and B2C and in tech, consumer electronics and FMCG industries. So I also understand well the corporate’s perspective and it is a beast you need to be able to navigate.
  4. See innovation as your true north. I’m a huge fan of innovation and keep coming back to it time and again – it has me in its thrall. I see startups and entrepreneurs as the life blood of innovation success but not exclusively – as long as larger organisations start to rumble like them. I also think innovation needs constant innovation. The hacking approach is currently an interesting take on how innovation can be approached and I’ve helped Tesco run a global hackathon very successfully (see video with my take on this).
  5. Be a maker/inventor/tinkerer. I am always involved in developing innovative products or services, either helping develop them in house in large corporates, on my own (we built a social software platform in my own business) or helping others. I led a team hack in last years Microsoft One Week hackathon that won several internal awards. The desire to create is ever present.
  6. Stakeholder engagineer. You need to be comfortable working with the people in the organisation that will make things happen for your initiative – that is very often senior executives. A recent example I have was not inside the organisation but with a large banking customer. We closed a $30m deal that I got the ball rolling on with Yammer 18 months prior. I built a relationship with the CEO who spearheaded the Yammer drive and was instrumental in explosive Yammer growth. I then managed to get him to speak at events for us presenting to other senior execs.
  7. Able to market and sell. You need to have excellent writing skills – I am an avid blogger for instance and now most recently, an eBook author. This is useful for outreach efforts (through internal social networks for instance) to scale reach and create awareness. You also should be able to drive thought leadership and content publishing efforts by teams on platforms like WordPress. I build a WordPress site anytime I need to promote something (like my book) because they are so versatile as communication platforms. On the sell side, I’m also recognised amongst peers as a leading practitioner of a cold calling technique to reach members of the business outside of current relationships. The target is to broaden relationships and reach business decision makers that will take ownership and drive adoption of technologies or initiatives in the organisation. Success rates are routinely close to 100%
  8. Be collaborative. Just as it is important to engage senior executives, so too is it important to connect with the working community around you, especially those effected by your initiative or can help with it. I am good at building and managing virtual communities and spin one of these up too every time I am working on a new project or initiative that could do with the help of the crowd.
  9. Customer oriented. I am very Druckerian in that I believe the sole purpose of business is to create and retain a customer, powered by innovation. I believe you can have customers on the inside too – the different stakeholders and community of “users” you need to target with your initiative. I’ve written about this before. The last few years of my experience have been focused on customer success – the art of making the recipients of your technology, service or product, successful in its use.
  10. Perform and make an impact. Your initiative needs to hit the rubber at some stage. Sometimes this also requires performance in a day job. My performance over the last two years has been well above expectations terms of bonuses awarded but I still managed to find time to build out initiatives whether successful or not. I recently updated my Resume (pdf on DropBox) focused on key skills and impact in them if you are interested.

#intrapreneur

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