How do I promote intrapreneurship and innovation within my company? Swisscom has just started holding courses for companies who want to find an answer to this question – in theory and practice.
Text: Pia Schneider,
It is shortly before 9 a.m. on a Friday morning at Konradstrasse 12 in Zurich and it is not a normal morning in the Pirates Hub, Swisscom’s innovation centre. This is because innovation managers from SBB, Axpo, Baloise, the Swiss post office and Mobilar are sitting around the table of the co-working space in which you would normally see Swisscom employees. One person has even flown in from Belgium for the day. The question is what brought them here?
Despite the fact that the companies operate in different sectors, have different strategies and differ in size, they are all here as they are facing one and the same challenge – to become and remain innovative so that they can keep up with the times. And while many companies have now realised that innovation is rarely successfully without involving external partners and especially start-ups, it is frequently in short supply within companies. Creating a culture of innovation and empowering employees to develop innovative solutions is a major challenge, especially in terms of corporate culture.
The Swisscom Intrapreneurship team, which has successfully established the Kickbox programme, welcomes the participants. David Hengartner, the initiator of Swisscom Kickbox, gets straight to the point: “Intrapreneurship is not something that can be established within a company from one day to the next – we have experienced this first hand. We have already been through the long, iterative process that this involves. Today, we want to share everything we have learned with you.” The KickboxAcademy, as the course is called, helps participants to pilot the kickbox programme within their companies. This includes raising awareness of the key challenges they will face and sharing knowledge with one another.
The Kickbox concept was originally developed by Adobe, with the software company using it to create an internal innovation programme. The aim was to encourage employees to develop and test new ideas.Swisscom has further developed the programme over the last three years and created an online intrapreneurship platform for companies. Specifically, this means that any employee who has a brilliant idea can apply internally for a kickbox. The physical box contains a starting balance, a time budget, contact details for internal and external innovation experts and a handbook that explains the idea validation process and provides valuable tips. Within a multi-stage process, the idea is promoted, pitched to juries and, in the best-case scenario, approved to move to the next stage. The intrapreneur cannot hide behind hundreds of Powerpoint slides, but must – according to the Lean Startup Approach – quickly obtain genuine customer feedback and push on with their idea iteratively.
The large companies meeting at the Pirates Hub today want to transform their employees into “kickboxers”. Some of them have already begun doing so, while others are just getting started with the Kickbox programme. A good example is SBB, for which the initial discussions with the other companies have been extremely productive, as Stefan Gerber, Innovation Coach at SBB, confirms: “As we do not have any experience with Kickbox, we want to avoid making as many mistakes as possible and learn about the best practices from the other companies.”
After a coffee break, we get down to work by answering the following questions: How do I market the Kickbox programme internally? How do I motivate employees to provide their own ideas and drive them forward? To what extent do corporate hierarchies and decision-making processes conflict with the Kickbox programme, and how do we deal with this? These are just a few of the questions with which the Swisscom Kickbox team as well as some of the companies have gained relevant experience and actively exchange information.
After the lunch break, the course restarted with a discussion on a topic that can cause difficulties: Who are my stakeholders in the launch of the Kickbox? How do I find them? How do I approach them? What are the possible incentives for getting involved with the Kickbox programme? Critical questions are asked, scrutinised and “challenged” bilaterally. The participants are clearly motivated to do everything in their power to make sure that the Kickbox gets off to as smooth a start as possible. They all agree that the innovation potential of their own workforce is huge; however, it is not easy to realise this potential properly and sustainably. Nevertheless, innovative capacity and the establishment of an innovation culture within a company can be learned, even if it needs consistency and an assertive manner to do so, as well as the courage to employ unconventional methods sometimes.
By the end of the workshop, the companies have become acquainted with the online platform that Swisscom has developed specifically for the Kickbox programme. This platform provides you with a clear overview of the different “kickboxers” and their pitches, the expert and mentor network and individual investments and allows you to manage all of them. The platform can be used internally by companies for their innovation projects, and projects can also be shared across companies. This marks the end of the first KickboxAcademy day. “Now it’s your turn,” said David Hengartner, as each of the innovation managers now has to deal with the next phase. There is one-and-a-half months until the next KickboxAcademy, which gives the participants time to take further steps towards establishing intrapreneurship – so that they can challenge each other again and share experiences at the next meeting.
Are you also interested in finding out about the Kickbox programme and how to ingrain intrapreneurship in your company? Swisscom is offering additional KickboxAcademy workshops at the start of 2019. Further information is available at www.getkickbox.com.
If you would like to find out more about the programme and the platform, we are holding the following (free) workshops:
Click here to sign up.
The concept was originally developed by Adobe, who used it to create an internal innovation platform, with the aim of encouraging employees to develop and test their own ideas. Swisscom has now developed a programme that enables Swisscom employees to independently realise their own ideas.
More on the topic