Best Practices for Corporate Entrepreneurship – #1 "C-Suite Vision & Championing"
As a follow-up to my previous article on the constraints ("the chain") & challenges of “corporate entrepreneurship” (a term inherently loaded with tension), I’d now like to focus on best practices of “getting it right.”
Throughout the many years of our innovation work we’ve benchmarked and collaborated with dozens of companies and hundreds of leaders (innovators and entrepreneurs). Based on these rich experiences (many successes, and many failures) it has led us to conclude on a set of “7 keys to success.”
The first is that the CEO/C-suite must provide “Vision & Championing” for the overall entrepreneurship-effort of the enterprise. While this may seem obvious, it is typically where we find significant gaps, and where entrepreneurship initiatives either rise or fall. Why? Let’s break it down into its specific components—what it looks like, why it’s important, and what “Vision & Championing” actually means:
Protection: entrepreneurship is counter-cultural by nature and therefore has to be protected–it’s a different way of working, often a separate entity, different profiles of people, and it must have permission to play by different rules & measured by different metrics. Because of the “cumulative differences” to most parts of the mainstream, the c-suite must be ready to take on the corporate-antibodies that will otherwise kill these tender new cells.
Strategic Buy-in ("Head"): entrepreneurship can’t just be “tolerated” or seen as a temporary fad. It has be “their idea” (senior leadership), a “must-have,” with a coherent & strong conviction around a strategic-rationale for its necessity to the future of the company (where it fits, and why we have to do it).
Tactical Commitment/Support ("Hands"): this takes buy-in to the next level by putting skin in the game–resources, brand assets, budgets, great people (not just outliers), active communication (internal and external), removal of roadblocks, frequent personal/visible attention/presence/interest.
Courage & Faith ("Heart"): it’s a long, hard road with most seedlings dying along the way and only a few mighty trees surviving over years and years of time. It takes patience, dogged courage and a deep conviction to continue believing despite frequent failures (which is the name of the game) to stay committed to see results. Lack of this commitment is the primary reason 80% of corporate incubators fail, executive leadership simply can’t sustain the above over the long-term to see results (and for various reasons such as changes in leadership, financial pressures, shifts in strategy, cultural clash, lack of focus, etc.).
While all “best practices” we will review together in the future are interrelated and important, they all rely on “Vision & Championing” as the foundation. With it, almost any obstacle can be overcome and goal achieved. Without it, the “house of entrepreneurship” (no matter how well designed) will eventually crumble.
(also published on my personal blog at www.johannesmutzke.com)