Five barriers to cross to be an effective intrapreneur

Barriers to innovation come from a variety of sources. Two major sources are the people involved and the process followed. People make all the difference. Right from sponsors, participating members, supporting teams and you as a key member/leader. Corporate innovation programs are supposed to follow a predictable process to help in governance and resource management. Level of detail of the process and rigidity around “how” something is done decides the effectiveness of the process and hence the innovation itself.

While you are on the intrapreneurial journey, watch out for these five critical barriers and cross-them-over, quickly.

Self-doubt and Worthiness of the Problem: Working on a wrong problem or not-so-worthy one is not going to help you or the organization. Clear the self-doubt on the worthiness of the problem. Establish that is a good one to solve in the context of your business and your customers.

Judging ideas too quickly. Questioning everything to conclude quickly by saying NO is what you get trained at work. Convergent thinking is the most paid attribute at work. But if you are on Innovation journey, you should reverse that to saying YES, let us try it out. Once you get-over the NO hump and explore thoroughly, you might find the valuable idea. Suspend judgment. Adopt experimentation.

Stopping with the first good idea. There’s always more than one way of doing anything. Why do you stop at the first good idea? While on Innovation journey, explore. Experiment with more options in the beginning. Let the good one emerge out of the lot. It also helps you with a Plan B or C, when required. When you find a good idea, log it and look for some more. Adopt time and money boxing. Don’t boil the ocean. Don’t rest with too small a portion either.

Following rules that don’t exist. Many times, you may assume that something can’t be done, without verifying it. Rules are made for regular operational businesses. Controls and governance mechanisms exist to support running of the business. When you are on the journey of changing-the-business, you might have to change and make new rules. Find and fix rules that don’t fit. Don’t just follow by assuming you can’t do it.

Failing to get sponsorship and supporters. You can’t run a submarine project for a long time. You should never start one in the first place. The first skill to master is convincing yourself and others on the idea you wish to pursue. You will need that through-out the journey. Get it first. Get your idea sponsored. Garner support from people who can help you make it a reality. Heroes are honored in war. At work, you need to be a hero by being the future-shifter. This needs sponsorship and support. Get it to cross the barrier.

Being SAFE at work is an essential need to be an effective Intrapreneur.

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Finding and Killing de-motivators is also essential for success

Whatever mechanisms you use to motivate yourself and your teams, there are underlying demotivates at play. Finding and killing de-motivators at work is as essential as that of creating motivational reinforcements.

De-motivators come in a variety of forms. They are very specific to the company you keep. But there are a few that are common. They only shape and scale depending on the fertile nature of ground you provide.

Major de-motivators come in the form of Politics, Unclear Roles & Expectations, Unwritten and avoidable rules, the poor design of work and measures of work, Avoidable meetings, Poor or lack of follow-up and follow-throughs. Continuous organizational changes, Secretive-ways-of-working, Tolerating poor performance, management invisibility, excessive control mechanisms and Capacity underutilization – free and unoccupied minds at work.

Watch which of these are at play. Find the sources of these de-motivators and eliminate them completely and gracefully. Every small motivational reinforcement then works very effectively. Business thrives and the craft becomes remarkable.

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A little more than expected is a good seed

When you are expected to deliver the best, everything you do is considered part of the job. No-one expects you to deliver not-the-best. You don’t expect anything lower than required from anyone. Still, you find at times people delivering lower than their best. At the same time, you do come across those who pleasantly surprise you with what they deliver, how they serve.  It is not the capability issue. It is not even the experience issue.

Some people have that inherent desire of putting service ahead of everything else. They ensure that satisfying the customer to the fullest extent possible is their job. They believe that there’s no room for writing everything in the job description. It is just a direction, the license to serve and be remarkable. They find time and energy to do more than perceived limits of the job. Go the extra mile, without counting it. Volunteer where it matters and always delivers a little more than you expect out of their job. They sow the seed of happiness in everyone touched by their work.

It is easy to practice this and make it a habit. All you need to do is go beyond what you believe is the limit of your job. Question how best to serve, without questioning what’s in it for you. Put-service-first attitude to work. Find how to make yourself pleasantly surprised if you are being served and adopt the same method. A little more than expected is a good seed. Spray it well, routinely. Your craft will get naturally remarkable.

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Feeling and making others feel important is essential for success

You work with people. All the time, the major contribution to your success comes from the people you work with. It is thus important that you make the right choice of people you work with, work for. Irrespective of the role they play, if you are associated in a day-to-day basis, people have an important contribution to make. It can be the driver of your cab, lift-operator at work, the receptionist at the front office, your boss, peers, friends and your customer, leave alone parents and loved ones at home. Everyone has a major contribution towards how you feel and perform, every day.

When you feel important, you feel charged and perform higher than normal. Likewise, when you make others feel important, they perform higher than their normal. When people around you notice how genuinely you make them feel important, they develop an affinity towards best performance just enough to make you successful. It is a chain reaction. A positive one. When everyone around is performing at their best to make you perform at your best, the craft you build becomes remarkable.

