Fast Company

Eat It While It’s Hot – and other ideas for Fostering Intrapreneurship

Hot or cold is the difference between a fantastic meal or something utterly inedible.  In the business world, these are the opportunities that are hot that will go cold if and when you don’t jump on them.  At Symbio, we use the “eat it while it’s hot” analogy as one of the ways we help our team “get” Intrapreneurship.  Long-term sustainability of any company is based on Intrapreneurship, and when you see an opportunity, you’ve got to strike, often with very limited information.  Here are a few other key ingredients that help inspire long-term Intrapreneurship:

  • Intrapreneurial Culture: Having an intrapreneurial culture means creating an environment where experimentation is honored and failure is just another step towards finding the right solution.  It means having a distributed decision-making structure whereby those closest to the action can make the right calls.  It means having a leadership team that treats its staff as constituents and respects honest, open feedback.  It means that good ideas that create value are rewarded and implemented regardless of whose brain it came from.  In short, it means respecting the intelligence of the individual, trusting them to come up with the best ideas, and rewarding them for creating value.
  • Integrative Philosophy: An integrative philosophy is about utilizing ideas from anyone and anywhere.  The best intrapreneurial ideas are often incremental innovations that come from elsewhere.  I don’t believe that we just create the killer business model, or find the killer disruptive innovation in order to create business value.  Business value goes back to the fundamentals – 1) finding an opportunity, 2) putting the resources and advantages at your disposal towards harvesting that opportunity, and 3) instilling the operational discipline to execute day in and day out, reaping and sowing that opportunity to its maximum potential.  Intrapreneurial business value comes from the integration of these three main business value generation activities.
  • Myth of Instant Perfection: A friend of mine from McKinsey once told me that the last 10% towards perfection usually burns 90% of your total effort. The technology world is littered with the carcasses of companies that had a better technology or a superior mousetrap.  Change is constant and there just isn’t enough time to create perfection, nor is it economically feasible to do so.  At Symbio, we strive for advancement, not instant perfection. Take for example, our multimedia and graphics team which develops and implements technologies that enable the best possible user experiences on mobile and embedded devices -- the team makes sure that the critical 90% of the device is optimized for a targeted set of user experiences.  The team can then incrementally improve on that solution as additional changes are required.  It’s about knowing when to let go but still having a perpetual beta mindset.
  • Global 2.0 Perspective: Today it is exceedingly important to have a global perspective towards talent and to create a workforce “mash-up” that combines the best processes and ideas that the world can offer.  This supports having an intrapreneurial culture but expands on the concept further, freeing the company to think outside the box, outside the four walls to tap the best and brightest minds and the most cost effective means to move the needle. Create an environment that fosters a global perspective.
  • Clients – NOT Customers: This is a pet peeve of mine since the days I was a young investment banker on Wall Street.  There is a huge difference between Clients and Customers.  Customers buy something from you, usually a one-off transaction.  Companies with a customer orientation are continually trying to create new products to sell to their customers.  Clients are long-term constituents.  Having a client perspective means your team has a long-term perspective.  At Symbio, the services for which our clients spend their R&D outsourcing budgets on today are most certainly different from what they initially engaged us for.  The way we win in our business is by building relationships with our clients that last for years.
  • Obsolescence Treadmill: Bill Gates once told the world that any product in Microsoft’s portfolio was on the road to obsolescence after just 6 months, and after 18 months, was completely obsolete.  This is especially true in the services business where services by nature are always changing, always advancing.  Accepting this fact is actually quite liberating.  At Symbio, it forces our software product engineering teams to continually look at ways to advance what we do, to reinvent the very core services that are our bread-and-butter.  Always look forward to see how you can create more value, more innovation, more efficiency for your clients.

All opportunities go cold if you don’t dig in, so for every meal your company is served, make sure that your team has the intraprenuerial urgency to “eat it while it’s still hot.”

Jacob Hsu is CEO of Symbio.  Recognized by Chief Executive Magazine as one of the world's Top 12 Young Global Leaders of Tomorrow, and by the World Economic Forum as a 2010 Young Global Leader, Jacob is a graduate of the Wharton School of Business. Symbio provides advanced software product engineering and R&D co-creation services to the world's technology innovators, integrating domain expertise, strategic consulting and design engineering talent across mobile, embedded, Web and enterprise technologies. www.symbio.com

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  • Howard Edward Haller Ph.D.

    Great information about Intrapreneurship whcih is the Key to Long-Term Success.
    Steve Jobs, Apple's Chairman, was specifically helpful in popularizing the term "intrapreneurship." In a September 30, 1985 "Newsweek" article Steve Jobs said, "The Macintosh team was what is commonly known as intrapreneurship... a group of people going, in essence, back to the garage, but in a large company." Jobs risked everything on this Intrapreneurial venture and then go fired by his own Board of Directors over this Intrapreneurship adventure.
    “Innovation and Intrapreneurship are the ‘Secret Weapon’ for success within major firms such as: 3M, Anaconda-Ericsson, Apple Computer, Autodesk, Corona Data Systems, Caribou Coffee, Gateway, GE, Genentech, Google, IBM, INTEL, iRobot, Kodak, Lockheed-Martin, PR1ME Computer, Sony, Sun Microsystems, TCI, Texas Instruments, Toyota, W. L. Gore, and Yahoo.” (A Quote from Dr. Haller’s book “Intrapreneurship Success.”)
    Dr. Howard Haller's book, “Intrapreneurship Success: A PR1ME Example” is a well-documented case study of PR1ME Computer Inc. This book was based on 1982 University published Thesis was the 1st Academic in-depth Case Study of Intrapreneurship (Corporate Entrepreneurship) PR1ME Computer Inc. successfully and effectively used Intrapreneurship to grow from a small OTC listed company to become the Number 1 performing company listed on the NYSE.

    For more details on “Real World” Intrapreneurship Case Studies please visit: www.IntrapreneurshipInstitute....