It’s Essential to Any Organization
For many, the word “entrepreneur” is likely to evoke images of one or two individuals pursuing a start-up business in a garage or spare room. Yet entrepreneurial thinking is at the heart of any successful organization—no matter how large or small. Top companies stay on top because they are always looking for the hot growth markets and examining how their core products or services can evolve to enter those spaces.
This type of in-house entrepreneurship—or “intrapreneurship”— generally has two components: One is external to the organization, focused on customers, markets, competition and a solid value proposition. The other is internal, focused on a systemic emerging business process, ideally facilitated by a team with diverse expertise and practical experiences to guide the company in pursuing growth businesses.
Looking Out, While Looking In
The external piece is about truly understanding what your customer needs and wants. Find out directly from them what challenges they face and what tools they need. Next, assess what capabilities you already have that could address the customer’s mission challenge. Can these capabilities be modified? Do you need to develop, partner or acquire other capabilities?
As an extension, you must also clearly understand the markets in which you are operating, adjacent markets, and/or completely new markets you wish to enter, plus the competition you have or may have. It’s critical to know which of your competitors might be able to solve the customer’s problem just as well as you can — even if in a different way — or those that have the ability to quickly catch and overtake your offering.
Success of the internal component requires passionate business leaders pursuing growth businesses, a good systemic process for decision-making and deployment of precious internal resources, and a diversely experienced emerging business opportunities team.
Pursuing emerging business opportunities within a large company often requires upfront intrapreneurial thinking and action that is not the norm for a company’s core business operations. You need to have different viewpoints and diversity of thought or you will not get the richness of ideas that result in the very best solutions. Sometimes, the best ideas come from people working in a completely different business area.
It’s also important to remember that there are different ways to innovate. You may indeed have a new-to-the-world product or service solution that meets the needs of your existing customers or will attract new customers in a different market. Or, you may have an existing offering that can be modified to serve markets adjacent to your core business. In any case, the focus must be on growth—being innovative with capabilities that you have and looking at new growth markets where you might be able to serve customers.
Things to Remember
It’s also important not to over-engineer your offering. Those of us in technology fields have a tendency to think that something is superior because of its outstanding engineering features, but your customer may not want—or be able to afford—these features and you’ll waste valuable resources delivering them. You cannot just design what you “think” is right or what works for you.
As you enter the implementation phase, keep in mind that this part of the process is not always linear, but is more likely to be iterative in nature. For example, you might consider providing your new solution to a key customer for a trial and discover that it needs some fine-tuning to truly address the issue they face.
In summary, begin with careful analysis of external areas—customers, markets, competition and development of a value proposition. Internally, pull together some innovative thinkers who are willing to stretch beyond traditional core business boundaries, and develop a systemic process to come up with new ideas. Then, fully investigate the viability of the ideas and implement them.
The ideal result will be an innovation model that is tailored to work within your unique enterprise. Successful companies that continue to grow never stop innovating. Even when they are at the top of their game in their core business, they must always look beyond the horizon for new products and services to sustain growth. This means that even the most successful companies must not only grow their core business, but they must also, at the same time, have an entrepreneurial spirit within.
Heidi Hollowell is a member of the Emerging Business Opportunities Enterprise Team of Harris Corporation. The team is responsible for providing a disciplined, systemic approach to managing growth programs