The corporate sector is experiencing an age of extraordinary disruption. The pace of change is relentless and yet, whilst organisations are launching a number of well-meaning responses to this, they are often not sufficient to keep up with the field.
Indeed a McKinsey study from 2018 showed that while 84% of executives say innovation is important to their growth & strategy, only 6% are happy with their innovation performance.
In my opinion, this is because the initiatives corporate organisations are implementing in response to disruption are not transformative enough. To really meet the demands of an ever-more dynamic playing field corporations must look to transform their culture at both the top-table and the grassroots levels. This has multiple components to it but it certainly goes beyond the creation of innovation programmes and incubators alone, to a more holistic transformation of the everyday culture of innovation at an organisation. A facet to this which is often missed is that it will involve changing some of the KPIs against which corporations measure their performance.
My work with many different organisations over the years, as well as research into the matter, has led me to believe that a measurement taken of the average time big ideas take from initial conception to the launch of an MVP to market is important. I call this the ‘idea to launch’ score or something I’ve started referring to as simply I2L.
The most important thing when looking at I2L is to view the whole organisation holistically and not just focus on your product delivery teams. Sometimes the best ideas in organisations come from the most unexpected sources. Often these ideas remain unexplored as the idea creators do not feel they have the opportunity, or skills, to develop them. When looking at I2L you should consider the time it would take for big ideas from non-traditional sources to launch. For many organisations this gives I2L scores closer to infinity, as ideas from these sort of sources often have no opportunity to be developed or delivered! Don’t worry if this is the case as there is an easy starting point here as…
This is, of course, where intrapreneurship comes in.
Intrapreneurship is all about training employees on key entrepreneurial skills such as pitching and business case creation as well as providing a clear pathway for employee-created ideas to follow.
Not only does intrapreneurship enable the creation of a pool of entrepreneurial employees – key to the future success of all organisations – but it also ultimately creates a culture of innovation and proactivity where employees, no matter what grade or level, can take charge of not only their futures, but your organisations future too. Intrapreneurship puts people at the heart of innovation because, after all, behind great ideas, are great people. Indeed as MIT stated in 2018:
“Intrapreneurship is as necessary for your company’s future as swimming is for a shark – if you don’t do it, you’ll die.”
When organisations do have established intrapreneur programmes it becomes easier to give a fixed figure for I2L. For example the Telefonica programme has an I2L of 2.5 in that, generally, the amount of time it would take for an idea to complete the programme would be 2.5 years. This programme had substantial benefits of speeding up innovation cycles by 2.6x and a 48% reduction in the average cost to deliver innovation products but, I still feel the I2L score can come down here. The Goldman Sachs intrapreneur programme is somewhat quicker, taking a little over 2 years. So the I2L score is 2+, however…
The challenge is that start ups are regularly operating at a pace where they can launch MVPs in 3 months or less. I2L scores of sub 0.25. How then can established corporations compete? Often encumbered by existing infrastructure, rather than catalysed by it, it is difficult to bring I2L down.
The good news is this. It is possible to create programmes with I2L scores of 1. That is 1 year from idea creation to idea delivery. I know this because I have mapped out how this would work. The ambition of course, is to ultimately get this as close to 0.25 as possible whilst respecting the need to maintain control. This is an ongoing piece of work! The good news is that there are many, many facets to an effective intrapreneurship programme which can be tweaked to bring I2L down: are you running a batch or continuous process? Is funding released in a big bang scenario vs in tranches? What does your gating process look like? Are you bringing start ups into the mix?
When thinking about how best to make your company more innovative. Start thinking about what your I2L score is. To bring this down the first step is to launch an intrapreneurship programme. The second is to then iterate on this programme to bring the I2L score down. As a number of publications, including the FT, have picked intrapreneurship out as the key trend in corporate innovation for 2020, now is a good time to make reducing I2L, whilst maintaining quality and control, a key business objective in 2020.