RSS

The Bulletin

9 ways to be entrepreneurial without leaving the corporate mothership

Posting in Technology
What does it take to be an "intrapreneur" -- one who innovates, disrupts and creates new businesses from within the belly of an organization? The entrepreneurial spirit can just as easily thrive from inside a multi-billion-dollar enterprise as it can within a startup. In fact, multi-billion-dollar enterprises are desperate for more entrepreneurial spirit. However, be prepared for pushback from entrenched interests.
GuyKawasaki8-from Guy Kawasaki website.jpg
Guy Kawasaki, venture capitalist and a leader of Apple's Macintosh venture
 GuyKawasaki.com
 

Intrapreneuship requires a change of thinking that is not only different from the corporate mindset, but also from traditional startup culture. These points were recently explored by Guy Kawasaki in a LinkedIn post. Kawasaki knows something about intrapreneurship, as he was one of the leaders of the Apple Macintosh group that disrupted Apple's early PC business. His advice includes the following:

1) Reboot your brain. Forget about the CYA or bureaucratic practices learned from working inside the bowels of the corporation, he says -- in which innovations are held up by processes around surveying customers, checking with the sales force, building consensus, conducting focus groups, testing, testing, testing, ensuring backward compatibility, testing, testing, testing, and then shipping. These steps must be short-circuited.

2) Physically separate yourself from the organization. Ideally, the new venture should launch in an entirely different building, says Kawasaki. And, whatever you do, keep it frugal and spartan.

3) Kill the cash cows. Companies often grow dependent on cash cows -- until "two guys in a garage" kill them off. As Kawasaki observes: "Macintosh killed the Apple II: Do you think Apple would still exist if it tried to 'protect' the Apple II cash cow ad infinitum?"

4) Hire 'infected' people. Sheer passion for the venture trumps any resume or ivy-league degree.

5) Give hope to the hopeless. Inevitably, people from within the organization will be drawn to the venture as it unfolds. The most ardent followers are "the folks inside the company who knew there was a better way but could not make it happen."  

6) Avoid grandstanding. Entrepreneurs must put their heart and soul into the business, and this is the case with intrapreneurs -- except they must remain committed to doing what is right for their sponsoring organizations. "Stay under the radar," Kawasaki advises. "Stay invisible as long as practical."

7) Seek forgiveness, not permission. The entrepreneur's creed, just as applicable to intrapreneurs.

8) Collect and share data. As Kawasaki warns: "trust me, you will get in trouble if you are a good intrapreneur. This is because the higher you go in many organizations, the thinner the air, and the thinner the air, the more difficult it is to support intelligent life." Have good data to back up your efforts -- project costs, ROI, etc.

9) Dismantle when done. The successful venture eventually needs to be folded back into the organization, where it will hopefully upend entrenched and calcified bureaucracies and processes.

— By on February 8, 2014, 8:11 AM PST

Joe McKendrick

Contributing Editor

Joe McKendrick is an independent analyst who tracks the impact of information technology on management and markets. He is a co-author of the SOA Manifesto and has written for Forbes, ZDNet and Database Trends & Applications. He holds a degree from Temple University. He is based in Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure