Column: Katarina Blomkvist

“Tepid is not nearly warm enough”

“The digital change process has begun in earnest and the organisations that will flourish are those that have a dynamic digital intrapreneurship.” Column by Katarina Blomkvist, one of the authors of a new report on digital intrapreneurship.

Katarina Blomkvist, senior lecturer at the Department
of Business Studies. Photo: Mikael Wallerstedt

Intrapreneurship, entrepreneurship within existing organisations, is too often a hidden talent. It needs to be highlighted, analysed and improved for Swedish companies to remain competitive. Digital intrapreneurship means an existing company and organisation develops new products and services that, in part or wholly, use digital technologies. This includes introducing new ways of organising operations with digital technology.

The digital change process has begun in earnest and the organisations that will flourish are those that have a dynamic digital intrapreneurship. In a world of accelerating and often unpredictable technical development, companies must be able to deliver a continual stream of new digital products and services. Many are faced with largescale strategic shifts and need to redefine traditional core operations and competitive advantages.

Together with Professor Ivo Zander and Associate Professor Philip Kappen, I have recently released the report Intraprenörskapskompassen 2018 (The Intrapreneurship Compass 2018). We have collected data from 4,095 employees of private companies and public organisations. In the report, we examine the degree of digital renewal in a representative percentage of Swedish private and public organisations and analyse the underlying forces.

An important and interesting conclusion is that the degree of digital intrapreneurship is low, at most tepid. For Sweden to maintain its position in what is called phase two of the digital realignment, that is to say the phase that includes value creation in the form of new digital products and services, the private and public sectors need to improve conditions and raise their level of ambition.

Raising the temperature and creating the right conditions require continued investment in professional development. Far from all companies and organisations work strategically to train or hire employees with digital expertise. We see a clear connection between ambition level and digital expertise. For this reason, it is key to combine an increased willingness for digital renewal with the acquisition of the expertise required.

The report also argues for a change in attitude toward risk taking. The degree of risk taking is worryingly low, both within the private and public sectors and across all industries. At the same time, a improving economy offers opportunities to implement more progressive investments. In line with the low general risk taking, it became clear that the majority of the new digital products and services being developed are focused on already known technologies and existing customers.

A tepid degree of digital intrapreneurship may be sufficient to maintain an equal footing with competitors but not for Sweden to remain at the forefront of digitalisation. To lead this transition requires vision, ambition and a willingness to create more comprehensive and radical digital renewal.

Developing new digital products and services takes time and costs money, but not working with renewal is a more expensive alternative since competitiveness will diminish over time. Companies and organisations have to have the resources to test, experiment and invest, even before international standards have been adopted. It is time to seriously begin working with Sweden’s digital intrapreneurship.

Katarina Blomkvist, senior lecturer at the Department of Business Studies

Facts:

Katarina Blomkvist is an associate professor at Uppsala University. She researches entrepreneurship and internationalisation and is the one of the authors of a new report on digital intrapreneurship. The project is financed of Karl-Adam Bonnier Foundation and Vinnova.