The Institute - March 2018 - 8


Innovative companies encourage employees to
pursue promising ideas B Y M O N I C A R O Z E N F E L D



many of the same traits as
entrepreneurs: They're creative
problem-solvers who take risks.
That's why some who have an entrepreneurial bent are turning to intrapreneurship, using the built-in financial
resources and staff from the company
they work for to develop a new product
or service without the risks of going it
alone. The key difference is that their
project will benefit their employer.
Some companies have established
a culture in which employees are
encouraged to innovate beyond their
job descriptions during the workday,
but others require employees to step
up and pitch their ideas to upper
management to get support.

Companies such as Facebook, Google,
and 3M encourage employees to pursue their ideas. They might offer a variety of opportunities such as letting
employees devote 20 percent of work
hours to side projects. Others incubate
workers' projects full time.
Barbara Marder, a
senior partner at Mercer
in New York City, says she
believes the key ingredient
in a company's success
is a culture of innovation. Mercer presented its
intrapreneurship model
at the IEEE Women in
Engineering International
Leadership Conference
(WIE ILC). Marder runs
the human resources
consulting company's
three innovation hubs,
where employees focus on
developing new products
and services, many of
which involve technological applications.
All of Mercer's
22,000 employees are
encouraged to participate
and pitch their ideas.
"Innovation is everyone's


responsibility," Marder says. "While we
can't have everyone off innovating and
not doing their day jobs, we try to take
risk off the table for those who want
to try out an idea that would help the
One product launched last year
from an innovation hub is Mercer
Match, powered by Pymetrics, a startup
in New York City. Job seekers play
12 neuroscience games that uncover
their social and emotional traits. Their
profile, based on those traits, is matched
with appropriate job opportunities.
Software company SAP, headquartered in Walldorf, Germany,
created its iO business unit to pursue
breakthrough software ventures using
the company's assets-including its
data and its application programming
interfaces-in an open innovation
model. SAP.iO's Venture Studio allows
entrepreneurial-minded employees to pursue independent startups
as intrapreneurs. SAP encourages
all employees from its more than
130 global offices to submit proposals

will fail. That's why we're taking a
venture capital approach."
But if SAP.iO continues to make
enough careful, small investments,
Krug says, he is sure one will have
unicorn potential.

Not all companies have an intrapreneurship program, but that doesn't
stop some employees from taking it
upon themselves to innovate. IEEE
Member Shraddha Chaplot worked
for nine years as a systems engineer
at a well-known technology company
in Silicon Valley. She spoke about
being an intrapreneur at the WIE ILC
and at IEEE N3XT, a forum for engineers who are budding entrepreneurs.
Chaplot defines intrapreneurship as employees contributing to a
company beyond title, team, or budget.
"I made things happen by seeking and
creating my own opportunities, building them out in my spare time, and
convincing those I needed to support
me for help, all in addition to my regular job," she says.
One of her biggest accomplishments happened while she was on
a team working to make technology
more accessible to people with disabilities. She took it upon herself to
advocate for a university to receive a
$100,000 research grant offered by
her employer. With that grant, the
university tested a videoconferencing system for people who are deaf
or hard of hearing. After that success,
her manager allotted
time for her to create
another system for the
university to do further
If you want to be an
intrapreneur, it helps if
you're in a supportive
environment, Chaplot
notes. "Unless a new role
is created for you, most
companies are not going
to let you wander off and
experiment with something new," she says. "They
need measurable results."
Although many
people have nurtured
her ideas over the years,
others stifled them. If you
have an intrapreneurial
spirit and you find your
ideas are being ignored
or stolen, find another
employer as soon as possible, she says. ◆


Betting on

for new ventures that can simplify and
transform how businesses operate.
The only catch is the idea must have
the potential to make a huge profit.
With an annual revenue of more
than US $23 billion in 2016, SAP is
looking for its iO unit to generate bold
ideas that can bolster its bottom line,
according to Marcus Krug, head of
the unit's intrapreneurship team. The
team reviews hundreds of proposals
each year to find the ones that are
most likely to move the needle.
SAP.iO gives selected intrapreneurs
capital to pursue their venture as an
internal startup. The seed funding
allows teams to prove that a market
exists for their new venture and that
they can successfully tackle it. In
the process, teams take end-to-end
responsibility for their project, from
product design and development to
sales and financials. Advisory boards
composed of senior executives provide oversight and guidance.
Since its start in 2016, SAP.iO's
Venture Studio has made six seed
investments, providing intrapreneurs
with the money they need to get the
business off the ground. The studio's
most successful venture to date is
Atlas, a geospatial data analytics
product that provides a simplified
platform to help companies make
better decisions.
"We have audacious goals for
SAP.iO," Krug says. "We understand
that what we do carries high risk and
that many of these new ventures

http://www.SAP.iO http://www.SAP.iO

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