Entrepreneurship and employee empowerment have proven to be a winning combination when it comes to innovations within big corporations. At Orange, the European leader in telecommunications, the idea of starting a program for intrapreneurs was seeded in Spring 2016 and officially took off at early 2017 with the first cohort named David Bowie. Nicolas Bry, Chief Innovation Officer at Orange Vallée, an agile entity within Orange Innovation, put together an insightful testimonial of how the program was executed and the valuable lessons learnt. Enjoy the reading!
The complete and original article can be found on Nicolas Bry ‘s personal blog.
Featured photos are credited to Freepik.com and Nicolas Bry.
Tweaking Value Proposition
The value proposition of the Intrapreneurs Studio lies then in Orange Valley roots: we would address employees who have a powerful creative idea, and incubate them to transform their idea into an offering, enriching Orange’s portfolio.
These employees are keen on achieving their product with passion and undefectible will, but are sometimes missing 3 levers:
- legitimacy: they are not in the appropriate department to develop the idea;
- methodologies: business model canvas and lean startup are still fuzzy for them;
- and networking: they don’t have connections all over the company, and sometimes they don’t feel alllowed to develop them.
Defining the Intrapreneur Program
We were convinced that the successful intrapreneur is a couple composed of an attractive idea, and of a committed character. The program was then splited into 2 stages:
- Qualification: this 3 weeks stage should be dedicated to learning innovation practices, and moreover to put them to work on the intrapreneurs’ projects.
- Incubation: the intrapreneur would be fully allocated to his project at this time. This period could last 6 to 18 months, and the intrapreneur would suggest his own milestones depending on the project specifics.
Indeed, entrepreneur should not fall in love with their solution, but with the user’s problem. Consequently we conducted a series of benchmark meetings with other intrapreneur program managers to test, and enrich our this preliminary agenda. Here are some quotes on what was shared:
- Intrapreneurship is the individual right to innovate for any employee;
- Intrapreneurship is an ecosystem that supplies the intrapreneur with energy;
- Intrapreneurs Studio is a tunnel of goodness which protects the intrapreneur.
Go Live with David Bowie Class
And so we started our first season, the Intrapreneurs Studio pilot, in January, opening the program to all employees working in France: Orange France, Orange Business Serices, Orange Innovation, Orange Headquarters.
We received 50 files, out of which we selected 11 intrapreneurs, who followed the 3 weeks Qualification stage, and end up pitching their project on February 1st.
3 intrapreneurs were selected to develop their idea in the Incubation phase: a next-gen video communication service, a 4G connected sensor to locate daily objects, and a new distribution channel between Orange salesforce and small-business IT suppliers. Since March, they have started to staff their team, and work on their next MVPs.
A great satisfaction was to have created a team-spirit across this first range of 11 intrapreneurs during the Qualification phase. They summarized what is an intraprenur at Orange: an intrapeneur is someone who sometimes hacks the rules, but in the spirit of the rules.
Lessons learned and next steps
While the program is still in ongoing deployment, 3 lessons appear clearly already:
- Intrapreneurship is both about innovation techniques, and a human development program: it requires the involvement of human resources to tweak the processes, and a time for the intrapreneurs to consider their commitment, balance the advantages with the risks;
- Intrapreneurship has a very specific transformative impact on employees: it’s not someone from outside who’s pitching his venture on stage, it’s my colleague that I take coffee with everyday; intrapreneurship unfolds opportunities for every employee, that he can realize within his department, or by applying to the Intrapreneurs Studio;
- Hands-on sessions, where intrapreneurs directly apply the concepts of Business Model Canvas and Lean Startup on their projects, had the most profitable impact during the Qualification phase: we will focus on them for the next Qualification season in November; we will also give the intrapreneurs some time to build their MVPs during the 3 weeks timeline (assuming a MVP is not necessarily a prototype, but can be much simpler, i.e a homepage with a call to action).
The next season of the Intrapreneurs Studio in Autum is setting the bar high as the program will go international with 2 pilot countries from Europe and Africa. No doubt that these next steps will bring additional fruitful and surprising learnings!
What do you think about Intrapreneur and its application at your organization? Feel free to share your perspectives below!