Incremental innovation improves existing products in existing markets. In contrast, disruptive innovation conquers with new technology new markets. Disruptive innovation runs a significantly higher risk than incremental innovation. In a competitive environment a company can succeed for some time by just making little improvements to its offerings, but this comes at the expense of the company’s long-term future. Clayton Christensen described in his famous book “The Innovator’s Dilemma” in detail how small companies disrupt the market with innovations and kill the incumbents. In order to not just survive but lead the market with disruptive innovations, SAP started in 2015 the Intrapreneurship program.
The Intrapreneurship program is an opportunity for SAP employees to develop their business idea in a start-up-like environment. SAP acts like a venture investor. Participating employees stay with SAP, but move temporarily into the Intrapreneurship program to develop their business. Out of all submitted ideas SAP selects those with the strongest potential for disruptive innovation.
Right from the start of the program, employee participation and enthusiasm went well beyond expectations. Employees submitted more than 800 ideas. Idea Submission is the first but this is where things often go wrong and idea submitters get frustrated:
Lack of coaching; Idea submitters focus on technical details and do not understand what it takes to describe a business. The proposed innovation is not sufficiently specific or lacks a good description of the problem to be solved. This does not mean that there idea is bad. They just would need somebody to help them develop their idea in business terms.
The “black-hole experience”, that is, the feeling that idea authors have if they submit their ideas, but never get an answer, just an automatic Rejected information … frustrating!
SAP engaged for the Intrapreneurship program more than 50 idea coaches, employees who support idea submitters developing their idea and describing it accurately and completely. To manage the sheer volume of ideas SAP Innovation Management was instrumental. SAP Innovation is a solution to manage the fuzzy frontend of the innovation process. To inspire potential idea submitters a campaign manager can create his campaign in the system and advertise it across the organization. Participating in a campaign is easy, using a PC, an iPad, or a smartphone – from anywhere, as inspiration often strikes in unusual places.
An idea submitter can capture his idea on his smartphone and enrich it using videos and pictures. Once he releases his idea, SAP innovation management can make sure that an idea coach is assigned. The campaign manager receives a warning when an idea remains an orphan and reminds idea givers and coaches to respond to questions or needs. Once the idea is complete, the coach can find and assign domain experts who score the idea. To ensure consistent scoring, the campaign manager can define criteria for idea evaluation.
Yet, scoring is not limited to experts. SAP Innovation Management invites any employee to score and comment on ideas. It also helps to identify duplicate or similar ideas.
After several selection rounds the first campaign board picked 3 ideas for incubation. These ideas are now turned into products following a Lean Start-up approach. Technically, they were transferred from SAP Innovation Management to SAP Program and Portfolio Management where they are managed as development projects.