Innovation Management

Corporate hacking: when intrapreneurs shake up the status quo

7 May 2018

Corporate hacking: when intrapreneurs shake up the status quo

The best ideas don’t always come from the top management. And that’s why companies have a vested interest in giving corporate hackers or budding intrapreneurs the freedom to do their own thing: it could very well be their personal initiatives that become the next big product or process. 

What if we did things differently? For corporate hackers, this isn’t just a question, but a lifestyle. The term refers to employees who aren’t scared to take risks when they believe that their way is better, even if they don’t have management’s backing. Evidently, it doesn’t always go to plan. But, sometimes it does, and they actually identify a fault or area for improvement that no one has spotted before.

Their contribution comes more often than that on a very micro level (optimising a process, changing a team’s structure), but can also have a long-term impact on the company’s operations at a much more macro level e.g. a fresh sales opportunity, diversification or new strategic partnerships. Some even go as far as completely transforming the company from top to bottom.

In a world where everyone’s main worry is transformation, shouldn’t we be encouraging the willingness and drive of corporate hackers? Overwhelmed by this wave of the enthusiasm for startups, incubators and open innovation competitions, we must not forget that good ideas can also come from within.

Identifying the corporate hacker or intrapreneur

Literally speaking, the corporate hacker is someone who changes the business’s internal procedures to suit their desires or needs. They are the type of person willing to challenge the current processes or organisational structure in order to save time or improve operational efficiency. The corporate hacker will, for example, build themselves a tool to perform one of their duties for them or to bridge the gap between two silos to gather the information they need. If such an initiative proves to be more efficient, then it could save the company money.

Others use their ingenuity to redesign the company’s products or services, sometimes even taking over an entire part of the business. Such employees are more appropriately called intrapreneurs, who are likely to create a whole new project from A to Z, in the dark, before presenting it to upper management.

Managing these free radicals can certainly be difficult, especially when it comes to separating the good suggestions from the bad…but that’s the game!

A move towards performance hacking?

You must also consider how you can use performance hacking to channel these hackers and structure the projects so that they benefit the entire company. On one hand, they must be given the liberty to do what they want and experiment. On the other, you must measure the effectiveness of these various experiments, ensuring the successes are shared and the failures aren’t repeated.

Depending on the initial structure, adopting this performance hacking approach could require some major adjustments: for example, you may need to reshuffle your internal structure, allocate a budget, bend a few non-critical rules or procedures and be more willing to take risks.

Yet, the rewards largely outweigh the risks. In the short term, the company will optimise its operations, to the delight of many. And in the long term, it will help promote a genuine culture of innovation and performance throughout the workforce, hackers or otherwise.

The editorial team offers you articles about Data Science, AI, IoT and many other digital topics, all made by Sopra Steria, European leader in digital transformation.
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