Why we’re launching Intrapreneur Academy

By Mandy Webber / Guest Opinion

One of the biggest misconceptions about innovation is that it’s something done by a lone genius. Some computer whiz comes up with an idea, usually in a basement or a garage, that ends up changing the world overnight. Their idea was so good that there was no way it couldn’t succeed.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Innovation takes work. At NewBoCo, we help people turn their ideas into reality. We’ve worked with hundreds of entrepreneurs, students and companies to give them the resources and training they need to become successfully innovative. Our research and experience working with these groups has uncovered four key components of high-performance, innovative organizations:

• Culture, people & leadership: Innovation demands that leaders empower their teams to try new ideas and create a culture where ideas are allowed to fail.
• Agile mindset: Innovation requires companies to have a mindset that demands experimentation and iteration.
• Process & methods: Innovative companies have methods and tools that let them innovate reliably across their entire organization.
• Strategy: Companies succeed when innovation is a core part of their organizational strategy, not just a buzzword used in meetings.

None of the components we found to be the most important for innovation were focused on the insight of one individual.

In order for innovation to be repeatable and sustainable, companies need to build a culture that embraces experimentation and rapid iteration. There are numerous resources to guide startups through this process, but the same resources don’t exist for established organizations that are larger and further along. Shifting a large organization’s strategy and mindset to be better able to capitalize on innovative new marketplace opportunities is a huge challenge that realistically takes years and continues indefinitely. It’s far easier for a startup to become innovative simply because it’s smaller and has fewer established practices.

That’s why we’re launching Intrapreneur Academy. Our academy is designed to help companies get a baseline pulse on where their efforts are today and how we can help them move the needle. We want local companies to thrive in the face of upcoming economic changes, and in order to do that, they need to learn how to be innovative.

Intrapreneur Academy is a year-long program where organizations can send a cross-functional team to go through in-depth training on the four competencies of innovative teams. Each quarter, participants will dive deep into a different competency with workshops, networking groups, tours and events. We’ll help teams make real and meaningful progress toward their innovation goals, and we’ll connect them to other forward-thinking organizations to explore best practices together.

We’ve started to spread the word about Intrapreneur Academy through a series of Sneak Peek events, and several local companies have already committed to joining our first cohort. So far, the organizations most interested in the academy have fewer than 100 employees, but we’re open to working with any group ready to make innovation a part of their organizational strategy.

We’re looking for five to eight more companies to join our inaugural cohort when we launch in the second quarter. If you think your organization would benefit from infusing innovation into your strategy, contact me at mandy@newbo.co. If we see enough interest, we’ll explore adding a second cohort in the fall.

Mandy Webber is director of innovation with NewBoCo, a Cedar Rapids-based nonprofit focused on innovation, entrepreneurship and education.