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Intrapreneur's Edge: A Framework for Transitioning to your Next Innovation Engine

Innovation Beyond Startups: Unleashing the Intrapreneurial Spirit


Forget the myth that innovation belongs solely to scrappy startups. In reality, a significant chunk of groundbreaking ideas comes from established companies. The secret weapon? Intrapreneurs – employees within large organizations who possess a deep understanding of the market, a passion for innovation, and the courage to pursue new ventures.

However, navigating the corporate landscape as an intrapreneur is no easy feat. Steve Jobs famously declared, "Innovation is the ability to see change as an opportunity – not a threat." This rings especially true in established companies, where change can often trigger anxieties about survival. So, it is no surprise that most breakthrough ideas come through startups and rarely from an established enterprise, even though they possess vast resources, talent, and expertise.


This struggle is well documented in Clayton Christensen's "Innovator's Dilemma." Businesses understand the concept of the product S-curve – that growth eventually slows with maturity, demanding new engines for continued success. Leaders recognize the need to innovate yet face a fundamental problem.


Established companies thrive on repeatable and scalable business models, fostered by efficient processes and systems. Early-stage ventures, on the other hand, is a quest for finding that model through a messy darwanian struggle. When these two approaches clash within a single organization, the result can be a frustrating clash of cultures, as Scott Adams humorously depicts in his comic.



Overcoming the Innovation Impasse 

So, does this mean that the problem is bureaucracy? However, bureaucracy is what makes the repeatable and scalable business for an established enterprise work. So, getting rid of bureaucracy cannot be the solution. So, does that mean that there is no hope for Intrapreneurs?


Efforts like dedicated innovation teams or reserved capacity haven't yielded consistent results. While frameworks like Geoffrey Moore's "Zone to Win" offer a separation between core business and disruptive innovation, the question remains: where do these breakthrough ideas come from?

The answer is not a separate, isolated team or inorganic acquisitions. The most powerful source of innovation lies within your own workforce. These are the employees who understand your mission, customer pain points, and possess the raw potential to think creatively.


Unlocking Intrapreneurial Potential:

Here at Venturis, we've been collaborating with Jim Verquist of Engine2 Innovation to address this very challenge. Through brainstorming and discussions explored in our podcast "Venturis Stories," we've co-developed a framework called the "Intrapreneur's Edge." This framework empowers your existing talent to become successful intrapreneurs, driving the second growth engine within your mature company.


Introducing the Intrapreneur's Edge Framework


While your regular employees hold the most significant potential for innovative ideas, unleashing that power requires providing them with the "freedom to innovate." Jim Verquist of Engine2 Innovation delves deeper into this concept, and we encourage you to explore his work for further insights (


This blog focuses on a framework that fosters the coexistence of "Freedom to Innovate" alongside core "Performance Zone" projects. The challenge in established companies lies in the inherent bureaucracy, critical for the core business model, often stifling innovation. Here's where the Intrapreneur's Edge Framework, illustrated at the top of the blog, comes in.

The Framework:

  • Primary Responsibilities: Teams work on the regular backlog of official projects, managed and prioritized based on customer demands and performance zone criteria. This remains the core responsibility for all employees.

  • "Freedom to Innovate": However, when employees have innovative ideas, the framework empowers them to launch "skunkworks" projects. Think of these as internal entrepreneurs investing their own "sweat equity" (time and effort) to test and refine their ideas. This aligns with the messy, iterative phase of a startup.

  • Idea Review and Growth: Management regularly reviews these "skunkworks" projects. Qualifying ideas receive funding and potential elevation to an "incubation zone," drawing parallels with the VC model in the startup ecosystem.

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Thanks to Jim Verquist of Engine2 Innovation for collaboration in creating this framework. Listen to our podcast conversation in S2, Ep6 of our podcast "Venturis Stories" for additional details on this

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