Five Ways for Intrapreneurs to Overcome Innovation Roadblocks
Posted 2 years ago
Intrapreneurs provide a distinct competitive advantage to a business. Leveraging an entrepreneurial mindset, they generate valuable new ideas, innovative products, and improved processes for the good of the organisation.
But the role of the intrapreneur is not for the faint-hearted. An intrapreneur must overcome organisational inertia, scrounge for shoestring budgets and navigate stubborn bureaucracy before they can secure the internal support and resources they need to produce successful outcomes. This requires a unique set of skills, including sophisticated communication and influencing abilities, a deep understanding of company strategy, and an almost ridiculous amount of tenacity.
These skills can be innate, or they can be learned. Tailored training programs go a long way towards equipping intrapreneurs with the specific skills they need to succeed. But experience also plays an important role.
There are several common roadblocks that prevent innovation from progressing in larger organisations, and experienced intrapreneurs anticipate these roadblocks. They are able to plan their response, ensuring important projects don’t lose momentum. Here are some tips.
Roadblock #1: Lack of Resources
When you lack resources, it can be very difficult to get any new idea off the ground.
Solution: Focus on solving the most pressing or inconvenient issues first. Ask questions across the organisation, and uncover the right problems to solve. Consider ways to leverage or combine department budgets to achieve mutually beneficial solutions. Go for small wins initially, to build confidence and demonstrate the importance of innovation within the organisation.
“Ask questions across the organisation,
and uncover the right problems to solve.”
Roadblock #2: Groupthink
Groupthink occurs when everyone makes the unspoken decision to simply follow along with what the group thinks. If the most outspoken member of the group proposes or squashes an idea, and no one is willing to challenge them, innovation gets blocked.
Solution: Allocate a “Devil’s Advocate” at each meeting. This person’s job is to question and challenge the ideas provided and encourage the group to think critically. This role should be rotated at every meeting.
Roadblock #3: Burnout
If you are trying to cram innovation into your job without taking anything else off the table, burnout can strike. You need time, space and rest to innovate effectively.
Solution: Try to ensure adequate time off for rest and relaxation. Take your annual leave. Consider blocking out time in your calendar each week (or each day) to allocate to creative problem solving. If exhaustion or frustration gets in the way, change your environment – go for a walk, or work in a different room. Recharge before burnout kills your innovative idea.
“You need time, space and rest to innovate effectively.”
Roadblock #4: Sceptics
“That won’t work… we’ve never done that before… that’s not how we do it here…”
When sceptics keep knocking back anything new, riskier ideas never see the light of day.
Solution: First, work out exactly who the most influential sceptics are in your organisation. Then, start small with an idea that’s most likely a safe bet, to gain their confidence. Focus on what’s in it for them – how will your innovative idea make their life easier? What challenges will it help solve for them?
It can help to make it clear that failure is a normal part of the process, and they (and you) won’t be punished if the idea doesn’t work. Slowly, the concept of experimentation and iteration will start to permeate… but it won’t happen overnight.
Roadblock #5: Too many ideas, no action
Ideas are great, but they are worthless on their own. They are also the easiest part of the innovation process (and the part everyone wants to contribute). Letting good ideas die in the pipeline is a common innovation program pitfall.
Solution: Have a process in place for moving ideas down the pipeline, testing and implementing. Make sure someone is accountable for keeping this process on track. It’s also important to ensure your ROI metrics don’t just focus on the number of ideas generated, they also consider impact, and how this relates back to the organisation’s strategy.
Intrapreneurs must overcome these inevitable roadblocks to innovation with resilience, creativity and resourcefulness. Learning how to predict these challenges, and successfully navigate around them when they arise, is key to successful intrapreneurship in any organisation.
Impact Innovation group works with organisations across Asia Pacific to build skills and capacity in innovation. Our Corporate Intrapreneurship course teaches participants how to critically evaluate new ideas, align with corporate strategy, overcome roadblocks, and collaborate with colleagues to help you effectively solve an organisation’s biggest challenges.