One of the key barriers to intrapreneurial success is a simple lack of familiarity with the innovation process. You've come up with a good idea, and perhaps even pitched it to your boss, but what comes next?
In this post I will introduce you to a six-stage "path to intrapreneurship" that answers that question.
Let's begin with the summary observatoin that the whole point of the innovation process is to convert the bundle of assumptions you call an idea into a proven, validated market reality by progressing through six key stages, as illustrated below:
Note that the stages of the innovation process are arranged such that there is an inverse relationship between the risk and the cost. Thus the process enables us to “fail fast and cheap.”
Stage 0: Find a Good Idea
In Stage 0, we come up with an idea that seems to be aligned with our organization’s strategic goals, and articulate all of the key assumptions about how it will work using the LaunchPath Innovation Framework.
Stage 1: Get Management Buy-In
In Stage 1, we get management buy-in by demonstrating that our idea is one of the very best ideas available and worth the investment of scarce organizational resources
Stage 2: Test the Market
In Stage 2, we demonstrate that we have dialed in on the right customer segment (whether internal or external), identified one of the customer’s top jobs-to-be done, and found an urgent problem that the customer is willing to pay to resolve.
Stage 3: Test the Model Concept
In Stage 3, we test the model at a conceptual level by presenting the customer with a low-resolution prototype of the solution (e.g. a business proposal, a drawing, a mock-up, etc.) and demonstrating that the customer will place an advance order, sign a letter of intent, or otherwise commit to future purchase or use of the solution.
In the process we validate, at least on paper, that: 1) Our solution makes sense to the customer, 2) It offers some competitive advantage, 3) The price is reasonable, and 4) We can effectively find and connect with our target customer – i.e. it will be possible to get our solution out into the world.
Stage 4: Test the Model Reality
In Stage 4, we demonstrate that a minimum viable version of our innovation actually delivers on its promises when deployed to real customers.
When we have completed Stage 4, we have solid evidence that our solution meets or exceeds customer expectations, that its promise of competitive advantage is real, that it can be delivered profitably, and that it will be possible to get the innovation into the hands of our customer.
Stage 5: Test the Mojo
In Stage 5, we demonstrate that we have the competency and resources to profitably operationalize and scale the innovation (i.e. the positive results we saw during Stage 4 can be repeated over-and-over again).
While there are six key stages on the path to intrapreneurship, you will probably have some setbacks along the way. In other words, your path to success may look like this.
The path to intrapreneurship is full of uncertainty and risk. By breaking the process into stages, minimizing your investment in each stage, and rigorously reviewing your project at the conclusion of each stage, you can develop and execute ideas that will take both your career and your company to a whole new level.