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Intrapreneurship: Innovating within Large Companies

Shayaan October 15, 2020

Sami Kizilbash, Co-Founder of Google’s Global Indie Games Accelerator and Developer Space, spoke at 021Disrupt 2019, where he shared important tips and tricks on how to get approval for your ideas, budget and resources within large enterprises.

So if you’re working in a big enterprise and you want to learn how to get your big idea off the ground within that company, then this blog might be for you.

This, off course, comes with a disclaimer from the speaker himself. If these tips and tricks get you fired, or don’t work out as well as you’d hoped, then please don’t blame Sami, or The Nest i/o. We’re only trying to help!

Well then, let’s get down to it. What’s on the agenda when you’re looking for ways to get turn your idea into something tangible?

Three main things:

  1. Getting that ‘Looks Good to Me’ go ahead
  2. Putting ideas into action
  3. Leaving legacies, dealing with failures

So how do you get that LGTM (Looks Good to Me)?

LGTM is when you get that coveted approval of your budget and resources, and your idea is given the green light. This is akin to an entrepreneurial startup when it gets its initial seed funding. But how do you get the LGTM approval?

There are a few important things to keep in mind when going after approval.

  • Find stakeholders that can help, external or internal, make the journey smoother for you. These stakeholders are people who are in a position to help you but who also support your idea.
  • In large companies, oftentimes you’ll find that someone else is also working the idea you’re pursing. When this happens, perspective is key. A software engineer with the same idea won’t be looking at it with the eyes of a marketing person, or a graphic designer. The solutions and impact might be different for all three, and you might find that there’s either enough of an overlap to combine your project, or so much difference that you can pursue the idea separately.
  • Make sure that you’re aware of the larger impact of your idea within your organization. Who is it helping, and who is it hurting? Will it make someone’s job easier or more difficult? Who are the people that hold the power to turn your idea down, and how can you work on persuading them beforehand? Sami refers to this practice as identifying stakeholders and politics, because within larger companies, it’s often the case that you must know the politics before causing any stirs.
  • Communication is key. Communication your idea so much and to so many people that it becomes something that’s not easy to forget in a hurry. A useful benefit of pitching that people might not be aware of is that it’s like sharing a draft of a paper for other people to edit. The more you pitch, the better your idea becomes. If your initial idea doesn’t evolve and grow into something better towards the end, then maybe you haven’t been taking people’s edits into account.
  • Remember to keep an open mind when it comes to suggestions.
  • Build a team that shares your vision. As the saying goes, ‘If you wanna go fast, go alone. If you wanna go far, go together.’
  • Your approvals have to come from everyone, whether it’s your own boss, your teammates’ bosses, or cross-department managers and stakeholders. You don’t want to have your idea shot down right at the end, so make sure that you know exactly who and how many peoples approvals you need to have locked down.
  • Timing matters. Most big enterprises run on a fiscal year, meaning budgets get allocated at the start of every year, so if you come up with a great idea in December but decide to pitch it in February, chances are that the funds will already be allocated to someone else.

Putting Ideas into Action

Sami relates a saying that is often used in Google for anyone starting a project.

‘Say what you’ll do, do what you’ll say, and say what you did.’

Basically,

  • Keep people up to date. Doesn’t matter how small or big their role is in the project, keep everyone up to date on how your project is going, how far you’ve come, and your future steps.
  • Deliver on your promises, or else don’t make them. This is especially important in large enterprises if you fail to deliver on your promise once, then stakeholders will be reluctant to trust you a second time.
  • Talking of stakeholders, keep all their different timelines in mind. Just because your team is done with all of their work doesn’t mean the project is done.
  • In big organizations, everyone has other deadlines and timelines that they’re following. You have to rely on everyone, especially your team, for the time they’re able to give, so it’s important to keep their other schedules in mind and navigate around them.
  • Overcommunicating is always better than undercommunicating. This is the same as pitching your idea non-stop. Give everyone involved regular updates so that no one is left wondering how your project is going, or if anyone’s even working on it.
  • Be smart and alter your communications according to the stakeholders, since a VP won’t want to know the same details as your web developers.
  • Establish a key spokesperson. It’s important that your idea is being represented by someone who is as passionate about it as you are.
  • Bring folks along for the ride. Whether it’s to help solve a problem or to participate in a celebration, your stakeholders should be part of the journey with you. Give them credit for your wins. Sharing credit goes a long way, and paves a path for your future projects and ideas to be given more than a cursory glance.

A rising tide lifts all boats, so be a rising tide.

On Legacies and Failures

  • Don’t get Founderitis. Know when to let go and move on. Give the reigns to someone who will treat your idea as well as you did, and teach yourself to get comfortable in the passenger seat.
  • And if things don’t work out, then know that failing is a great learning experience. Take the feedback and the lesson, and do it with grace and humility.

Founder Traits that Attract Capital