Make sure that you respect and engage with everyone around you. Make them feel important. You will become important to them. This makes you maintain the same feeling within and succeed routinely.

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Three things important for building a great team in a short time

Teams are the way current generation companies organise for performance. Operational efficiencies and reusability needs of skills & experiences make it difficult for members to remain in the same team for a longtime. Knowing each other and performing well in cohesion becomes a challenging act. You need to adopt techniques that help in building a great team within a short time. Three key things that help in the process are – democratic ways-of-working, outcome based relationships, bound by time & money boxing method of planning.

Democratic ways-of-working where as a team you define the goals, controls and rules/systems helps in building active participation and transparency. This helps in creating active ownership and the necessary fabric of trust, dependency. Make this the first task of the team. People will get to know each other well and feel at home quickly.

Outcome based relationships eliminate the barriers of hierarchy. Contributions overrule the roles and business titles that might create inefficiency. People will focus on their performance and bring their best. Being in the self-designed system of working, members fill in for each other’s gaps and team wins.

When you bind this team with time and money boxing method of planning, you build intensity and avoid unnecessary delays, arguments and detours. Experimentation with a focus to find quick and better alternatives prevails. Every output/ outcome finds rightful use. Team moves in cohesion towards their set goal. You build a remarkable team and the craft!

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ABCs for leading digital transformations

Transformations are those irreversible changes you wish will help your business traverse to next-generation of performance.  Digital transformations are business transformations with digital technologies as a lever. When pushed to transformations due to peer-pressure and customer-demands, it becomes a necessity. You are never ready for transformations unless it is inevitable, life-threatening. Only very few pack-leaders jump ahead of the curve and set the path for others to learn, and follow. When they fall, they gather momentum back again and move-ahead with double speed. That makes a big difference.

Though several factors contribute to successful transformations, time and again, three things stand-out-tall. The approach, Belief-System, and Consistency.

Approach, the strategy of transformation – as detail as possible describing fully-well a way of dealing with any situation or problem that comes along the route of transformation becomes the basis. The playbook of transformation is important to build and follow-through. What layers will be covered when and how they get interlaced with the rest, keeping intact the task of running the current business is a very important design element. It should cover all aspects of people, process, product/solution, plant/infrastructure, technology, and partners. Embedding learning and unlearning as part of the migration to new ways-of-working should cover – employees, customers, and collaborators; Suppliers’ supplier to customers’ customer. The strength of weakest ties decides the pace and fragility of your transformation journey.

Belief-system – the very fabric of the company to face and lead changes to remain relevant and significant in the marketplace. An acceptance of the need for change, the toughness of the process and agility to move forward. This is influenced by the leader of the organization. If you are the leader, your belief-system becomes that of the system – the organization. If you are tentative and believe it is going to be a tough journey, same belief gets translated to every step in the process. When you are courageous and show the confidence in the system and people, same gets translated into action at every step. Build a strong participatory leadership style and reinforce it with actions across the transformation journey. When you outsource thinking and ownership of transformation to someone else in the organization or outside, you may be running a risk beyond measure. It is fine to take expert help. But do lead it from the front.

Consistency – keeping the momentum and focus on the quality of transformation is what binds the layers together and accelerate success. You will encounter several occasions forcing you to take decisions to slow-the-process, dodge a few areas of coverage and face resistance from a few key people. How you manage the same and maintain the consistency of implementation across different layers of the organization and external interfaces decides the success of the transformation. Else, you will end-up creating anomalies that require more resources and time for running-the-business. They may also introduce inefficiencies in the system and slow-down the entire business. If you decide to be a hybrid organization, do design so and implement it from the beginning. Let that not be an accidental creation. It is simpler to arrest issues at the design than through the process of building the craft.  It is your new craft – exercise every possible action to make it remarkable.

Address these ABCs as quick as possible to make the digital transformation journey itself remarkable.

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Micro-contributions are the value levers in digital organisations

Digital organizations are the current generation of transformations at work. In these organizations, people and things are connected. They communicate via a decentralized, highly distributed infrastructure intricately woven into every aspect of their lives. With distributed infrastructure, you are increasingly eliminating standard framework of communications, social and economic landscapes. Communications amongst people today is more diversified, more emergent and often unpredictable. In this distributed work environment, small bits of work – micro-contributions coming from many people, mostly unconnected to the hierarchy of the organization is at the core of the next wave of value creation.

With the reduction of the distance between creation and consumption, decision making and collaboration is turning into dynamic and inclusive. People do like to explore newer pastures of work and showcase their interest and talent to a larger group of people than just their bosses and peers.

