Major projects sometimes begin with the smallest seed of an idea. But how do you recognise whether such an idea has the potential to become something great? And what methods can be applied to sound out whether an idea can be turned into a business model? Suitable programmes already exist in the form of the Hackathon and creative workshops such as “Design Thinking“. With the Intrapreneur Starter Box, however, DB Systel and DB Training are adopting a different approach: together they have developed a toolbox for ideas.
It’s not about employees using their own ideas to set up a business. Instead, the Starter Box should enable them to think in the same way as if they were establishing their own company. Hence the term “intrapreneur”, an amalgamation of “intra-corporate” and “entrepreneurship”, which serves to describe the entrepreneurial behaviour of employees within the company. They should act as if they were themselves entrepreneurs. And for good reason: through greater awareness of responsibility and independent action, collaborative thought and the active creativity of each individual, the flexibility of the entire company increases at the same time.
Flexibility in times of digitalisation
This is essential, particularly in times of digitalisation, which is presenting enormous challenges to both companies and their employees. Ideas and business models are needed at an ever faster pace to convince customers and stakeholders that the company can keep up with the times. Processes within the company have to be aligned with these new requirements. “The bulk of ideas generated today are primarily digital”, says Peggy Karstedt from DB Systel. She developed the box jointly with Heidi Wegner from DB Training and says: “We were driven by the question of how we can enable employees to implement their own ideas.”
“Employees have many ideas”, adds Heidi Wegner from DB Training. “But sometimes they’re unsure of how these ideas can be taken to the next stage.” Who can help? Where can you find the right network? It’s precisely these questions that the Box addresses to help these colleagues along the way. But even if they’re lacking their own ideas, the Box helps interested employees to develop and advance them. The Intrapreneur Starter Box is a modular innovation programme. This box provides employees with all the tools they need on their personal journey towards their own innovative breakthrough. They’re guided step by step to come up with something wonderful and experiment with it for as long as it takes to extract and validate the customer benefit. The cardboard box contains everything that intrapreneurs need, starting with sticky notes, pens and DIN A0 templates for the Business Model Canvas, Value Proposition Canvas, Skydeck Innovation Canvas and Experiment-Loop-Map methods, which are used for working specifically on their own project. The inside of the lid contains contact details of four colleagues who act as mentors. But above all, the box contains special exercises that help to refine the ideas step by step. The starter box is created based on a six-stage concept.
The six stages to becoming an intrapreneur
1. The beginning
It starts with the question of what drives an intrapreneur. In particular, participants get to know a few typical characteristics of entrepreneurs – and how one can awaken and develop these characteristics.
2. Finding ideas
Sometimes, the bare bones of an idea may already exist, while at other times, there’s a need to find a suitable new idea. What course participants discover in this phase is how this works.
3. Substantiating ideas
Needless to say, it’s not enough just to sketch out an idea. In this phase, participants elaborate their idea in more detail and develop business models.
This phase reveals whether and how the business idea can be implemented so that it can be tried out in defined test environments.
Participants receive assistance at this stage in preparing their ideas so that others can understand the meaning behind it.
In the final phase, intrapreneurs learn about the next steps they need to take to successfully promote their business idea among the right decision makers.
These six stages help intrapreneurs to develop their ideas further. As on a routing slip, there are small checkboxes for each stage, which have to be ticked off before the next stage can be reached. One such task might be to make an appointment with the boss and discuss the next goals, or simply to meet for a cup of coffee with a colleague you don’t know very well, to discuss the idea. So besides professional and methodological guidance, social skills are also conveyed.
With this system, intrapreneurs are accompanied at every stage of their idea.
After all, our box was created iteratively, exactly according to this six-stage concept. “We have oriented ourselves towards Kickbox from Adobe, whose concept inspired us”, explains Karstedt in regard to the development process. The concept was adapted for DB Systel in an internal workshop. Peggy Karstedt and Heidi Wegner purchased the materials from local stores. “The prototype box cost us about 75 euros in terms of materials and construction”, reveals Karstedt. “But only because we did all the sticking, labelling and assembling ourselves.”
The Box is making an impact
Employees who would like to have an Intrapreneur Starter Box must first attend a workshop, at which the stage concept is explained to them on the basis of sample tasks. So far, four of these workshops have been held at the Erfurt and Frankfurt locations, following which about 50 boxes were handed out to employees. With the idea of increasing efficiency within the DB Group by means of microjobs, one participant has managed to reach the final stage and thus the Acceleration Programme of the DB Systel Skydeck.
After all, we’re much stronger together than alone.
For Peggy Karstedt, this is a great result: “I would put the success of the Intrapreneur Starter Box down to the quality of the results rather than the quantity. Just look at Adobe: It handed out a 1000 boxes over 3 years, from which 23 ideas became products.” It’s no wonder that this training concept is also arousing interest outside of DB Systel. At the next two workshop dates in Frankfurt (26 April 2017) and Berlin (13 September 2017), employees from the entire Group will be addressed on a wider scale for the first time. The Workshop for the Intrapreneur Starter Box can be booked through your local HR representative or at DB Training.
The development of the Starter Box itself is the best advertisement for the approach, since it’s proof of how an idea can be developed into a successful concept. And it also demonstrates the advantages of collaboration between DB Training and DB Systel. “It’s an excellent example of successful innovation management. We’re working together closely in this field and have already developed a range of initiatives. After all, we’re much stronger together than alone”, says Heidi Wegner, adding: “This will certainly not be our last joint project!”