“The entrepreneur is essentially a visualizer and an actualizer. He can visualize something, and when visualizes it he sees exactly how to make it happen.” Robert L. Schwartz
Guy Kawasaki‘s real-world list of what you have to do to succeed as an intrapreneur.
- Kill the cash cows. This is the best perspective for both intrapreneurs and their upper management. Cash cows are wonderful—but you should milk them but not sustain them until, pun intended, the cows come home. Truly brave companies understand that if they don’t kill their cash cows, two guys/gals in a garage will do it for them. Macintosh killed the Apple II: Do you think Apple would still exist if it tried to “protect” the Apple II cash cow ad infinitum? The purpose of cash cows is to fund new calves. If you can’t openly kill the cash cow, then ignore, circumvent it, or work parallel to it—somehow shorten its journey to the slaughterhouse.
- Reboot your brain. Just about everything you learn and do inside a large company is wrong for intrapreneuring. For example, in a large company, you survey customers, check with the sales force, build consensus, conduct focus groups, test, test, test, ensure backward compatibility, test, test, test, and then ship. When you ship, you buy ads because that’s what you always do. Forget these practices. Generally, you should do everything the opposite from the tried and true existing way of large companies.
- Find a separate building. One of the best ways to stay intrapreneurial is to work in a separate building. Ideally, it is between four hundred forty yards and one mile from the main corporate campus—that is, close enough to steal stuff but far enough so that upper management is not in your face. This building should be a piece of crap with lousy furniture because intrapreneurs need to build cohesiveness, and the best way to build cohesiveness is to suffer, and you can’t suffer if your butt is sitting in a $700 Herman Miller chair in a beautiful building.
- Hire infected people. Do you know what the most important characteristic is of an intrapreneurial (and entrepreneurial team too for that matter)? It’s being infected with a love for what the team is doing. It’s not work experience or educational background. I would pick an Apple II repair department engineer over a PhD from MIT if he “gets it,” loves it, and wants to change the world with it. Of course, you understand that you’re reading the book of a jewelry schlepper who went to work for Apple.
- Give hope to the hopeless. My prediction for when you begin your intrapreneurial quest and hire infected people is that other people believers will come out of the woodwork to support you. This is because you are giving hope to the hopeless—in other words, the folks inside the company who knew there was a better way but could not make it happen. Thank your lucky stars if this happens because you’re going to need all the support you can get.
- Put the company first. Intrapreneurs must put the company, not themselves, first. As long as you’re an employee, you have to do what’s right for the company. (However, many employees will think it’s wrong to kill the cash cow, so you’re not putting the company first, but they just don’t get it.) You can’t have both the security of existing employment and the financial rewards of entrepreneurship. Also, unfortunately, the very bozo that stood in your way may get some of the credit for what you did.
- Stay under the radar. Speaking of bozos who get in your way, you need to stay invisible as long as practical. Your initial reaction to an innovative idea may be to seek upper level and peer buy-in (although rebooting your brain should have taken care of this problem.) Not a good idea.Seek forgiveness (if it comes to this), not permission. As soon as you appear on the radar the flak will start flying. Let the vice-presidents come to you. When they appear and start suggesting a new product, that’s the time to tell them you’re already working on it. Even better: make them believe it was their idea.
- Collect and share data. 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. At some point a bean counting, status quo preserving milkmaid is going to criticize you for wasting corporate assets on something that no customer is asking for. At that point, you need to already know how much your project has cost. If you have to spend weeks retracing your steps to figure this out, you’ll occupy a much weaker position. If there’s anything a bean counter respects, it’s someone who’s already counted the beans.
- Dismantle when done. If your intrapreneurship is successful, then your product and team will move into the mainstream of the company. That insanely great team of pirates must now integrate into the system. Hopefully, they will improve the system and not become the scum of a new bureaucracy, but integrate they must. I laugh about it now, but at one time we thought the Macintosh Division would never be larger than one hundred people.
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