6 lessons learned from our coffee talk with Josh “serial intrapreneur”​ and all about his passion and persistence

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Today’s blog post is going to be all about Josh, ‘a Geek’. Josh is an accomplished intrapreneur who has launched so many projects. One of his first success is integrated into a business unit and represents more than €30 Million in revenue per year. At first, it wasn’t easy, but Josh persisted.

In this blog, you will learn about the techniques Josh has used to innovate projects and what has made him a successful intrapreneur.

I met Josh for a coffee talk as we shared our passion for innovation. Josh is one of the first intrapreneurs I interviewed for these series. During the course of the interview, Josh shared his experience of how he became a serial intrapreneur even if innovation wasn’t his job. He strongly believes that failures are a way of learning and move easily to the next step.

Josh is an engineer with a lot of ideas and several patents of his portfolio. He called himself “a geek”. He started as a technical engineer helping his company customers to solve problems with their solutions.

This job gave Josh a deep understanding of customer challenges and he discovers his passion to find solutions to their pain.

In my previous blog post, we mentioned that intrapreneurs were defined as the “dreamers who do” by Pinchot. Josh is a “dreamer who does”. He is always thinking about the next thing and when he is ahead of this time, he uses to fill a patent in case this his new idea takes off in the future.

At the beginning of his journey, innovation wasn’t part of his job, so he spent his free time working on his ideas.

Whatever innovation ideas I worked on my spare time, not something I was required to do, but I am passionate and I will do it again.”

After more than one hour talk, here are the six intrapreneurship lessons learned of his journey:

1.     Having a Passion To Solve Problems

The first thing that has brought him to what he is today, is his passion to solve problems. Josh is always thinking about what is next, and this has helped him a lot. He uses to see opportunities where others do not and some people don’t understand this.

He uses his creativity to solve problems or image new ways to do things by using technology. This passion drives him. He believes that for intrapreneurs, self- motivation and engagement are keys in solving problems. 

He explains each of his projects by clearly pointed out the problem he is looking to solve and how he spent time looking until he finds a solution.

Learning is my daily goal and trying to solve the problem that exists or doesn’t exist.”

2.     Honing Critical & Strategic Thinking skills

I learned the hard way that you need to be critical and strategic. In the beginning, I was pointing out everywhere, I have a lot of ideas and wanted to solve all problems perfectly. Of course, I got nowhere, parfait is the enemy of the good enough and sometimes even if there is a problem, the customer is not concerned with solving it, Josh explained.

 So, I learned to organize my thoughts, analyze the different elements strategically. It is key to learn to formulate a reasonable argument and consider alternative points of view. Then, I started to have my first success. In my upcoming blogs, we will discuss how to unlock these Strategic and Critical Thinking skills.

Josh learned to narrow his choices and focus not only in what is innovative and what is not, but what is creating real value. He includes different perspectives and confirms customer demand.

Josh biggest success is “Magnolia” he explained as an excellent example of putting all elements together including early demand from the industry and value creation.

We spent a lot of time looking for a solution until we finally got it. I learned that success story doesn’t need to be big but to have a clear customer demand and create real value.”

3.     Developing the Ability To Navigate Within The Organization

Josh believes that he has been privileged to develop his ideas. He knows a lot of people in his company that have this ambition but doesn’t have the guidance and resources to make it happen, or are afraid because innovation is not part of their scope and doesn’t know how to leverage on the organization.

It took Josh, some time to understand that for innovation to flourish, he needed not only ideas or resources but internal support to get there. He realized that the more he improved his ability to navigate within the different organizations, the better his project sell-off. 

When I understood that internal networking was key for success, and I need to spend time on this. Things started to speed up. It opens a new perspective and helps me to get buy-in, support and resources.”

Now, Josh uses to present his projects to different units, until he gets sponsorship. He learned to manage all different levels of the organization.

We need to have the buy-in of several people. I use to interview people from the technical side and business part to be sure the value proposition is validated.”

For “Magnolia” once his ideas were clear about the problem and value created, he spent a lot of time to get management buy-in and resources allocated. He explains, that he presented the project to the business unit committee and it was rejected.

However, Josh did not stop here. He was able to convince the Business Unit VP to give him some resources for Proof of concept. Then, he went to see the regional sales VP and to present the proof of concept and get support to present to a customer. “Magnolia” was one of his first experience working in collaboration with a customer to develop this solution. After the successful PoC, top management agreed to allocate resources including time and fully dedicated team.

Today, the offer is integrated into a business unit and represents more than €30 Million revenue per year.

4.     Getting Support & Coaching

Josh describes how at the beginning it was very hard for him, as he used to exchange with other engineers and they all understand geeks’ jargon.

When trying to innovate you have to be sure everyone understands:

  • What Is the Problem you are trying to solve?
  • What Is The Value You Create And For Who? 
  • What is Your solution About?

I still remember my first exchanges, it was a real mess, and they all look me as I was crazy. They asked me about value proposition, market value. I didn’t get it. I am sure I lost many opportunities to change the status quo because I didn‘t know how to manage that.”

Then he started to ask for help, calling someone from marketing, sales, finance and getting some mentors or onboarding other profiles with him. He believes that if companies want to foster internal innovation and help intrapreneurs to turn ideas into reality, these innovators need support and coach, not only to get the structure of a presentation but to help the team see the big picture and define priorities. Intrapreneurs need structure to create ideas.

5. Allocating Time to Innovate

Another key element mentioned by Josh is time. Today, he sees several great ideas stay stuck in the minds of the intrapreneurs and never get to market because of lack of support and time.

Sounds like a basic thing, but time is a resource. When I started my road to innovation, I worked most of my free time on new projects. But that time was when I didn’t have a wife and kids. Now, it will be impossible. In short, Time to innovate is key.”

It is not realistic to expect your employees to come up with dynamic new ideas if they are still trapped with all of their normal duties. They need sufficient time and support to go through this process.

6. Onboarding a Cross-Functional Team

Josh told us that he quickly realized that working by himself wasn’t a good idea, then he started to find internal partners to build a team with different perspectives. He described this team as a small team’s open-to exchange and to question themselves.

For Magnolia, he started with a team of 3 people. Josh the technical and product owner, and the marketing lady, then he quickly onboard someone from sales and business development to be sure they were focused on the customer.

 Not sure if it was the parfait match but what is fundamental is to have cross-functional skills and perspectives. He also explains that aspects thathave been key in his different experiences to unlock the power of the team are to define the vision and desired outcomes and give the freedom to explore and define the solution.

What works quite well is a small group of different people working together in a short time frame.”

Josh is now in charge of Innovation Labs at his company. He is not only working on his passion but he is also sharing his experiences with newcomers and motivating others to innovate.

And of course, he still running a couple of innovation projects, but now with resources, time, support, a dedicated team, and an incredible experience. He is also an innovation coach and mentor of other initiatives.

In conclusion, intrapreneurs as Josh help to transform an organization because they are self-motivated, passionate, free thinkers, masters at navigating around organizational inertia and they can build a strong team around their ideas.

How do you think these 6 takeaways apply to you or your company?

*As requested by Josh, all names and identifying details have been changed.

Thank You, Josh!

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  1. […] Josh‘story reminded us of the importance of honing critical thinking skills and so my 5 years old son did. We were reading his goodnight story that happens to have an episode of a knight fighting with some terrible monster. Of course, the knight won the battle. […]

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