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A newsletter that just appeared on the EMC web site [1] once again raises the intriguing concept of intrapreneurship.  Can you really be an entrepreneur inside a large company?  Can you have an "enterprise" within the enterprise?


I think the answer is a strong yes.  A large company is basically its own market for creating and advancing ideas.  In last year's Innovation Conference, more than 700 employees offered one or more ideas, and 3000 voted on them.  The ideas ultimately were "sold" to a panel of business unit CTOs and R&D center executives who acted as VCs and decided which ideas to invest in. 


Politicians spend a lot of time thinking about how to encourage entrepreneurship and investment in a region or technology space.  Executives do the same for intrapreneurship -- but have much more influence on the outcome. 


The Innovation Conference is one example of EMC's investment along these lines -- a way to create a market for ideas.  EMC Research Cambridge, which Rob Masson describes in the newsletter, is another way of encouraging ideas by connecting employees with the university research community. 


Steve Todd, also mentioned in the newsletter, is a classic example of an intrapreneur who  thrives in this environment.  He's been a top contributor to the conference and is also a driver of university research collaborations.  Steve makes the most of the investments in the internal "market" to move good ideas through the ecosystem.


The ideas and the inventors are already there -- it's just a matter of making the path to intrapreneurship a little easier.


__ Burt


[1] Intrapreneurial Intent:  A Newsletter for Innovators at Large Companies.  EMC, April 2010.

Here is a repost from my blog site:


I recently read a book written by a coworker, Steve Todd, Innovate with Influence.  The book tells the story of Steve’s career, the storage industry from RAID to XAM and gives some good lessons about influence and innovation.  Steve talks about how he has created innovative products through connecting adjacent areas of expertise and knowledge – what he calls Venn Diagram Innovation (and Venn diagrams are just the coolest).  This topic resonates strongly with me on how when you make connections both internally in a company (breaking out of the “silos of excellence”) and to external communities.


Inside a large corporation, it becomes very easy to always interact with the same people.  Connecting with people outside of your work area will not only expand your knowledge, but helps to bring you fresh perspectives.  In the online community, there is also the opportunity to span between different groups of people.  Whether you are talking about blogs, Facebook or Twitter, it can be very interesting when you span multiple interests.  My primary technology focus is storage and virtualization, but I learn a lot from the innovation and social media communities.  There are often unexpected overlaps between the various groups and lessons that can be learned from all of the groups that can be applied across the board.  While it’s true that if you want to be the “expert” in a certain field that staying focused on a specific topic can help build your brand, most people wear more than one hat and you shouldn’t be afraid to post and engage on more than one topic.  What I have also found, is that if you are really willing to engage, that it is still easy to converse with real thought leaders that are online.  If you become part of the 1% of the internet that is contributing on a certain area, you can become well known on the subject and get to know others who are driving thought leadership.


I’d recommend picking up a copy of Steve’s book (Disclaimer: Steve is a friend a colleague, but I bought my copy and was not asked to write this post).  For some background on other business books that I’ve enjoyed, see my post Read this or fail to communicate from last year.  I’m always interested in hearing of good business books, I like storytellers with some applicable lessons, please comment on anything that you’d recommend.

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