In IVA´s Entrepreneurship Academy’s webinar series “Let’s talk intrapreneurship” Swedish innovation leaders share their experiences and thoughts on intrapreneurship.
Erik Ekudden was the guest for the first conversation. In his role as Group Chief Technology Officer at Eriksson, he works with the company’s leading customers around the world, as well as with all actors in the ecosystem, such as universities, startups, partners and venture capitalists.
Intrapreneurship is nothing new at Ericsson, although the company may not always have described what they’ve been doing using that term. Simply put, intrapreneurship is about encouraging and embracing innovation and renewal within the company. Bluetooth technology, which was invented by a small Ericsson team at the end of the 1990s and is now used in updated versions all around the world, is one of many examples.
“Of course, not all intrapreneurial ideas have the same potential as Bluetooth technology, but with the right processes in place, ideas, prototypes and business plans can be tested and evaluated,” says Ekudden.
He believes it’s important to always keep working on product portfolio development. Every five or ten years the company needs to reinvent and create entirely new products based on developments at the time. This is especially true for companies in the fast-moving technology industry.
Strategies for successful intrapreneurship according to Ekudden
- Create space and allow the ideas to flow. For intrapreneurship to work, teams need the right conditions – and above all time. If a team is fully loaded working on production and support for existing products there is no space for creativity. The best way is therefore to release the team from other tasks.
- There has to be willingness within the company to encourage intrapreneurship and to have leaders who consider it important. Then the managers need to stay out of the way so that employees have the space they need to work on their ideas. But it’s also important to provide a structure that connects the ideas with decision-making and financing.
- An open-minded climate is vital so that innovations can grow. It’s important to encourage various activities and collaboration within the company. A good strategy is also to work in cooperation with startups and entrepreneurs outside the company.
- Having a structure for how the company sorts through various ideas is important. A formal evaluation process is a good tool.
- Access to financing and the right people to drive the process is essential. If a company doesn’t have the resources, one possible solution is to join various types of networks, both in Sweden and globally.
How can I become an intrapreneur?
“First and foremost it’s important to choose a workplace that has an open-minded culture. Then you need to be open and curious yourself, and present ideas that can be bounced around internally. The type of idea depends on which role the employee has in the company, but if they have potential they can always be picked up by management,” says Ekudden.
All content in this text is based on Erik Ekudden’s responses during the webinar “Let’s talk intrapreneurship #1", which was streamed on 26 August 2021. You can watch the full conversation above.