Creating platforms to harvest micro-contributions from a larger set of people on a volunteer basis helps in building the nest of opportunities and ready-to-use solutions – a true social wealth. Look at how current digital natives like Facebook, Twitter, Google, Flickr, Instagram and the others have created social wealth – for themselves and others. They couldn’t exist without our content, our unpaid, fun, and labor. It is we who create everything they are valued highly for. Without making these daily contributions, none of these platforms could exist, let alone thrive. Likewise, if you let people at work, including partners, customers, and external collaborators become micro-contributors to shaping your craft, the unbelievable and remarkable craft will emerge.

It is essential for every current generation entrepreneur and intrapreneur to learn the skill of harvesting micro-contributions from a large set of people to build their venture and a remarkable craft. Explore, design well and implement a catchment for micro-contributions.

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The obstacle in the path way may pave the way

When you set-out to pursue something seriously, you might encounter some obstacles. That may be an anticipated problem, the realization of a known risk, dependency on which you have no control or influence; a sudden change of government policy and so on. Obstacles reduce your momentum and hence the progress. What do you do when you are facing obstacles denotes how strong a performer you are.

There’s always a way when you are focused on your goal. Obstacles may present opportunities to learn newer tricks and make-use of levers hitherto not used, to stay on-the-course. Entrepreneurs believe – Things that hurt, will instruct. You will need an approach to overcoming obstacles and thriving amid chaos more than ever. Obstacles are not only be expected but embraced.

Three factors play a significant role in dealing with obstacles: Perception, Action, and Perseverance. Perception of what is an obstacle and what is an opportunity is the prime-mover trigger for you to deal with obstacles. When encountered, think objectively. Think differently. Think from all other angles hitherto not explored. Change your perspective. Analyse quickly the pros-cons of the choices. Pick the one you can quickly implement. Speed is the key. Then Act. Action leads you to the next step or next choice. Either way, you develop a better understanding of the obstacle and opportunity associated with it. It is like hitting a solid rock while trying to construct a building’s foundation. You have multiple choices – to use the rock as the foundation and change the structural design to benefit, to harvest the rock for building or selling – turning it into a useful resource, an additional source of money and so on. What drives you further when the action you took is not eliminating the obstacle is the discipline of persistence. If you are focused on your goal than complaining about the obstacle or your fate or something else, you will try another way-out. Obstacles turn you into an explorer. The pursuit will get filled-in with side and by-products. Embrace it and move forward.

When you find an obstacle while solving a serious business problem, maybe you encountered the right problem to solve. One that’s worth solving for others as well. That’s how new opportunities get formed.

As the zen saying goes – “The obstacle in the path becomes the path. Never forget, within every obstacle is an opportunity to improve your condition.”

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Effective decision making requires free and participatory choice

Making decisions seems easy. Making decisions that everyone will support is not so easy. You will be required to make decisions that impact others. Organisations seem to work better when people get an opportunity to influence decisions that have a direct impact on their work.

When people feel that something is important and they have some control, they will be motivated to take actions and make things work. When they believe that something is important but they can exert no control, the common tendencies are to become defensive, to-play-it-safe, to-withhold-information and find-ways-to-escape. Effective decisions require participation from people right through the process of decision making. You should create a free and open participation platform for people to feel that they are in some control.

When people participate, they will be able to get the right view of the constraints and impacts, ahead of time. This helps them understand and influence their own actions to be in line with the decisions they recommend. This improves the effectiveness of the decision and helps in smooth implementation as well. This requires courage and confidence in your people. When you respect and engage with people, you will create the free and open platform that encourages participation even at times of tough decision making. You will build a remarkable team and the craft.

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Make the best use of the power of conversations

Conversations are not just talks. They are beyond just information sharing, instruction delivery mechanisms, and social bindings. They are dynamic, interactive, and inclusive. Conversations help in the evolution of the way we connect, engage, interact, and influence others. They help to enable us to shape reality, mindsets, and outcomes in a collaborative way. If you are having a good conversation, you are building a good collaboration. 

Conversations help us to bring everyone on the same page, bridging the reality gaps. Conversations connect individuals, ideologies, and experiences. Unhealthy conversations are the root of distrust, deceit, betrayal, and avoidance. This leads to lower productivity and innovation, resulting in lower success. Good conversations have the ability to alter someone’s life permanently, even if it is just a short exchange of words in a hallway or an elevator. 

Quality of conversations influences the quality of relationships. Quality of relationships influences the quality of your culture. To build a high-performance culture, embed trustworthy and powerful conversations in your way-of-life. 

Build your vocabulary for healthy conversations. Enrich it with genuine tone and composure. Don’t trivialize your words and gestures. Greet, respect and engage in conversations. Use tone, the strength of voice and words to suit the context and the purpose. 

Transactional conversations where business transaction is the context and sharing information is the purpose, focus on the comprehensive and inclusive approach. Positional conversations where you have the strong voice and points-of-view, influencing others to understand and accept your view of the work, requires the right choice of tone, voice, and words. Similarly, in co-creational conversations, focus on building a mutually-beneficial proposition. You have to use appropriate tone, voice, and words.

Build your competence for conversations. Make the best use of the power of conversations in making your craft remarkable.

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