The best innovation comes from the fusion of three disciplines (insight, commerciality and design). While it doesn’t always make life easy, a team of people who bring these different skills can achieve amazing results – but the most important factor to leverage is speed. Here, Pete Sayburn talks to the organisers of the Intrapreneurship Conference, London and explains why innovation is a high paced endeavour and why it will most likely fail if it isn’t.

Pete, you are able to get companies to innovate faster. What is your magic trick?

The key to rapid innovation in big companies is confidence. Introducing new products or entering new markets feels pretty scary, so anything you can do to raise the level of confidence improves your chances of success. At Market Gravity, we do three things to give companies the confidence to launch new propositions:

First is prototyping – to demonstrate what it will be like to use the new product of service, and to show how potential customers react to the idea.

The second way is via the commercial case. The prototype and visualisation will provide the emotional rationale, but you still need to “show me the money!” Consumers in the early stage of innovation are not just valuable for testing; they can provide huge amounts of feedback – if they are engaged in the process.

The third element is engagement; you have to take the key people in the business with you. We keep the team size small, but we involve the managers who will ultimately own the new innovation throughout the design process, building ownership and incorporating their operational knowledge into the launch plan.

Why is it important to innovate faster in the first place?

Speed is the number one weapon in the innovator’s arsenal. It overcomes most of the causes of what we call “innovation death” in big companies. Without speed you risk missing the market opportunity and you can get stuck in that horrible cycle of corporate inertia, appearing at countless investment committees, but always coming away empty handed, promising to return next month with the answers to another round of pointless questions!

So it’s all about staying ahead of the masses?

Exactly! By moving fast, you have a chance to prove the market opportunity before everyone notices, you beat your competitors to the punch, and you learn so much more via iteration and market testing.

In your experience, what makes or breaks success of these innovation efforts?

There are several causes of innovation death in big companies and many are accidental. The single biggest cause in my experience is continuity of ownership. A great innovation is often reliant on a single sponsor or cheerleader and when these people change jobs or leave the company, great ideas are side-lined. Internalizing sponsorship within your company and getting an idea to gain traction fast are thus again highly important to successful intrapreneurial activities.

One success story is BTSport – the media offering from the UK’s largest telecoms company. It took almost 10 years from initial concept to full-scale market impact. But it had a consistent guardian in Gavin Patterson, initially head of the consumer division and now Group CEO. BT is now a credible competitor to Sky in the Pay-TV market.

Some companies try to copy startups and methods startups use to grow. What’s wise and what’s not that wise about that approach?

Big companies can gain a huge amount by adopting a more entrepreneurial mind-set and thinking like a startup. It makes them more customer-driven, with a single-minded and clear purpose. It also values action over strategy, getting into the market and learning from experience, rather than talking too much!

Finally, a focus on cost efficiency and how to make the best use of scarce resources keeps the team focused on what matters most. The other side of this is a risk of isolation. By standing apart from the core business, a new innovation might fail to take advantage of the wonderful assets and resources that a big company can provide.

Market Gravity organizes the Corporate Entrepreneur Awards. If you look to the past winners, what differentiates them from others?

Actually, the answer to that question is simpler than you would expect! It boils down to just one thing; the team. All the successful entries had wonderful team spirit, positive culture and shared enthusiasm to make the project succeed. It takes a huge amount of dedication, resilience, hard work and passion to be an Intrapreneur, so sharing this experience with a group of like-minded people seems to be the key to success.

What’s the difference between a corporate entrepreneur and an intrapreneur?

I see the terms as pretty interchangeable – the most important thing is to recognise that there are highly entrepreneurial people in big established companies as well as startups and high-growth ventures. They make a very positive contribution to the world and I am delighted to see their efforts recognised and celebrated. That’s one of the main reasons to go the Intrapreneurship Conference, by the way!

Shouldn’t all employees be intrapreneurial?

There are always better ways of doing things and innovation should be valued in all roles, but I see the role of the Intrapreneur as something different. This is more about doing better things, and doing things better. It involves a level of uncertainty and experimentation than most companies (and their customers for that matter) couldn’t handle in many core business functions.

Big companies are very good at applying a consistent process to a well understood task or challenge at huge scale. The Intrapreneur’s role is to take the company into new areas, less well understood – to be the pioneer.

Why should delegates join your workshop during the conference?

We usually take around 60 days to drive a new idea from concept to prototype within a big company. We use some pretty interesting methods, tools and approaches and we take dozens of people on the journey. But 60 days still feels fast…believe me! In this workshop, we will be taking that journey in 60 minutes! So fasten your seat belts and enjoy the experience…

Find out more and book your tickets to the Intrapreneurship Conference, London.