ZThe first question is what should ideally be the focus of the innovation strategy: the good business idea or the employee who wants to implement his or her idea? The right answer (from our point of view) sounds obvious at first: it should be the employee in his role as an internal entrepreneur (intrapreneur).
Why? In organizational reality, there is usually no "magic product development factory" where good ideas are dumped in and subsequently successful digital products emerge.
In our experience, it is always an intrapreneur who fights for his idea and in doing so also takes on tasks that are not otherwise in his role description. Without the commitment and passion of this individual, the idea alone often remains worthless.
Innovation management with a focus on the intrapreneur
At first glance, this assessment is quite understandable. But what does it look like in day-to-day business?
As a typical innovation manager, your boss will not ask you how many intrapreneurs you have helped recently, but rather which innovations are in phase XY, how many innovation workshops you have conducted, and how many ideas are in the pipeline.
In this context, a focus on people has enormous implications for the design of innovation management. In this case, you are primarily designing central services that help intrapreneurs succeed. With a focus on business ideas, you would place your focus on developing processes, standardization, selection criteria and quality gates - and thus run the risk of working past the core challenges.
>> Our recommendation: Focus on the intrapreneur!
Now let's assume you have found potential intrapreneurs in your company. What should they do now?
- They should proceed like startups and inspire top management with pitch decks.
- They should first create business cases with a well-founded three-year plan.
- They should first outline their ideas as a "business model canvas" and challenge them in the internal innovation community.
If even the smallest investment decisions in your company have to be approved by top management, options 1 and 2 are basically good ideas. However, this probably also means that you have to plan and hold regular "Shark Tank" events. There, the intrapreneurs can present their pitches in front of the top management jury and the top cases receive funding for the first steps at best. However, a lot of time is lost here.
The third option is a good way to involve employees on a broad basis in innovation topics. However, this rarely helps the intrapreneur to validate his idea quickly. In our case, most innovations arise in the context of a specific vertical knowledge area, such as Utilities, Media & Entertainment or Retail. In this case, customers should be consulted rather than the company's own employees.
Gain quick visibility with Minimal Viable Products (MVP)
Showcases are a fourth option. Showcases are digital prototypes or Minimal Viable Products (MVP) in which manageable investments are made to demonstrate in a tangible way how innovative technologies solve industry-specific challenges in a concrete way.
Our intrapreneurs can quickly start realizing their showcases if the following questions are answered successfully:
- Is there a strategic fit with our corporate strategy and the focus topics of the innovation strategy?
- Are customers (or partners and start-ups) involved from the beginning? In what way?
- Is the value proposition clearly defined? Exactly what and whose problem is to be solved?
Showcases are great tools for many purposes:
- You want to integrate partners and start-ups in the sense of Open Innovation? Talk about concrete, joint showcases!
- Your talents need new challenges? Let them design showcases!
- Do your employees want to be trained in new technologies? Let them implement showcases!
- Do you want to be perceived as a thought leader in the market? Show them your showcases!
- And many more ...
You cannot fail with showcases
The best thing about it: You can't fail with showcases. Even if the underlying business idea turns out to be a mistake: at least you have learned something new, can demonstrate the application of a new technology, and ideally have strengthened a customer or partner relationship.
A showcase is also the ideal conclusion to the incubation zone. In the worst case, you can moderate the topic with a clear conscience. In the best case, you now have the perfect basis for starting professional product development in the productivity zone, since the learnings during the showcase development have enabled you to eliminate most of the planning uncertainties.
By the way - showcase-based innovation strategies have only really become (commercially) meaningful through Cloud Native Software Development: The architecture revolution in application development makes it possible to save between 65 and 90 percent in costs. This means that even small investments can make for big showcases.