Babson Entrepreneur Experience Lab

Elements of the Entrepreneur Experience

Investment

Getting to Yes

For new venture entrepreneurs, “investment” is reserved for raising capital. However, for entrepreneurs inside, the urgent investment need is the support from executives and other employees in the form of sponsorship, resources, time and skills. To successfully win the investment of others, EIs must understand what the implementation of an idea is going to cost people in the organization and, more importantly, how the investment will benefit others and the organization. The capacity to influence is paramount as others in the organization control resources, limit access, hold critical knowledge and have valuable skills. Being prepared to address the limitations of traditional valuation metrics can help prevent ideas from being killed off too quickly.

Opportunities

  1. How can we hack the proposal process to allow EI to act on ideas more quickly?

  2. How can we codify the types of success needed to gain continued investment?

Strategically Gaining Sponsorship

Strategically Gaining Sponsorship

Scott

Scott discusses having to align his personal expectations with the organization's vision.

http://blip.tv/play/h7YEgvvnDwA.html

Jessica

Jess discusses the barriers her boss had to overcome in approving her new role.

http://blip.tv/play/h7YEgvyPAwA.html

Calvin

Calvin and Mary talk about getting investment to internal programs.

http://blip.tv/play/h7YEgvyUZQA.html

Coming up with the idea is not the hard part. Getting permission to implement is often a hurdle. It helps to have someone with a secure position and authority in your corner.  When executive sponsors believe in an entrepreneur inside, they are willing to put their reputation on the line and lend “borrowed credibility.” Sponsors sell your proposal further up the leadership chain or clear roadblocks that may impede progress. They provide resources, protection and space for new ideas and change efforts to take shape. Success is necessary to ensure continued sponsorship. Without success, sponsors may be unwilling to further risk reputation or to lose their own precious social capital.

Sponsorship investment is the result of understanding the organization’s vision, and being prepared to make a case about how one’s idea aligns with that vision—how it can add value to the organization and to those working inside. This makes it easier for sponsors to say yes. Entrepreneurs inside must learn how to demonstrate a potential future and create a “sense of inevitability.” Christine, a VP at a global research firm, describes the challenge of getting sponsorship investment this way, “Support that requires someone to put a stake in the ground (make a pitch to senior executives, ask for funding, etc.) is harder to come by. Not that all people disagree with my idea, or me but they don’t want to be invested themselves. They can’t or don’t want to be in the line of fire. Those are times when I need to re-assess and ask if my idea is off, or if I’m communicating it badly, or if the person I need support from isn't going to help for other reasons.”

Vetting and Evaluation

Vetting and Evaluation

Katie

Katie talks about a supportive environment for developing new ideas.

http://blip.tv/play/h7YEgvv3JQA.html

Mary and Calvin

Mary and Calvin talk about an idea that took off within the organization, because of collaborative efforts.

http://blip.tv/play/h7YEgvyUXwA.html

Jessica

Jessica talks about needing to entrust others to move an idea forward.

http://blip.tv/play/h7YEgvv3AgA.html

EI employ several strategies for gaining investment and permission to execute. All of them require preparedness to demonstrate both the value of an idea and a feasible path toward execution. EI are prepared to answer how the idea relates to the organization’s mission, what value it provides to customers or partners, what success looks like, the likelihood of achieving it and at what costs to the organization. EI often get started with simple question sets designed to aid decision-making. These become codified over time and in some cases turn into formal programmatic tools that include everything from collaborative web platforms for detailed, guided proposal submittal to help identifying cross-organization and integration and collaboration opportunities.

Other strategies address concerns that data and traditional metrics are greatly impaired as valuation tools when considering entrepreneurial projects. These strategies foster small-scale experiments that serve to give people practice with how to go from an initial idea to “making (and seeing) something happen.” Chris, who runs innovation and product development at his software firm, has created a program where EI can propose something that can be accomplished and evaluated in under 30 days. Rather than spending precious time vetting the idea, EI describe the result they’re hoping for, act on the idea and report back on the outcome. Chris describes the benefits of such a program this way, “Before we created Lower Case Initiatives (LCIs), people had ideas but they came out as complaints… Once we created LCIs, two things happened - first, people started realizing that they could try things, and two, they learned that their understanding of cause and effect weren't as accurate as reality. This helped them have deeper and better understandings on how to get things right. Some people have now done 4 or 5 LCIs in a row and they're clearly on their way to becoming an initiative champion.”

Other organizations work with crowdsourcing tools to “get a show of hands for what projects, products, processes are of interest to the employees of the company” or consensus tools to empower people to take and facilitate action in a collective manner.