#CIPD13 – Developing internal entrepreneurs to innovate within your organisation

One-sentence summary: An entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial mindset is messy, risky, disruptive, and mahoosively powerful.

Tom Fraine (Innocent)

It is clear that innocent has a really clear Purpose and Vision and, despite their growth and ambition, they have a deeply-held desire to maintain their entrepreneurial mindset. Tom recounted the story of how the founders tested the idea of the business before resigning their jobs by making smoothies and asking people to throw the empty cup into a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ bin, based on whether they liked the drink. This is a great story, one that has been retold many times, and it is clear that an entrepreneurial spirt is contagious, and that this can spread through stories.

The values of Innocent are really clear, truly represent them, and inform all that they do:

– natural

– entrepreneurial

– responsible

– commercial

– generous

Tom told the story of The Innocent big knit, of how it started as a seemingly daft idea from one person, and of how a willingness to try things can lead to great successes.

Innocent have three components to this:

Engagement – “one person can make a difference and everyone should try” – John F Kennedy. Innocent have a philosophy that it is better to ask for forgiveness than permission, and this is part of an all-pervasive mindset. Company meetings are a bit like a hackathon where people are encouraged to work in small groups and make things happen.

Environment – Innocent have a very very funky workplace that sits different people together, brings everybody together for breakfast, and encourages people to think differently.

Entrepreneurship; As part of their entrepreneurial approach, Innocent encourage people to do something if they’re 70% certain that it is right. They recognise that mistakes will arise from this, but are clear that moving fast is a source of competitive advantage so the mistakes are a price worth paying.

It is clear that entrepreneurship can be messy, involves conflict and risky, but it came across loud and clear that it is at the heart of making Innocent the success that it is.

Olivier Leclerc (Alcatel Lucent Bell Labs)

Olivier started by talking about the post-it note, Java, and GMail which are all examples of innovations that came from employees whose job was not to come up with those solutions. These successes came from employees sticking their head above the parapet with a great idea.

Olivier made a powerful case for encouraging employees to be intrapreneurs, and that innovation is the job of everybody in the organisation. Alcatel share challenges with all employees and use an online tool to collect ideas from all employees, breaking down silos by having employees collaborating with each other. An innovation board selects the ideas that will be taken forward, although the group doesn’t have to reach consensus on everything and ideas can be developed without having the support of everybody. The ideas are then pitched to the innovation board with a 5-minute pitch, and then the idea owner forms a small multidisciplinary team. The development of ideas is then supported through an Entrepreneurial Bootcamp, involving a mix of Alcatel people, and external people involving academics, Venture Capitalists, and entrepreneurs. I got the impression that a key element was helping people develop an entrepreneurial mindset so that they would take risks, challenge boundaries and not take no for an answer. Alcatel have clear processes and an innovation fund to support this rapid innovation.

Alcatel have run the bootcamp a few times now and have had plenty of what we might call failures (I’d choose to call them learning or the cost of innovation) and have launched several new business lines as a direct result of the bootcamps. There is a strong connection to motivation as this provides autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

An inspiring and though-provoking session that was music to my ears.

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