Market of Makers: How to give intrapreneurship a boost

Sophia Braun
4 min readFeb 13, 2023

Entrepreneurship and corporate organizations are two totally different worlds, right? They can, but don’t have to be. Michael Faschingbauer, René Mauer and I conducted a project at a German multinational corporation over five months. It shows that corporate organizations and their employees can in fact be very entrepreneurial.

What we did

We designed a workshop series based on effectuation — due to Covid-19 fully online. Effectuation is a mode of action that is based on the observed behavior of expert entrepreneurs, and hence a very promising approach for fostering intrapreneurship. We translated effectuation to a half-day event called Market of Makers that leads participants through an iterative effectuation process. In the subsequent Speedboat Regatta, participants autonomously steer their intrapreneurial initiatives. The participants successfully generated 23 projects that contribute to process innovation.

How we did it

After defining performance objectives with our client, we designed roles (captains, crew, and coaches) as well as an overarching process of the project:

Project roles[i]
Project process[ii]

We kicked the project off with info sessions that were open to employees who are interested in joining as participants or as coaches. Our client then selected 15 coaches. They were invited to a first 4-hour workshop that introduced effectuation as the background for the Market of Makers.

The Market of Makers was a four-hour event for which 71 participants joined us. It followed six steps:

1. We explained that this event would make participants develop, lead and engage with speedboats. Speedboats are small, autonomous initiatives run by volunteering employees that do not require additional time or money.

2. The participants reflected on their individual means (Who am I? What do I know? Whom do I know?).

3. The participants developed three ideas for what they could do with these means.

4. Groups of two were sent into randomly assigned breakout rooms for 5 minutes, in which they introduced their ideas to each other. Moreover, they should ask what the other person might want to contribute to their idea. We held five of these dialogues.

5. The participants pre-selected and visualized their speedboats on a digital whiteboard in randomly assigned groups of three.

6. Finally, the Market of Makers resulted in 29 pitches of all developed speedboats. The whole group then sent off the speedboats, unless someone had a reasoned objection (which happened in one case).

The Market of Makers was afterward debriefed with the coaches, which included assigning each speedboat a coach.

Over the next four months, captains steered their speedboats autonomously on the Speedboat Regatta. However, they received guidance from their coach when necessary. The coaches also organized multiple Captains Club meetings. From our side, we invited the coaches to two two-hour workshops, in which we reflected on the process.

Finally, we invited all participants as well as their managers to a four-hour closing event in order to report and evaluate the outcomes. 23 speedboat crews presented their outcomes. Over the whole project, 64 participants were actively involved in speedboats. The speedboats on average had 4.5 crew members. After the closing event, we debriefed the whole project with the coaches.

What we learned

Here are some things that we learned for engaging employees in intrapreneurship:

1. Voluntariness is key — whoever joins an innovation initiative needs to really want to do so and have full control over to what they commit.

2. A new behavior needs deliberate practice — create events that are interactive and playful where participants can practice together.

3. More money or more time will not necessarily lead to more entrepreneurship. On the contrary, bumping up against constraints forces participants to keep thinking small and to act entrepreneurially.

4. Entrepreneurial projects need committed team members. To enable people with an idea to find their crew, make them interact 1–1 and hence lower the barrier to speaking with others.

But there’s a caveat: If the management isn’t all-in and open to letting go of some control, it’s not going to work.

If you want to learn more about this project, please check out this study, in which René Mauer and I dive deeper into the objectives and outcomes. You can find the full paper here: https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-031-06516-3_19

[i] Sophia Marie Braun and René Mauer, “Market of Makers — How to Promote Corporate Entrepreneurship with an Effectuation Intervention,” in The Transdisciplinary Reach of Design Science Research, ed. Andreas Drechsler, Aurona Gerber, and Alan Hevner, vol. 13229, Lecture Notes in Computer Science (Cham: Springer International Publishing, 2022), 253, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-06516-3_19.

[ii] Braun and Mauer, 253.

--

--

Sophia Braun

PhD Candidate from Berlin. Writer, community builder and book club host (Re:Frame Innovation). Researching uncertainty, entrepreneurship, and sustainability.