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6 Top Tips To Set Up The Structure For Successful Execution Of Innovation

In last week’s article I shared some of the biggest hurdles that you tend to face with a disruptive innovation project, and how you can overcome them. In this article I will share recommendations on how you successfully set up a favourable structure around these projects.

Here are my six best tips to succeed!

1. Avoid the last-in-line pitfall

people queuing in a line

My experience says that big companies sometimes want both their cake and to eat it. Therefore, the expectation is often that the intrapreneur should create magic with no extra resources. They should just use resources here and there from different departments and then run with it – fast and agile!

Well it will not work that way since the company’s priorities will always be: The Core Business, which it should be. Hence all staff and teams at these departments are 100% focused on meeting the goals of the core business. Which means that they have no room for your project, or any incentive to help you. For the innovation project and the intrapreneurs, this means that they will spend most of their time waiting in line to get support from legal, logistics, business intelligence, finance etc.

When this happens, it is really hard to be an agile start-up. It is simply impossible to be dependent on people and departments who have no time to help you. Charm alone will only get you so far. It is also complicated and time consuming to get help from different people every time. Therefore, my advice is that you organise your departments to also handle innovation projects. Each project should have one dedicated person appointed to that specific project. This person should also have a small percentage of his/her bonus goals dedicated to the success of the project.

2. All vital skills around the table

Another important success factor is to create an independent team with the most crucial competences 100% dedicated to the project. Then the project will not be dependent on anyone else’s agenda or priorities that can be derisive when working under a tight time plan.

3. Outside perspective

person looking out of a window

Try to recruit approx. 30-40% of the team from outside the company. Even if the corporation has a diverse set of employees, the majority are still corporate animals. Do not fall into the pitfall of internal candidates who are presented as “creative”, ”crazy” or ”fun”. This has never been a core competence needed in startups or innovation projects.

I also strongly recommend that you have an external board, or at least advisory board, “situated” outside the corporation. This is to ensure that the best interest of the project are put first but also to secure support from the right competences.

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4. Reward structures

Reward structures at a large company are usually not working in an innovation projects favour. It can in fact work against it. This is simply because it is based on the fact that people are supposed to do what they are told. You follow your job description, do what your boss tells you and you will get your bonus and then maybe a promotion. Now this is quite counterproductive if you need people to challenge norms and outdated truths and find new solutions to old problems.

You have to sit down with HR to find a different structure to reward and retain the intrapreneurs. One way could be to only reward them based on the joint success of the project.

5. Budgets

map of the world

There needs to be long term commitment and the company needs to stick to the investment plan and see themselves as long term investors when it comes to innovation.

I also recommend that there is one part of the budget that is centrally funded. This will protect the project from local budget cuts or change of local management and direction. Also, the result of the project should not be treated as part of the company’s overall P&L too early. This could force the wrong decisions and prevent the start-up from changing direction if needed. See it as ‘gambling money’ for the first years!

6. Playbook

You need to put it all down in a playbook! …and this needs to be put in place before the project starts.

Imagine you were to play a game you had never heard of. You would have a lot of questions, right? Think the same way when setting up the project playbook. What game are we playing? What does a win look like? Who is the referee? Who is in the game? Who else can interfere? Who cannot? How do you score? What is allowed and what is not? The Playbook is a document where all the structures and “rules” around the project are outlined. It is also where the prerequisites around the funding should be outlined.

If you manage to get these 6 things into place before you kick off your innovation project, you have the best possible prerequisites to succeed.

Good luck!


A very readable book about the complexity of disruptive business development within an existing business. It gives guidance around the complicated questions you need answers to in advance, like cannibalization on the existing business, how to practically deal with independence, financing and a lot more.

Louise Sander,
VD Handelsbanken Liv

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