Intrapreneurship: Miele’s search for entrepreneurs from within its own ranks

Innovations are the key to the future viability of a company. All too often, the enormous potential of one’s own employees is overlooked. Many creative ideas are often buzzing around in their heads and they have the motivation and drive to secure competitive advantages in order to improve the corporate culture, potential that Miele wants to tap into in the future with the new intrapreneurship program.

The term “intrapreneurship” was first coined in the 1970s and combines the two words “intra-corporate” and “entrepreneurship” for entrepreneurial endeavors. The aim of an intrapreneurship program is to encourage and encourage entrepreneurial thinking and acting within the workforce. This is also the case at Miele, where the employees will pursue their own business ideas in the future, which will either result in the formation of a new administrative unit within the company or in an independent spin-off. This program has its roots in the New Growth Factory division, which is responsible for identifying and developing new growth areas outside of Miele’s core business. “Every employee at Miele can get involved,” explains Dr. Ina Nordsiek, Director of Intrapreneurship in the New Growth Factory division, explains the approach. “The idea can involve hardware, software or a business service model covering either B2C or B2B. Teams pursuing joint business ideas are supported in our Miele Pioneers Camps.

The Pioneers Camp accompanies the teams from the idea to the founding decision. The methodological support is based on the principles of design thinking and lean startup. Both methods are widespread in young companies and in the startup scene – while Design Thinking describes a customer-centric approach to solving complex problems and developing new ideas, Lean Startup is an iterative method for implementing business ideas and a customer-oriented corporate organization. The focus is on speed and learning through empirical customer tests. “Our Pioneers Camp enables all participants to validate their business ideas, carry out pilot projects with the first customers and prepare them to spin off their ideas or to pursue them within their own Miele organization,” says Nordsiek.

Great interest of the employees in the new program

More than 400 employees contacted Ina Nordsiek’s team of four with a view to participating. 40 employees are currently working on specific ideas. In order to provide these teams with the best possible support, the Pioneers Camp, which takes place twice a year, includes weekly coaching and training sessions in the areas of product development, business building and team building. Over a period of at least 8 months, the teams were relieved of some of their tasks and were allowed to invest previously defined funds in the realization of their ideas. During this time, teams are expected to achieve specific achievements to take their proposals to the next level. This includes, among other things, presentations to the Miele Management Board. “After the program is completed, every idea that is accepted is either rewarded with the establishment of an internal Miele organization or professional support in order to grow into an independent company,” says Nordsiek.

Large network of mentors and experts offers numerous advantages

A first example of a successful implementation is the program itself. This project was also started and developed according to the principles of a lean startup. After a pilot team had dealt with the processes and interfaces within the organization, the intrapreneurship team was set up and the first Pioneers Camp with four teams was started. “At the same time, we have further optimized the offer and the coaching for our teams in order to provide them with the best possible support in overcoming their challenges,” explains Nordsiek. The offer now includes talent training, ideation workshops, team building events and a knowledge base on lean startup methods. “The greatest advantage for many employees lies in the huge network of mentors and experts, the contact to other colleagues and the international community that supports the teams on their way,” says Nordsiek, looking forward to the next round. ‘The second camp started in March and we are delighted that four more teams will now validate their business ideas to proactively shape the world of tomorrow.’

Company profile: Miele is the world’s leading manufacturer of high-quality household appliances, including cooking, baking and steam cooking appliances, refrigerators, coffee machines, dishwashers as well as washing and floor care products. The product portfolio also includes dishwashers, air purifiers, washing machines and tumble dryers for commercial use as well as cleaning, disinfecting and sterilizing machines for use in medicine and laboratories. The company, founded in 1899, has eight production sites in Germany, one each in Austria, the Czech Republic, China, Romania and Poland, as well as two production sites belonging to the Italian medical technology subsidiary Steelco. Sales in the 2021 financial year amounted to around €4.84 billion. Miele is represented in almost 100 countries/regions with its own sales offices and via importers. The fourth-generation family company employs around 21,900 people worldwide, of whom around 11,400 work in Germany. The company is headquartered in Gütersloh, Westphalia.

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