Be the Change You Want to See

In his speech and conversation with Kaihan Krippendorff, Nicolas Bry suggests how innovation can help in spotting the flaws that were revealed by the crisis and in sorting out what needs to be accelerated from what needs to be reduced.

We have enough ideas, but sometimes we are not able to transform those ideas into business. This was the problem that we wanted to solve with our Intrapreneurship Project. It is embedded in our company, Orange Startups Studio’s value proposition, which is to support any Orange employee, with an innovative idea for Orange business, in implementing it with the help of a business unit (BU). The keyword here is implementation, that is, the transformation of an idea into a new Orange business line. For this, we involve the BU and the Orange department from the beginning, in the sponsoring of the innovation idea by the intrapreneur.

The value creation of intrapreneurship can be multi-fold. It is, of course, focused around business and the creation of new business lines, but it can also be on cost-saving, so an intrapreneurial program can save costs by streamlining, or it can be on the digital acceleration of the current business. 


The intrapreneurship process at Orange is fairly transitional. It starts with opening an application to all Orange employees, wherein they have to answer an online questionnaire. The company helps the selected employees in finding a sponsoring BU. Once the intrapreneur’s project and the BU are aligned, 10 candidates are invited to develop their value proposition at a five-day-boot camp in Paris. There, the value proposition is worked upon on the business model canvas. We also prepare the candidates to pitch in front of the jury. It’s called a jury event, which is an evening where the 10 projects are pitched and presented in front of the jury and two Orange employees. Based on the pitch, three to five projects are selected to go in for incubation. At this time, employees work solely on the project and are given the necessary resources, a team, and an innovation coach.

The Intrapreneurs’ Factory

The Intrapreneurs’ Factory is a book based on the experience of starting such intrapreneurship projects. It provides 10 steps to shape an intrapreneur program, which begin from defining your reason for starting a program, then defining the value proposition for the participants, looking for sponsorship for the program, going into the detail of the process, ideation, selection, incubation, defining the status of the employees during the intrapreneurship time and providing them with important coaching, getting the BU commitment very upstream into the program, defining exit scenarios at the end of the program, and how the project can start scaling-up. It also includes assessing the impact of the intrapreneurship program, how the intrapreneurship program fits into the innovation ecosystem, and what kind of value it creates.

Among the 10 steps, three are particularly delicate to manage- getting the right sponsor, the coaching of the intrapreneur, and the relationship with the BU.

Value creation of intrapreneurship

The value creation of intrapreneurship can be multi-fold. It is, of course, focused around business and the creation of new business lines, but it can also be on cost-saving, so an intrapreneurial program can save costs by streamlining, or it can be on the digital acceleration of the current business.

The second type of value creation is on the transformation of the mindset of the employees, not only on the intrapreneurial mindset but also on the mindset of all the other employees that can be impacted by the intrapreneur in charge of the program. Two other items to measure the impact are the way the intrapreneurship brings the company closer to its customer and the impact they have on the society and environment. It corresponds both to the CSR positioning of the company and also to the wish of the employees who want to deliver an intrapreneur project which creates business but also impacts the society or the environment. The whole idea of intrapreneurship can be summed up with this quote by Mahatma Gandhi: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

Innovation can help in spotting the flaws that were revealed by the crisis and in sorting out what needs to be accelerated from what needs to be reduced, based on the crisis experienced.

Innovation after the crisis: Is your innovation organization resilient?

Companies can seize new opportunities based on the usages developed during the crisis. Innovation can help in spotting the flaws that were revealed by the crisis and in sorting out what needs to be accelerated from what needs to be reduced, based on the crisis experienced. For this, a strong innovation organization is needed.

The tool “Your innovation in review” can help companies assess the strength of their innovation organization. Based on questions across 10 key areas, the tool calculates the innovation score of the organization. In complement to the score, a few pieces of advice are also available to strengthen your innovation organization.


In innovation, we are quite used to crisis because what we have in mind is never exactly what we deliver to the user. It always has to be then adapted to the users’ needs or other times, is not found to be technically feasible. So, an innovation device can be an excellent way to rebuild one’s company after the crisis.

Kaihan Krippendorff in Conversation with Nicolas Bry

Kaihan Krippendorff: What is the right thing to do now in this crisis, given that we need innovative solutions but we may not have an innovation program yet? Do we have time now to set up an innovation program?

Nicolas Bry: The self-assessment tool I have designed works both for a current organization as well as to design a new program. We can leverage the entrepreneurial device to address the after-crisis challenges, because it is typically a state of mind that will help us to accelerate solutions to the flaws that are revealed by the crisis, on the one hand, and on the other hand, seize opportunities of usage installed during the crisis. In this way, to use the innovation approach, you can leverage the employees’ innovative ideas. The main mistake would be to try to get back to normal as if the crisis had not existed. We need to take some steps back to first address immediate flaws revealed by the crisis, and then second, see what kind of new services, products, our corporation can deliver to the users.

