No Budget, No Time? Innovating Within Constraints

Expert: David HicksCurator: Janett Egber

Explorer and teacher of culture and leadership at the edge of the emerging future. Working with companies and their people to prepare them for exponential transformation.

01 // How do you build momentum when there are no resources or budget available?

02 // Can one ask intrapreneurs to work on projects on their own time?

03 // Any examples of outcomes achieved that didn't require specific budget or resources?

04 // If we were having this conversation in 3 years time, what do you think would be different then?

// Summary

In theory, large companies can deploy abundant resources to drive innovation.

But if there is no budget or time allocated for innovation, how can intrapreneurs start to build momentum? In conversation with Janett Egber, David Hicks explains how balancing ambition with constraints can actually fuel innovation effectively, without being hamstrung by a lack of funding.

Build momentum before burning money

It’s tempting to tackle the biggest problem right off the bat, but without funding that’s a non-starter. Starting small is always possible, and often costs nothing.

1. Dare to be different: Get good at running workshops, not meetings. You’ll be signalling that you’re doing something other than business-as-usual.

2. Break the isolation: Start sharing your own (compelling, not Powerpoint) intrapreneurship story and ideas right now, with anyone who’ll listen.

3. Leverage your network: Begin to recruit a coalition of like-minded individuals and healthy skeptics (and their respective networks) with a diversity of energy, perspective, skills and experience.

Answer the big “Why” with questions

Once you’ve assembled your coalition, demonstrate your understanding of your firm’s current constraints and limitations. From there, rather than approaching leadership with a list of stated reasons for funding, offer leadership a series of nested propelling questions that communicate:
a) How your innovative ideas align with the overall business strategy, and
b) How you’re turning constraints into fuel for innovation.

Do it on your own time and dime?

David asks: Why would you inform an intrinsically motivated innovator that their passion project has a dollar value of zero? It’s demotivating, it might not even be legal and, if their project succeeds, you probably won’t own the resulting solution.

A determined intrapreneur should consider an ask for free work as a test of commitment and an offer like any other. In turn, they can re-formulate their request for resources with an improved business case.

Trim the fat

Like most results-oriented individuals, intrapreneurs tend to abhor waste. Once you’ve clarified the big “Why,” you can:
– Pinpoint what you can stop doing
– Remove agenda items and projects that don’t add value
– Free up people’s time and energy by eliminating needless meetings and bureaucracy
Then, instead of requesting new money, you can address senior leadership with compelling reasons to reallocate existing resources liberated by your efficiency.

Tackle tomorrow

The search for top talent is evolving, and global recruiters like Egon Zehnder are no longer seeking performers but rather transformers. David points to four interlocking qualities that he believes are essential for driving success in the future:

  • Motivation: By definition, intrapreneurs are intrinsically motivated to make a difference
  • Curiosity: Actively seeking out new ideas, experience and knowledge, willing to change your mind
  • Insight: Gathering and making sense of a vast range of information, both conceptual and concrete, in search of new directions
  • Engagement: Engaging on both a logical and emotional level with other individuals or groups, being interesting and educating people while persuasively communicating your vision.

“Rather than trying to ‘think outside the box,’ try to grow the size of the box instead.”

A constraint with added value

American personal-care giant Kimberly-Clark has mastered the art of using self-imposed constraints to deliver innovation. For example, by encouraging the sharing of agendas and assets both in and out of the business, they can partner with a supplier on product delivery in order to add value and cut costs.