Innovation may be fueled by technology, but it’s driven by people.

David Hengartner helped spawn GETKICKBOX, a gamified innovation program that helps facilitate intrapreneurship, and he has seen first-hand how and why innovation is all about people.

GETKICKBOX takes a novel approach to innovation. It doesn’t only act as an incubation chamber for ideas; it helps innovators get funding, provides skills and training, and blends physical and digital strategies to gamify the innovation process for everyone involved.

At our recent online event Innov8rs Connect – Talent & Teams, David dived into the details of the GETKICKBOX program to share strategies, tools, and tips with organizations looking to drive intrapreneurship.

David Hengartner’s talk as recorded during Innov8rs Connect – Talent & Teams. Check the summaries from all talks in the event playbook. Free download via

How to Put People First in Your Intrapreneurship Program

The core of intrapreneurship is people, not ideas. Innovation requires the right people. Every large organization has a hidden think tank sitting within the cracks of its business structure. From C-level to interns, people with bright ideas live in all of those nooks and crannies between job titles and business units.

According to David, you shouldn’t go looking for them. Instead, you want to build the right systems that send them looking for you.

Be Enablers, Not Disablers

We all know that startups aren’t guaranteed wins. 95% of them fail. So, when organizations launch their innovation think tanks, lean teams, and all of those other innovation-spawned initiatives, it can be easy to get picky. You want the best innovations every time, right? Here’s the problem… Who’s to say that you know what the best innovations are?

According to David, one of the largest roadblocks to innovative success is H.I.P.P.Os. That’s the impact of the Highest Paid Person’s Opinion. If you only let ideas squeak through the door based on C-level agreement, you’re going to miss out on some great innovations.

David recommends enabling innovations by stepping back. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have clear expectations and ask the right questions, but you should be willing to give every innovation a chance. Best case scenario, you were wrong; it’s a success. Worst case scenario, you were right; the employee learns valuable design-thinking and lean skills. Either way, you’re not really losing.

Focus on the Innovator

David says that innovation programs should have two major goals:
• Delivering business impact
• Spawning cultural transformation

By “focus on the innovator,” David means to let them loose. Give them the tools and resources they need to succeed, but don’t roadblock them with unnecessary bureaucracy or middle-management input (a.k.a., death by a thousand cuts).

Remember, letting innovators and intrapreneurs try out new projects and ideas usually results in amazing training and plenty of encouragement that they can bring back to their day jobs. Sure! Most innovations fail. But a failed innovation doesn’t always mean failed results.

Since most innovations do fail, focus on making cultural transformation a significant part of your innovation program. If you’re just looking at business impact, you’ll end up miserable.

Create an Internal Innovation Ecosystem

Innovation has a ton of moving parts. Breeding an internal innovation ecosystem means building bridges between innovators and all of those other innovation roles (e.g., stakeholders, customers, middle-management, skilled employees, sponsors, topic owners, etc.)

You want innovators to have easy access to the right people. You should ideally make these bridges physical and digital. Obviously, innovators can’t walk into the office of most C-level execs. But they can certainly email them.

Another interesting method used by David is “internal” angels. In a nutshell, these are sponsors who can “invest” in projects in the organization. Not only does this give innovation a startup-like feel, but it helps innovators reach some of the sponsors and C-level that they normally wouldn’t have access to.

Corporate Talents Aren’t Always the Best Innovators

Corporate talent and C-level are incredibly smart, valuable, and important players in the business. That doesn’t mean that they’re the best innovators. Sometimes, the best ideas come from hidden employees and introverts. In fact, when David tested our corporate talent for innovation, not a single idea generated made it to the second stage.

Typically, these people are more focused on immediate business goals and their personal successes. Use them during the innovation process as key stakeholders, but don’t immediately assume that they’re going to generate the best ideas. Great ideas come from anywhere and everywhere.

Let Innovators Build a Team

Without making any Avengers metaphors, giving innovators the chance to assemble their own team can breed better project results. David’s programs allocate resources to each innovator.

The further they take their project, the more resources they can acquire. They can use these resources to bring people from inside the organization to their team or hire freelancers outside of the organization. In a way, this removes some of the unnecessary oversight from the whole process, but it also gives innovators a chance to become the boss of their projects and take ownership.

How to Market Innovation Programs

David brought along Celia Geering — Growth and Open Innovation Developer at GETKICKBOX — to talk about marketing for innovation projects.

One of the biggest barriers to innovation projects is lack of interest. If the right creators don’t notice your project or understand that they can join and submit their ideas, you’re not getting the full value of your innovation investment.

To generate interest, Celia recommends taking two steps:

Putting People First In Your Marketing Campaigns

Don’t revolve innovation programs around the company. If your entire internal marketing strategy is built around the program itself, you’re not going to generate the maximum level of interest. Instead, put people front and center of your strategy. For Celia, this meant creating t-shirts, hoodies, and other wearables with the name of their innovation program.

In addition, Celia recommends integrating people into marketing items that you can display around the workplace. Here are some ideas Celia talked about:

• Place notices around toilets
• Create coasters with the faces of past innovation members with links to their projects
• Hand out car air fresheners with the innovation project logo
• Use t-shirts and hoodies

The main goal is to both generate interest and defeat the “I can’t do it” attitude. If your employees can see all of the successes of their other team members, it will go a long way in defeating those beliefs. People across the organization should be able to innovate if they have a smart idea and a game plan.

Putting People First in Co-creating Your Innovation Program

This one may not work for everyone. But if you can co-create the program with other businesses, you can share experiences and encouragement across industry lines. For example, GETKICKBOX is used by many different organizations, including Siemens, Roche, the University of Zurich, RedBull, and Fides.

By creating this complex multi-business ecosystem of innovation, GETKICKBOX allows innovators to see success stories from other companies, generate ideas and share them across the entire ecosystem, and build relationships based on ideas and creativity that go beyond the typical corporate structure. In fact, GETKICKBOX even developd a book by co-collaborating with all of the companies that use the program for innovation.

Playbook Innov8rs Connect - Talent & Teams

Get all summaries of 21 sessions from our recent online event Innov8rs Connect Talent & Teams on 14-15 May 2020 in one 80+ pages Playbook.