Co-Founder of Mayte.
Entrepreneurs are about solving mass consumer problems in new, creative ways. Intrapreneurs are about increasing productivity, saving costs, making staff members’ lives easier and making your boss look good. Your primary customers are your company’s customers (which is actually a positive thing) and your stakeholders are people you (hopefully) already hold good relationships with.
In the previous instalment of this series, I wrote about what makes an intrapreneur. Today I’m going to show you what areas of your company you can use innovation to improve with the best results. Then, I’ll show you how to approach your boss with your ideas without getting rejected. Let’s get into it.
Make the company more money
Let’s start with the finances. In any corporate job, more money = success. If you can find a way for your company to squeeze more money out of their existing, market-proven customers you’re on a sure path to the top. Getting more customers and getting more out of your existing customers are two very different ball games that feed into each other. Happier, spending customers will talk to potential customers and more money is made for the company. This makes everybody up the chain happier and you will receive excellent recognition for your work.
This could be a new product offering, a new feature that can be charged or a new service offering that is in hot demand. Sometimes the holes in your offerings are glaringly obvious, sometimes they require a little poking. I recommend trying to find something that’s obvious to start and tackle the hairier problems later when you’ve got the support of your boss.
Make your customers happier
Customer experience is the holy grail of success. Happy customers = lower churn = higher profits. It’s also a chance to treat your customers like humans instead of numbers from the deep-department you may work from - removed from the CX team. This is actually my favourite place to innovate as it’s what can make people smile, boost a brand image and in general make the world a better place (sorry, I had to).
Look through customer complaints, feedback forms and surveys. Try to find patterns of things that are making your customers consistently unhappy or are asking for improvement. You could then use an effort/impact matrix to find the lowest hanging fruit and use that as your first initiative.
Make your company more productive
Another category of initiatives that will surely garner attention and support is to make the business more efficient. Find out what is currently slow, repetitive and boring - to which there will usually be an innovative solution. Look at processes or systems that are time and resource heavy and figure out how these could be automated, augmented and sped up. Speeding up just one process can have a huge knock-on effect - and be used as a case study to build your argument for further innovative initiatives.
With the emergence of new technologies like chatbots and machine learning, this is the ripest area for disruption. How can these smart technologies be used to make the business more efficient and save money in the long term? What problems have been unsolved until now? An added bonus of leveraging new technology is that it gives your brand an edge. It’s a new marketing tool telling your current and future customers “Hey! We’re innovative, and we’re not just saying that. We use X to make your life better”.
Most importantly, make your boss’s life easier
This is really the ticket to getting more freedom from the get-go. You’ve got a winner if your first innovation initiative is something that directly affects your boss or manager in a positive way. This might be something as simple as making a positive change to how your team manages feedback or pre-collecting information for a monthly review via a chatbot. If you can do something that makes your boss look good to their superiors - even better. This is tricker though, as you have to work closely with them to figure out what their problems are and what they need to solve them.
Once you gather the recognition from making their life easier they will give you more autonomy to make more positive and innovative changes throughout the company. They will begin to recommend you to their superiors when curly problems arise as the go-to problem solver. Your recognition will rise up the ranks and you will be rewarded handsomely for your efforts.
Turn the company into an innovation ‘future maker’
This is probably the hardest thing to target. This requires having your finger on the pulse of your industry and even looking ahead to what the future holds for you and your competitors. Identifying trends that will change the way your industry works before they happen is the first step. The second - and hardest step - is making changes within your company to move in that direction before the competition does.
First to market is something that startups deal with once during their lifecycle. Chances are your company missed the boat or it was so long ago that it’s irrelevant today. Except it’s not! If you can move an aged business into a new niche giving the company a competitive, first mover advantage into a new market or technology this benefits everyone involved.
The key here is to look for any problems that the company you work for is having trouble solving - whether it’s a big or a small issue. It’s generally good to start small though.