Intrapreneurship Is Vital For Innovation At Larger Organizations

Anna Kwiatkowska, Former Head of Insight Innovation & Data Science at media giant Sky, shared her thoughts at #CINOLDN


Why do some companies struggle to innovate more than others? What do you have to do to keep up with the pace of innovation today?

Speaking at the Chief Innovation Officer Summit in London, Anna Kwiatkowska, Former Head of Insight Innovation & Data Science at media giant Sky, discussed why innovation was so challenging for large organizations in particular, and how they could ease their struggles.

Anna argues that to innovate successfully, you must focus your eyes on the clouds while keeping your feet on the ground. And the bigger the company, the firmer your feet need to be fixed on the ground.

This is because innovation has two significant fazes in discovery. One is having that brilliant idea, the other is the delivery of that idea. You can't deliver on an idea unless you have the ability to implement it in a sustainable way. According to Anna, the problem for larger organizations is in the second phase.

On paper, larger companies should be good at innovation. They have more resources, more money, and greater intellectual capability. They also have existing customer relationships and, most importantly, customer and market insight from the huge quantities of data they've collected that startups simply do not have. They should also have the expertise, since they've grown and innovated in the past.

However, the reality is that large companies have a culture of conformity and a hierarchy, even if they don't like to admit it. They have legacy systems and legacy processes that are constantly throw up roadblocks.

What's the way around this?

Anna believes that it's the process of intrapeneuring - a concept introduced in 1985 in Gifford Pinchot's book. This is a mentality of 'acting like an entrepreneur in a larger, mature organization'.

Pinchot gave ten commandments for intrapeneurship:

1. Come to work each day willing to be fired.

2. Circumvent any orders aimed at stopping your dream.

3. Do any job needed to make your project work, regardless of your job description.

4. Find people to help you.

5. Follow your intuition about the people you choose, and work only with the best.

6. Work underground as long as you can--publicity triggers the corporate immune mechanism.

7. Never bet on a race unless you are running in it.

8. Remember it is easier to ask forgiveness than to ask permission.

9. Be true to your goals, but realistic about the ways to achieve them.

10. Honor your sponsors.

The most important of these, according to Anna, is to do any job that's needed. Unless you are prepared to do any job, you will never overcome the problems caused by legacy systems and structures. Intrapreneurs are the only ones able to break through silos and get things done.

Key takeaway:

  • Encourage a culture of intrapreneurship at your organization to break down silos caused by legacy systems   
Mindset change small

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