If you ask anyone around a dinner table to name some of the worlds most inspiring entrapreneurs, chances are, they would have no problem reeling off an endless list of people from Warren Buffett or Bill Gates to Mark Zuckerberg or Sheryl Sandberg. Ask them, however, to name some of the worlds most inspiring intrapreneurs and you might find that they struggle.
Despite the fact that these intrapreneurs, are the brains behind many of the products and services that we all take for granted and use on a daily basis, the world doesn’t know their names.
So let’s take a look at some of the world ‘s top intrapreneurs that you have probably never heard of….
Sony, The Sony PlayStation
Ken Kutaragi was a relatively junior employee at Sony Enterprises when he realised the potential that existed within the world of video games. It was the late 1980s and Kutaragi spent hours tinkering with his daughters Nintendo looking at ways to improve it, coming up with the idea of a sound chip. In an environment where Sony was averse to entering the gaming market, Kutaragi was able to convince Sony’s CEO Norio Ohga to back his idea and the results of his efforts was a device called the “PlayStation”. Several years later, despite continued hostility within the Sony Company towards video games, the original PlayStation was released. This was followed by a series of PlayStation devices all a step ahead of their predecessors. The commercial success of the PlayStation franchise makes the Sony Computer Entertainment the most profitable business division of Sony. Despite all his doubters, Kutaragi proved them all wrong and went on to become CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America!
DAVE MYERS, W.L. GORE
Elixir Guitar Strings
Dave Myers was an employee working for Gore-Tex fabric innovator W.L. Gore when one day he was taking advantage of the company’s 10% daily allotment of ‘creative time’ to tinker with some new ideas. He began to explore how their existing products, which where used to coat push-pull cables, could actually be adapted to make guitar strings more comfortable and user-friendly. What Myers discovered, was that although the coated guitar strings were only marginally more comfortable to use, they were able to keep their clear tones longer than the existing guitar strings on the market. Gore was quick to back Myers’ invention and launched their own brand of guitar strings – ELIXER strings, which is now the top selling acoustic guitar string on the market. Myers’ invention propelled W.L. Gore into an entirely new product market and shows the world just how valuable ‘creative time’ can be.
RICHARD (DICK) DREW
3M, Scotch Tape
Most of us use sticky tape, masking tape or Scotch tape on a daily basis but have you ever thought of who and how it was invented? The clever time saving sticking solution was invented back in the 1920s by Dick Drew whilst he was working for 3M, back when they where the modest manufacturers of sandpaper. Drew was testing the companies new “Wetdry” sandpaper with auto mechanics when he became interested in how the two-tone paint jobs, which were so popular at the time, were difficult to manage due to the border between the two colours. Whilst pondering the problem, Drew came up with the idea of a two-inch wide adhesive backed paper strip – the world’s first masking tape! But like most new inventions, the tape was not without its own design challenges. Whilst the first prototype was being tested, it literally fell off the cars because the tape was only adhesive on the edges. As a result, the auto painters yelled at him, “take this tape back to those Scotch bosses of yours and tell them to put more adhesive on it!” Drew went back to the drawing board, tweaking his invention, and creating not only an improved version of the masking tape, but also the world’s first transparent tape. The
nickname stuck, hence the term Scotch tape!
These three incredible visionaries are only a few examples of some of the world’s greatest intrapreneurs.
HERE ARE A FEW OTHERS…
Patrick Naughton and James Gosling, Sun Microsystems, Java
Dr Spence Silver, 3M, Post-it-Notes
Paul Buchheit, Google, Gmail
Larry Hornbeck, Texas Instruments, Digital Micromirror Device
Scott Gatz, Yahoo, Sponsored search engine
Kathy Hollenhurst, Caribou Coffee, Customer loyalty program
We would love to hear about your favourite examples of intrapreneurialism.
Send us your thoughts and look out for them in our next edition.