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

Gütersloh, April 12, 2022 No. 020/2022
  • New programme to promote pioneering spirit and innovations

  • Intrapreneurs supported with coaching, training and a network of experts in Miele Pioneers Camp

Innovations are key to future-proofing a company. All too often, the huge potential among a company's own employees is overlooked. There are often lots of creative ideas milling around in their heads and they have the motivation and drive to secure competitive advantages to improve the corporate culture, potential Miele intends to tap in future with its new Intrapreneurship Programme.

The term 'intrapreneurship' was first coined in the Seventies and combines the two words 'intra-corporate' and 'entrepreneurship' for corporate endeavour. The objective of an Intrapreneurship Programme is to promote and nurture entrepreneurial thinking and action within the workforce. So, too, at Miele where employees will in future pursue their own business ideas, resulting in either the formation of a new administrative unit within the company or in an independent spin-off. This programme has its roots in the New Growth Factory business unit which is responsible for identifying and tapping new growth fields outside Miele's core line of business. 'Every employee at Miele can get involved', says Dr. Ina Nordsiek, Director Intrapreneurship in the New Growth Factory business unit, explaining the approach. 'The idea can comprise hardware, software or a business service model covering either B2C or B2B. Teams pursuing joint business ideas will be given support 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 commonplace among fledgling companies and on the startup scene – whereas design thinking refers to a customer-centric approach to solving complex problems and to developing new ideas, lean startup is an iterative method of implementing business ideas and customer-oriented company organisation. Throughout, the focus is on speed and learning through empirical customer testing. 'Our Pioneers Camp empowers all participants to validate their business ideas, to run pilot projects with their first customers and to prepare them to spin off their ideas or to pursue them within Miele's own organisation', says Nordsiek.

Great interest among employees in new programme

More than 400 employees have turned to the team of four surrounding Ina Nordsiek with a view to participating in the scheme. At present, 40 employees are working on concrete ideas. In order to provide these teams with the best possible level of support, the Pioneers Camp, launched twice yearly, includes weekly coaching sessions and trainings in the fields of product development, business building and team promotion. Over a period of at least 8 months, the teams were relieved of a part of their duties and were allowed to invest pre-defined funds in bringing their ideas to fruition. During this time, the teams are expected to achieve certain successes in order to take their proposals to the next level. Amongst others, these include presentations to the Miele Executive Board. 'Each idea taken on board will on completion of the programme be rewarded by either setting up a Miele-internal organisation or given professional support to grow into an independent company', says Nordsiek.

Great network of mentors and experts offers numerous benefits

An initial example of successful implementation is the scheme itself. This project, too, was launched and developed following the principles of a lean startup. After a pilot team had got to grips with the processes and interfaces within the organisation, the intrapreneurship team was set up and the first Pioneers Camp with four teams launched. 'At the same time, we further optimised the range of offers and the coaching for our teams in order to give them the best possible support in rising to their challenges', Nordsiek explains. The range of activities now consists of talent training, ideation workshops, team-building events and a knowledge database on lean startup methodologies. 'For many employees, the biggest advantage lies in the huge network of mentors and experts, the contact to other colleagues and the international community which supports the teams on their journey', Nordsiek maintains as she looks forward to the next round. 'In March, the second camp got off the ground, and we are pleased that four further teams will validate their business ideas right now in order to proactively shape tomorrow's world'.

Company profile: Miele is the world's leading manufacturer of premium domestic appliances including cooking, baking and steam-cooking appliances, refrigeration products, coffee makers, dishwashers and laundry and floor care products. Their product portfolio also includes dishwashers, air purifiers, washing machines and tumble dryers for commercial use as well as washer-disinfectors and sterilisers for use in medical and laboratory applications. Founded in 1899, the company has eight production plants in Germany, one each in Austria, the Czech Republic, China, Romania and Poland as well as two production plants belonging to its Italian medical technology subsidiary Steelco. Sales in the 2021 business year amounted to around € 4.84 bn. Miele is represented with its own sales subsidiaries and via importers in almost 100 countries/regions. Throughout the world, the family-run enterprise, now in its fourth generation, employs a workforce of around 21,900, of which approx. 11,400 employees work in Germany. The company has its headquarters in Gütersloh in Westphalia.

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At the Miele Pioneers Camps, employees receive extensive support, including coaching and training courses, in order to validate and establish a business. (Photo: Miele)

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