HOW ORANGE IS FOSTERING INTRAPRENEURSHIP

Entrepreneurship and employee empowerment have proven to be a winning combination when it comes to innovations within big corporations. At Orange, the European leader in telecommunications, the idea of starting a program for intrapreneurs was seeded in the Spring of 2016 and officially took off at early 2017.

Nicolas Bry, Chief Innovation Officer (CIO) at Orange Vallée, an agile entity within Orange Innovation, puts together an insightful testimonial of how the program was executed. The lessons learnt in this journey are valuable for other companies desiring to foster innovation and creativity.

The complete and original article can be found on Nicolas Bry ‘s personal blog.

Value Proposition

In the Intrapreneurs’ Studio employees with a powerful creative idea have the opportunity to go deeper and incubate their project to transform their idea into an offering. The goal is to enrich Orange’s portfolio.

Employees are keen on achieving their product with passion and undefectible will, but are sometimes missing 3 levers:

  1. legitimacy: they are not in the appropriate department to develop the idea;
  2. methodologies: business model canvas and lean startup are still fuzzy for them;
  3. and networking: they don’t have connections all over the company, and sometimes they don’t feel alllowed to develop them.

Defining the Intrapreneur Program

We were convinced that a successful intrapreneur is a combination of an attractive idea and a committed character. The program was then splited into 2 phases:

  • Qualification: a three weeks program dedicated to teach innovation practice and to work on intrapreneurs’ projects.

  • Incubation: the intrapreneur would be fully allocated to his project at this time. This period could last 6 to 18 months. The intrapreneur suggests his own milestones depending on the project specificities.

Testing MVP

We conducted a series of benchmark meetings with other intrapreneur programs’ managers to test and enrich a preliminary agenda. Here are some quotes on what was shared:

  • Intrapreneurship is the individual right to innovate for any employee;
  • Intrapreneurship is an ecosystem that supplies the intrapreneur with energy;
  • Intrapreneurs Studio is a tunnel of goodness which protects the intrapreneur.

Go Live with David Bowie Class

We started our first season, the Intrapreneurs Studio pilot, in January. We opened the program to all employees working in France (Orange France, Orange Business Serices, Orange Innovation, Orange Headquarters).

From 50 projects received, we selected 11. The authors of the projects selected followed a 3 weeks’ qualification training. They pitched their ideas on February 1st.

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Three intrapreneurs were selected to develop their idea in the Incubation phase: a next-gen video communication service, a 4G connected sensor to locate daily objects, and a new distribution channel between Orange salesforce and small-business IT suppliers. In March they started to structure their team and work on their next MVPs.

With great satisfaction we created a team-spirit across this first range of 11 intrapreneurs in the qualification phase. According to them, at Orange, an intrapeneur is someone who may hack the rules, but in the spirit of the rules.

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Lessons learned and next steps

While the program is still in ongoing deployment, 3 lessons appear clearly already:

  • Intrapreneurship is both about innovation techniques and human development. 
  • It has a transformative impact on employees. It’s not someone from outside who’s pitching his venture on stage, it’s my colleague that I take coffee with everyday. Intrapreneurship unfolds opportunities for every employee, within his department or in the Intrapreneurs Studio;
  • Hands-on sessions, where intrapreneurs directly apply the concepts of Business Model Canvas and Lean Startup on their projects, had the most profitable impact during the Qualification phase. We will focus on it for the next Qualification season in November. We will also give the intrapreneurs some time to build their MVPs during the 3 weeks timeline (assuming a MVP is not necessarily a prototype, but can be much simpler, i.e a homepage with a call to action).

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The next season of the Intrapreneurs Studio in Autum is setting the bar high as the program will go international with 2 pilot countries from Europe and Africa. No doubt that these next steps will bring additional fruitful and surprising learnings!

What do you think about Intrapreneur and its application at your organization? Share your perspectives on comments!

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