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Integrating the advantages of large organizations and startups – for product managers
Today we are talking about how your organization can more effectively innovate, using precious resources wisely to create new value. We may not talk about your organization by name, but what we will learn together will certainly apply and help you.
Joining us is Kapil Kane, the Director of Innovation for Intel China. He is also the founder of GrowthX, a corporate startup accelerator. His experiences have helped him integrate the advantages of large organizations, like Intel, with the scrappiness and agility of startups, and we get to benefit from the insights he’ll share with us.
Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers
[1:38] What does your role involve as the Director of Innovation for Intel China?
I have three main goals: create and orchestrate one innovation strategy for Intel China, grow and transform our talent and get them skilled in the methodologies of innovation, and bring bottom-up innovation ideas from our employees into the pipeline. Ultimately we want to deliver business growth and people growth.
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[4:18] How does GrowthX fit into your work?
Intel lets our employees have free time to work on their ideas. In the past, we saw many amazing innovations created across China, but we couldn’t get those innovations to land in the market and get commercialized. We wanted to close this gap. We came across startup accelerators that help startups by providing business coaching, lean startup methodologies, and mentors. We decided to create such an accelerator inside Intel, which became GrowthX. We start with a technical proof-of-concept and build and validate a business case through a cohort approach, in which we pick five to six teams and twice a year do 16 weeks of acceleration with eight different sprints, each focusing on different aspect of business.
[8:29] What are some practical ways existing organizations can more effectively embrace innovation? What have you seen work, and what should we avoid?
Initially we tried to create a centralized innovation center in charge of all innovation initiatives. It didn’t work because the people who created the initiatives didn’t want to lose control of their ideas. Now, different groups do their own ideation activities like hackathons, but we also have some activities for everyone. This year, we’re organizing a giant hackathon for all employees.
You need to provide avenues to carry on ideas. Don’t just give someone a certificate after a hackathon and then not let their idea go anywhere. We have programs that give seed funding to ideas from hackathons and self-ideation.
We tried accelerating innovation by simply funding ideas that have been incubated and having biweekly checkups to see the progress and guide our employees. We soon realized we needed to bring in more business coaching and methodologies. We brought in external coaches who taught our employees frameworks.
We wanted our employees to feel they’re the founders of their ideas. We brought GrowthX outside of Intel and started operating our accelerator out of a coworking space to get innovators to think and act like real entrepreneurs and be completely responsible for moving their ideas forward. For the last four years, once a week all our innovators meet at the accelerator, and the rest of the week they have their day jobs.
This year we’re creating the GrowthX Academy, an online platform where any employee can study innovation tools at their own pace, anytime, anywhere. They end up with a business case they can bring to the next level of the program.
[16:51] How do employees balance working on their new ideas and working their day jobs?
An idea can get an initial seed fund of $5-10 thousand. We allow employees to spend 10-15% of their time developing their idea. They can use the money to hire interns or buy software or anything else they need. They also get technical mentorship from senior tech leaders during incubation. After that, larger projects can get $100-200 thousand, which they can use to hire interns and contract workers who will build their idea. During incubation, employees still work their day jobs.
During acceleration, we require employees to spend one full day per week in the accelerator. Again, they can spend funding on interns, contractors, software, etc.
Four years ago when we started GrowthX, managers questioned letting their employees spend one day a week on ideas they initiated. Now, managers encourage their employees to join GrowthX. The ideas employees are coming up with must be related to their business unit, and many are customer-inspired, so managers are seeing the value in developing ideas that have strategic alignment with Intel’s goals.
[20:23] How do you run GrowthX like a startup?
We are very much part of Intel, but we run our accelerator activities at a location physically outside of Intel to force our innovators to spend time outside their day jobs and completely devote their time to advancing their business ideas.
[23:59] How do other approaches for increasing innovation capacity, such as Moonshot projects, fit into innovation?
There are three kinds of innovation:
- Sustainable innovation is iterating on a product from one cycle to the next. This is sustainable because you know the product and the market—you’re just making it better.
- Adjacent innovation is taking an existing product and finding a new application for it in an adjacent market or a different market segment.
- Breakthrough innovation or moonshots are finding new growth areas to do things you’ve never done before.
In a complete innovation strategy, you need all three kinds of innovation.
You also need to balance outside-in and inside-out innovation. Outside-in is bringing ideas from outside into your organization, and inside-out is landing ideas from inside your organization outside.
Action Guide: Put the information Kapil shared into action now. Click here to download the Action Guide.
- Learn more about GrowthX
- Watch Kapil’s TED Talk about Intrapreneurship
- Connect with Kapil on LinkedIn
“The ingredient we start with is sand. Everything else is value added by people.” – Andy Bryant, former Chairman of the Board of Intel
Thank you for taking the journey to product mastery and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it using the social media buttons you see below.