Founder & CEO, Vimagino Solutions
Umakant is the Founder & CEO of Vimagino Solutions. He has more than 13 years of experience. ... more>>
Intraprenuer is someone who innovates insides an organization and entrepreneurs are ones who end up creating their own organizations. I know these terms sound similar, but they are not. Although they do have similarities that makes people assume that successful Intraprenuers can be a good entrepreneurs and visa a versa. Yes, it might happen, but it's not necessarily true.
I am talking about it, because I have tested waters in both the scenarios. In my early professional life, I realised quickly that for me work satisfaction would come from creating something new, which was unknown and where my skills about using new technologies to disrupt business would be really handy. So I tried, and ended up doing 3 intra company ventures, two failed but the last one succeeded. Looking back on both failures and success, I thought its important to realise the core skills needed to be successful as an Intraprenuer. Since for lot of us, with family and other commitment , becoming entrepreneur is not an easy route ( it never is ), but by being an Intraprenuer, can bring lot of work satisfaction and also success in career.
But the surprising part is that it's never much written about in the media and of course since the achievements are hidden inside the organisation, it's difficult to see success stories till organisation wants to reveal.
I feel for organisation to reinvent themselves , Intraprenuers should be celebrated. They are the harbingers of change and innovation. They are the once who guard organisations against big failures. More organisations have because of lack of innovation ( read kodak, which recently filed for chapter 11) rather than because of innovation.
Here are the 7 critical skills set for young professionals aspiring to be Intraprenuers;
1. Learning to live with sharks
A key skill is to be able to figure out organisational culture and learning how to thrive in it. It's easy to shout politics, but one has to remember that polities is a characteristic of a complex social structure. So one has to learn to deal with it to ones advantage. It's takes some years to figure out an organisational labyrinth, so you have to be prepared to spend some time to really understand organisational dynamics. Unless you are able to understand organisational undercurrent and use them to your advantage, it's very hard to bubble up an intracompany venture. Remember a famouse quote from godfather ' life is so tough that a man needs two fathers, one father another godfather'. So build a personal brand and create a solid backer for your brand in the organisation.
2. learning to look for blue oceans inside the organisation
Like one has to scan the market to figure out where the blue oceans are, for creating a new company, for Intraprenuers it has be done inside the organisation. See places, projects and ideas, where your seniors are not ready to experiment as they are afraid of it being career kamikaze. Yes it carries the risk, but it also has less competition and more probabilities of success than you can imagine. Yes, you might fail, but then nothing is a better teacher than failure. Best part is that you may not get the increment, but you will definitely get the cheque at the end of the month unlike an entrepreneur.
3. Dealing with failures
I learnt early in life about failures and I realised that they are inevitable outcomes. Those who never fail are the ones who never try, is something that I read as a kid, and it has stuck in my mind. So if you are trying something failure can be one of the results, but if you do the sum total one actually comes out better because of it. One learns persistence and patience so critical to craft an idea till it fits what customer wants.
And for organisations heads looking to create a culture of innovation and Intraprenuers , one has learn to feed a culture of failure, where failing and learning is encouraged. It's difficult, but it's so critical for organisations for remaining relevant in constantly changing world.
4. Learning to love your customers
One of the advantages with an existing organization is that it has got customers. Having access to customers allow for you to easily engage them in trusted conversations. Listening to implicit needs of your customers is what gives birth to those ground breaking ideas. So it's critical to develop good insighting skills. Insighting is not about group discussion, but a deeper term best known in Japanese as Hansai , it's about about having empathy with your customers so that both of you are working towards the same goals. This gives rise to powerful ideas that can be truly transformative in nature.
5. Art of pitching
Fine you nailed the problems that customers are having and might be able to pay for it as well, if offered as a solution or a product or a new business model. But how to gift wrap it to the organisation is critical to your ultimately seeing it in action.
Beside the actual art of making the pitch to more complex set of stakeholders ( as compared to a vc, where multiples of returns can be the primary criteria ), it's important to understand the organisational view point and slant the pitch accordingly.
Does the organisation care about more positive margin impact or they care more about the strategic shift it will bring or they care about the defensive shield it will create for them. Understanding organisational goals allows your pitch to have smoother way towards being accepted, which is so critical towards getting the finance and manpower behind your idea.
So when you are sharing your idea, you have the powerful organisational goal behind you to bring accelerated acceptance.
6. Brewing hot teams
Hot teams are small core teams which have complimentary thinking and working styles. It's difficult to build, because your own prejudices can drive you to select individuals with thinking styles similar to yours and set yourself up for failure. your new venture is going to go through lot of unknowns, so diversity in thinking increases your survival rate. Get people with 'T' shaped skills, jack of all trades and master of one. They will bring light on the venture from multiple perspectives and will make sure that the core idea evolves quickly and effectively. Making sure that they work effectively to-gather can be a challenge, but then true leadership is never about shying from such challenges.
7. Showcasing victory
It's important to identify quick win points which create visibility in the organisation and allows the team to gather confidence. These quick wins allow you to get more talent into your fold. In intra company ventures, effective marketing is needed not just for external customers, but also the internal customers. Stop either one and your venture is dead before one realises. successful ventures market themselves well. It's time and bandwidth consuming, but it's fundamentally essential.
So go ahead , build your skills and turbo charge your intra company venture.
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