Krippendorff: Do you have ideas for how to develop and execute those innovations that might help deal with the immediate crisis in a very fast way?

Bry: What we have used at Orange Africa is walking on two sides. First is identifying a few problems revealed by the current crisis. In Africa, one of the problems is to be able to have trustful information about the crisis, about the medicine, about the way you can find a medicine, about the symptom of the virus, and so on. On this aspect, we realised that we can leverage our channel with our customer, which is a mobile app called My Orange. It is a customer relationship app and we are working on incorporating into these channels reliable information about the virus and what the people need to know. This is how we leveraged our current tool to address the problems linked to the crisis. 

On the second end, we also contacted all our start-ups and FabLab partner in Africa to see what they were doing, examine with them any opportunity for developing service, etc. So, FabLab has started manufacture of ventilators, because if Europe is lacking ventilators, then you can expect that Africa can lack ventilators as well. Some start-ups were more in the intermediation platform field and are using the intermediation platform to connect hospitals with human health care resources. Through this intermediation platform, hospitals can express their needs and people can volunteer to help them.

Krippendorff: Can the factory approach be applied to non-corporates and how big a company is needed for the design to be appropriate?

Bry: In the 40 examples given in the book The Intrapreneurs’ Factory, there are few examples of organizations that are not corporate and also organizations that are start-ups and small innovation agencies. Also, Orange is a large corporation, but in the countries where we operate, we are more comparable to mid-sized companies. Hence, intrapreneurship with employees can be applied to non-corporate organizations and medium-sized companies as well. 

For intrapreneurship, one key lever is to not have employees dedicated full-time to the project, because it can be difficult for a medium-sized company to dedicate one employee full-time and to compensate for this reduced resource as a full-time dedicated employee. To deal with this issue, Orange Belgium connects a team of employees with start-ups that have been selected into the corporate accelerator. They shape a team of both employees and start-ups who want to collaborate on the same problem to find out the solution for B2B or C2C, and what brings the start-up is that the solution is being built on top of the start-up platform. In this way, it saves a lot of time and compensates for the fact that employees are spending half a day on a weekly basis on the project.

Krippendorff: If you say you have 20% of the time for intrapreneurship-related work, often that means you have to work 120% of the time to get that time. So, are you suggesting a structure like that of a half a day or a specific time set aside?

Bry: In Orange Belgium, sometimes the employees start with a 20% or 10%, then they get more time as the project progresses along the different stages. Thus, one way is to start with 10% and then to progressively increase the allocation of the employees. Another way is through this kind of hybrid team because the start-up or the external entrepreneur will also bring experience in building the start-up and internal start-up in this case. That is very fruitful for the internal employees.

Krippendorff: How do you select which innovations to move forward as you go from the 100 to the 30 to the 10? Do you also advance ideas that don’t come from the front end of the funnel or maybe are introduced by employees outside of the program?

Bry: We do a mix of entrepreneurship internal innovation projects, problem-solving coming from the department and the business unit. We have this ideation platform where we mix all these opportunities. Then, we select a few of them to have time for exploration during two days with a different representative from the business unit, from the departments, some interested employees, and sometimes a few pre-selected start-ups. Based on these two days of exploration, we make a final selection of ideas that will be incubated and tested with the NGOs. 

It is important to combine different innovation programs, problem-solving regarding business unit problems, ideation with employees, and start-up collaboration. To make a selection, it is important to have two-three days for exploring this, because making the selection very early just on an idea that is composed of approximately two or three or five sentences can lead to mistakes. It is also important to have the ideal business unit which is interested in the idea participating during an innovation workshop as it is the time when we explore what the idea means, what it involves, what is the value proposition, etc. Based on these regular criteria, it is advisable to be clear enough when propositioning for the customer. To have a clear value proposition is not always easy to achieve. 

Previously, we also asked the question of whether an idea was innovative enough, but innovation is very linked to a cultural mindset, to a cultural context, and what is innovative enough might not be innovative in your work, but be very innovative in the idea. So, people were not aligned on this criterion, and it had to be taken out. The second criterion is, whether the branch is bringing something interesting to execute this idea or not. The third is linked to the team. The question asked is if the business unit department is committed to this idea, executed or not, is the team composed of the intrapreneur and start-up convincing and are they bringing enthusiasm, energy, and a willingness to go there?

Krippendorff: How are you including suppliers and partners in the innovation process, and given that these two parties have been impacted by COVID-19, how does that affect the program?

Bry: I will answer with another example, which is the gas distribution company in France. Their open innovation program is based in the supplier and purchase department and I think it’s a very good way to adapt. To collaborate with a start-up, you need to adapt the tools that you have in place with suppliers, and the purchasing department is in a perfect position for that. So, setting one open innovation program within the purchasing department is a way to streamline down the way to the corporation with the start-up.

Krippendorff: Would you to like share some final thoughts?

Bry: In the innovation mindset, you get the best of opportunities; you have this rebound mindset that is all the more necessary after the crisis, and for the quarantine obviously, so don’t hesitate to leverage the innovation mindset.

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