Building Intrapreneurship: How I Stole an Idea from Walt Disney and Became a Serial Intrapreneur

What is an intrapreneur, you ask? And why should I be interested in becoming a serial intrapreneur?
At the 2021 Americaneagle.com Forum, Ron Diorio, project manager, led participants through an introduction of intrapreneurship as well as strategies to help individuals and organizations practice it.

Intrapreneur Explained

An intrapreneur is a professional, sometimes a team of professionals, within an organization to innovate and incubate ideas which positively impact business. Within many businesses, this intrapreneurship priority has been part of an “idea lab” or “innovation lab.”

Business success embraces intrapreneurship. There are thousands of examples. Apple put 20 engineers together, with no structure or guidelines, and created the Macintosh computer. Google dedicates 20% of staff time to creative thinking and intrapreneurship. Out of that 20% time, Google developed and launched Gmail. When a chemist at 3M was working on a super-strong adhesive, he ended up creating a super-weak one. When applied to a paper bookmark, it was both securely attached to book pages and removable without damage. The post-it note was born.

Walt Disney, when he started his animation studio, had super-creative people approaching him with a high volume of ideas. To vet new creative ideas, he created an intrapreneurship model that included three separate rooms. The rooms were as follows: the dreamer, the realist and the spoiler. Teams would consider ideas from all three perspectives in those three rooms.

The dreamer approached an idea as if there were no constraints. What would we love to do next?

The realist approached an idea functionally. How could we make this work?

The spoiler was intent on identifying what was wrong with an idea. What is wrong with this?

There are a lot of things that can challenge business today, as well as a lot of ways to potentially solve those challenges. To do so, there needs to be opportunity to carve out time to think about the future, think about what you might want to try, think about how those programs might come together, and test them to determine if they warrant investment.

  • Identify growing headwinds
  • Specify customer and business needs
  • Develop actions

1. Identify Growing Headwinds

There are competitive forces, or headwinds, that are consistently putting pressure on current business models. Convene with fresh eyes from your business: technologists, artists or, customer service colleagues. Leverage engaged professional colleagues as well as industry partners or periodicals. Look ahead six to eighteen months to anticipate the growing headwinds, the escalating challenges for your business.

2. Specify Customer and Business Needs

Ensure that real differentiation and “brand badge” value is evident in all ideas. In doing so, address both customer needs and business needs simultaneously. Embrace agility in exploring opportunities. Stay cognizant that the cost of inaction is extremely high.

3. Develop Actions

The intrapreneur must identify new product and program ideas that address the headwind while meeting customer and business needs. Those ideas should then be subjected to small-medium scale tests that prove, or disprove, their potential for successful business impact. Provide evidence of scalability and the potential for new revenue of broadening the customer base.

At the same time, it is also important to kill the ideas that, while you may love them, you realize they will not work. This is the only way to keep, and even grow, trust in the intrapreneurship process.

Be dreamers. Be realists. Be spoilers. The future success of your business is in your mind as well as your hands. Your ideas are worth exploring and building upon, intrapreneurs. 

 

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About Author

Rex Paisley
Rex Paisley is a Senior Marketing Specialist with Americaneagle.com. He is a career creative professional who has authored print and digital media across a wide range of industries. A competitive spirit, he enjoys unpacking the success factors behind the many wins with clients. He and his wife have two sport-loving teenage sons. Their family time is shared, mostly, at basketball gymnasiums and baseball fields.


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