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Category: Culture, Intrapreneurship

The multiple tiers of Intrapreneurship programs

Implementing a lasting intrapreneurship program requires more than just the opening of an R&D lab or labeling something as skunkwork project. Like you need a village to raise a child, companies need the whole organization to raise intrapreneurs. To accomplish this, a multi-tiered approach is required.

The 5 Intrapreneurship Tiers

Intrapreneurship sits on 4 tiers that need to be in place across 5 dimensions. Each tier builds on the other and needs the lower tiers in place to unleash its full potential.

  Needs Tools Actions Deliverables KPIs
5. Intrapreneurship
  • Sponsors
  • Leadership
  • Business Model Canvas
  • Lean Launchpad
  • Pitching
  • Networking
  • Business Plan
  • Go to market
  • Pricing
4. Innovation
  • Persistence
  • Expertise
  • Workshops
  • Tester
  • Survey/Polls
  • Converging
  • Prototyping
  • Executing
  • Patents
3. Ideas
  • Attitude
  • Design Thinking
  • Service Thinking
  • Ideathons
  • Hackathons
  • Ideating
  • Tinkering
  • Playing
  • Diverging
  • Many ideas
  • Demos
2. Creativity
  • Playfulness
  • Safety
  • Attitude
  • Practice
  • Risk-taking
  • Creativity Techniques
  • Creative Habits
1. Basic Needs
  • Knowledge
  • Skills
  • Space
  • Time
  • Drive
  • Curiosity
  • Intelligence
  • Persistence
  • 20% Time
  • Mini Budget
  • Community platform
  • Collision Space
  • Tooling & materials

First Tier

The first tier is what I call the Basic Needs. Those include employees who have knowledge and skills, are driven and curious, are intelligent and persistent, and who are given time and space. From a tool perspective this can be a 20% time program, some few hundred dollars budget that they can spend for materials and tool time, online platforms such as MakerSQR or Jive, or physical collisions spaces where people have random encounters with each other.

Second Tier

The second tier named Creativity requires a safe environment for playfulness and risk-taking, a positive and supportive attitude, as well practice. Like a piano player cannot give the best concert without practice, creativity requires constant practice. Creativity Techniques help to learn a broader range of ways to become more creative and form creative habits.

Third Tier

Once the creative juices are flowing, Ideas are generated. Most of them will be not good, but at this stage its extremely difficult to figure out which are the good and which the bad ones. Bad ideas can spark good ideas, so they are important as well. To come up with ideas, empathic methodologies such as Design Thinking or Innovation Thinking are required, or events in form of Ideathons, Hackathons, or innovation contests can be organized. With those events and methodologies participants ideate, tinker, and play with ideas and build demos.

Fourth Tier

Based on the ideas innovation can happen. Through persistence and expertise (not necessarily in the field that we start out) the ideas are sorted out, mashed up, and compiled (conversion) and prototypes built. As a result working prototypes and patent submissions are generated, which require now execution to turn in idea and invention into a solution that is brought to the market.

Fifth Tier

The fifth tier is a calling for the real intrapreneur, not only shows leadership and brings (executive) sponsors on board, but also knows how to do the pitching and networking to gain support, prepares with the team a business plan, pricing, go-to-market, and other plans. Tools and methodologies that help with that are the business model canvas popularized for startups by Alexander Osterwalder, or a Lean Launchpad program as known by Steve Blank or Bill Aulet.

Across all the tiers and dimensions KPIs are to be defined to measure the effectiveness of each tier and dimension. They can vary from organization to organization, and change over time.


To implement an intrapreneurship program that brings innovation to a company we learned that five tiers are required: Basic needs, creativity, ideas, and innovation that enable intrapreneurs. Each tier has multiple dimensions that require to fulfill needs, offer tools and allow actions to result in deliverables, measured by KPIs. Each of the elements in this matrix is something that can be taught, provided, required, or supported. Being able to measure each item makes intrapreneurship less uncertain than it looks today and more successful given the higher clarity of what intrapreneurship actually is and requires.