Fixing Information Gaps with Intrapreneurship

It goes without saying that we want to hire innovators.

Creative problem-solvers give companies an edge. And while I hate to reinforce the stereotype, millennials generally are looking for opportunities to think outside of the box.

I recently read an article from the Huffington Post about Adobe’s initiative to encourage intrapreneurs:

They created an “innovation-in-a-box” kit called Kickbox… The box, red in color, contains the items below to meet the intrapreneur’s needs:

Money. Each red box contains a pre-paid credit card in the amount of U.S. $1,000. Innovators use these funds to validate their idea.

Instructions. Kickbox includes quick reference cards outlining the six levels in the red box. Each card includes a checklist of actions innovators must complete to advance to the next level.

Other innovation tools. These include scorecards, frameworks, exercises, and other materials employees use to develop ideas.

Caffeine and sugar. Each red box includes a Starbucks gift card and a candy bar, since they know that two of the four major food groups of innovators are caffeine and sugar!

To sum it up, here’s what they found:

…based upon 18 months of results, they have found that the program helps innovators:

  • Be more effective and have more impact
  • Build valuable life skills and experience (for example, ideation, divergent thinking, and business creation)
  • Increase job satisfaction and engagement (as demonstrated by participant evaluation scores)
  • Discover (or rediscover) their passion for delighting customers

(You can read more about the program’s overwhelming success by clicking through to the article.)

I think what Adobe has done is pretty cool. But coolness is not the winning element here…

As a millennial, I feel like I’m cursed with a stigma of restlessness and nonconformity.

But I don’t want a ping-pong table, I want to make exceptional contributions in my work.

I’d love to consider intrapreneurship in a more practical context—the way I’ve encountered it. It’s more than just coming up with new ideas.

Intrapreneurship empowers employees to:

  1. Use strengths employers didn’t know they had.
  2. Solve problems employers didn’t know existed.

Employer-employee information gaps prevent leaders from bringing the best work possible out of employees, and accordingly, employees aren’t as satisfied with their contributions. Intrapreneurship fills these gaps.

Information gap #1: Employers can’t know workers as well as workers know themselves.

Over the past five years, I’ve worked with three different (awesome) employers. Thanks to these experiences—along with StrengthsFinder, BadBobby.com, The John Perkins Center, and some fantastic business professors—I know what it means to be an intentional, self-aware contributor.

Because I know my strengths inside and out, I’m hungry for opportunities to take advantage of them. However, I know there’s a gap. Other people know how I work, but no one else is going to have all of my leadership assessments and strengths tests in hand.

Intrapreneurship allows employees to show what they know. Employers gain by discovering strengths they didn’t know workers had.

Information gap #2: There’s a gap between what employees know and what they could know.

Or, what bosses would like them to know—what workers need to know in order to get the job done with maximum efficiency and effectiveness.

Enter: The language barrier.

I spent the last year teaching English as a foreign language in Thailand.

When explaining assignments, I often struggled to give instructions that the students could understand. I had no idea how to fill in this gap. Because of the language barrier, I couldn’t figure out what they didn’t know.

These gaps not only reflect what the employer is missing (information), but what the employee is missing out on. My students couldn’t complete assignments because they didn’t understand the instructions. I didn’t know that was the missing information: I just saw low performance and assumed they were behind.

Intrapreneurship can fix these kinds of gaps.

By encouraging innovation, we allow individuals to leverage their strengths, work on their weaknesses, and show what they’re capable of.

Thanks!

Molly

(See also, Part II: Do What You Want, Get What You Need)

I’d love to hear your thoughts. tweet @miss_mollyjane:

Have you used intrapreneurship to make work better?

How do information gaps affect you, your work, and/or your Employees?

How can non-creative industries adapt Adobe’s idea?

Other comments?

What If 50 Shades Is Actually Good?

WHAT IF 50 SHADES IS ACTUALLY GOOD?

I MEAN, IT’S PROBABLY NOT. BUT TO BE FAIR, I CAN’T KNOW FOR SURE.

I DON’T READ *THOSE KINDS* OF BOOKS.

Twilight? No.

Hunger Games? How I feel when I didn’t have time for lunch.

I just don’t read this stuff.

But what puts pop fiction at the bottom of my list? How do I know, without ever reading a page, that a book is indefinitely terrible?

I’ll confess—I recently peeled an Oprah Book Club sticker off of my copy of 100 Years of Solitude, just to purge it of the pop lit stigma. I seem to have an inherent bias against what everyone else is reading.

But obviously E. L. JamesStephenie Meyer, and Suzanne Collins must be onto something. What am I missing? What if these popular books are actually good?

