Intrapreneurship by Factory WeekIntrapreneurship vs. Entrepreneurship

If you look hard enough, you’ll find intrapreneurship right where the comfort and resources of a corporation meet the innovation and empowerment of entrepreneurship. Intrapreneurship is essentially corporate innovation that results in a profitable final product. In companies that practice intrepreneurship, ambitious and assertive team members can work on their own projects in their favorite intrapreneurial teams.

Small Box, a Midwest web firm based in the hip Broad Ripple area of Indianapolis, infuses their team with the startup spirit twice a year for a product innovation period they call Factory Week.

This past week was the team’s second annual Factory Week, when Small Box-ers put on their intrapreneur hats for five full days to develop the product ideas that most inspired them. The passion of the fifteen team members pulsed through the entire off-site workspace. This year’s Factory Week was held at the recently opened Speak Easy co-working space for startups (this video really showcases the unique energy of the venue). Read on after watching to learn how to implement intrepreneurship at your company:

New Product Innovation Fueled By Culture

Talk to any Factory Week participant and you’ll experience the entrepreneurial energy—the kind that proactively solves problems and identifies opportunities—pumping through their veins. This isn’t a norm for people working at the average web design agency. So, how does Factory Week fuel this competitive edge on new product innovation?

By dedicating a week to working on personal project concepts, members of the Small Box team diligently track and record their business ideas. That means that the company is in a constant state of brainstorm that ebbs and flows as they collaborate on client projects through the year. Ideas aren’t trashed or ignored, because Small Box-ers know that there’s a dedicated time when those creative sparks could ignite something into existence.

Year-round communication is essential as people find themselves working in new teams and leading their own projects. Anyone at Small Box can (and is encouraged to) lead new product innovation on their own project during Factory Week.

“It helps us develop and identify leadership ability,” said Small Box CEO, Jeb Banner. “It also helps each person develop their project management skills. Everyone on a team should be able to track and manage progress.”

In leading and managing projects, intrapreneurial individuals develop higher levels of personal accountability. As they hit deadlines and release new products, team members benefit from confidence boosts that bring the team to higher levels of performance. Product innovation just doesn’t happen without product development.

Product Development Process: Practice What You Preach

Product Development Process
Photo by the Factory Week team

Can you fully understand product development and the product development process if you don’t sit on both sides of the table?

During Factory Week, Small Box team members walk a mile in the shoes of their everyday clientele. Businesses always benefit from viewing things from new perspectives, and for Small Box, that means building functional, profitable products by using a streamlined product development process.

Factory Week projects are prepped during the months leading up to the five-day work sprint. The Small Box team voices ideas during their weekly all-hands lunches and they use project management software to create threads for keeping the discussion going online. Projects and ideas are curated through a democratic voting system, then planned and scheduled.

After working through intrapreneurship projects, intrapreneurial team members often contribute new skills and product development processes back to the main business. With fresh perspectives and a new environment, it becomes easier to work on processes rather than the constant state of working in the processes.

The overall business grows in both the core business and in their new areas of opportunities (which are often blue oceans). And clients benefit by having a more experienced and empathetic team building their products.

Small Box looks to open their next Factory Week so a few other companies can participate in their intrepreneurship process. As the team gets more innovation weeks under their belt, they hope to spread the Factory Week system to other business, cities, and industries. Pretty cool, huh?

What intrapreneurial strategies have you tried?

Update: Learn about more intrapreneurship examples in this interview with Eric Tobias, founder of Scribblr, a 2-day product innovation.