FIRST, LET’S PLAY WITH ECONOMICS.

We all know that Gen-Y’s world is super-saturated with options. We’ve got fast food, fast fashion, and endless entertainment options. And we don’t exactly benefit from this abundance. We become less healthy, harder to please, and more wasteful as Forever 21 and its counterparts crank out more and more of whatever they’re selling. Why is this?

HERE’S WHAT HAPPENS:

Company X goes into business selling some product or service.

  1. X makes money selling jeans. Z wants to make money, too. Enter: competition.
  2. Barrier to entry is low. Enter: lots of competition. Each pass go. Collect $200. Etc.
  3. *A bunch of economics* Basically: supply breeds like rabbits, and things get cheap.

As a result:

  • We can get a “meal” for a few bucks at Wendy’s (which is actually OK… if it’s after midnight)
  • …And a pair of pants for $5 at H&M (true story)

If you can get those pants for $5, it’s going to be a hard sell for the guy with the $10-20 version next door. *A bunch more economics.* Prices plummet, and then here we have heaps of impulse-buy-worthy trend pieces that will fall apart before you can lose the receipt.

And we buy them! A lot of them. But $10-jeans and $100-jeans are not the same thing.

The price is based (to a degree) on the cost of production, the cost is based (ditto) on inputs, and herein lies the difference: the quality. When you put fair labor and good materials in, you generally get good product out.

When you buy a $100 pair of jeans, you get better jeans.

It’s okay to buy the cheap jeans, but let’s be realistic: the $10 guy simply can’t provide the same quality. Producing a quality pair will cost more than his jeans retail for, and that’s not how profits happen.

The cheaper product is pretty much always inferior.

WHO BUYS INFERIOR PRODUCTS?

…PRETTY MUCH ALL OF US

Fast fashion retailers offer low-grade products for pennies on the dollar and sell a lot of them to make money.

And it works. The CEO of Zara is one of the richest people in the world

It’s not a terrible deal for us, either. We can afford to switch up our wardrobes with a little less cash. But we know (I hope) that we’re sacrificing quality when we flock with the masses to the $10 rack

Knowing this, we make judgments about the quality of a product based on its popularity

The number of people who can afford an item says something about the price. The price magnifies the cost, which reflects the quality of the input. Extremely popular items, like fast food and $5 pants, fall under the first assumption:

ASSUMPTION #1: IF A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE BUYING IT, IT’S A LOWER-QUALITY GOOD.*

  1. If a lot of people are buying it, it’s relatively inexpensive.**
  2. If it’s less expensive, it must be cheaper to produce.
  3. If it’s cheaper to produce, it must be made with lower-quality input.
  4. …thus, it’s a lower-quality good.

Well, yes. Provided I’m able to weigh price vs. quality, I’ll usually lean toward the better product (especially if it’s something I care about) even if it costs a little more. When I can, I stay away from mass retailers, because I know this assumption to be almost unfailingly true.

So far so good.

Which brings us to the second assumption…

I have nothing against ‘what everyone is wearing,’ I really don’t care. But as a symptom of the supply/demand hurricane of fast fashion, the fact that everyone has an item nowadays probably means it’s less than investment-worthy. Assumption two is the projection of this logic that I’ve caught myself using:

ASSUMPTION #2: IF EVERYONE IS READING IT, IT’S A LOWER QUALITY BOOK.

To me, books like Twilight and 50 Shades are the K-Mart jeans.

I’ve never tried them, but can confidently assume that I’m not missing out.

Not trying to hurt anyone’s feelings here, but I think you know what I mean. These titles sell a lot of copies, K-Mart sells a lot of jeans. From a distance, seems like the exact same thing.

But what if they’re not?

WHAT IF 50 SHADES IS ACTUALLY GOOD?

I’m not giving up my convictions about popular fiction, but I’m willing to admit an injustice on my part.

I’ve automatically disqualified these books. I’ve assumed that popularity implies cheap input, and, in turn, inferiority.

BUT CUTOFF SHORTS AND CREATIVE WRITING ARE NOT THE SAME THING.

A book does not depend on paper like jeans depend on denim.

Still not going to read it. But I’ll try to at least be nice… 50 Shades can’t help it that it’s so popular.

Thanks for reading! I welcome your feedback.

Molly

Follow me on Twitter & IG: @miss_mollyjane

*The opposite is overwhelmingly true, too. Let’s play along by limiting the context to fast fashion for now.

**In order for the business to exist, it must be profitable. In order to be profitable, goods that are relatively inexpensive must be (and usually are) high demand. Demand drives production, which drops marginal costs, which lowers prices; repeat until marginal cost exceeds marginal benefit; become multibillion net-worth CEO.