In a world where the pace of change in digital organizations is relentless, the adoption of rapid innovation practices has become imperative. Rapid innovation is often seen as a reactive response to external uncertainties and shocks. Still, forward-thinking firms understand that they can gain a competitive edge by generating internal disruptions and innovating swiftly. A qualitative case study on MoMo, Vietnam’s leading E-Wallet, provides a prime example of an organization successfully achieving rapid innovation through intrapreneurship.
Companies that can rapidly develop new products and processes faster than their rivals can significantly increase their customer base, gain an early advantage in the market, and maintain a lead over their competition. Embracing new technology is a key factor in achieving such rapid innovation. By integrating new capabilities and processes, companies find new touchpoints to connect with their customers. They also redefine and create new products and improve their overall production process. Whether it’s the adoption of mobile phones or the recent surge in technologies like IoT, cloud infrastructure, and artificial intelligence, firms that quickly adapt and incorporate these innovations into their operations gain a significant competitive advantage.
Rapid innovation in the information systems (IS) literature has traditionally focused on responding to external uncertainties and disruptions. These external factors, such as shifting market forces from customers and suppliers, often trigger reactive innovation efforts. However, intrapreneurship offers an alternative approach by fostering internal ideation and the creation of new products and services. Companies like Google, with their 20% time allocation for employee ventures, have demonstrated how intrapreneurship can lead to groundbreaking innovations like Gmail, shifting Google from just a search-dominant revenue stream to a multitude of other possibilities.
The case of MoMo E-Wallet
Our research focuses on MoMo, a digital venture valued at $2 billion USD, known for its innovative financial solutions through its E-wallet mobile application. MoMo’s unique architecture, consisting of a primary application layer and numerous mini-apps, reflects its highly innovative culture. The organization’s flat hierarchy and direct communication channels between employees and leadership foster empowerment and facilitate idea generation. So, exactly how does MoMo continue with its rapid scale of innovation?
To achieve rapid innovation, MoMo demonstrates a journey from entrepreneurship to intrapreneurship. The transition is encapsulated in Figure 1. The journey is defined by evolution across the three pillars of autonomy, risk-taking, and creativity.
How do we achieve autonomy through team settings?
The manner in which MoMo has structured its organization into smaller decomposable teams that react rapidly to any changes to the external environment facilitates the ability for the teams to self-organise and react rapidly. The self-organization of teams empowers the team to acquire the appropriate resources to achieve the objectives and tasks set by management.
For firm’s to achieve rapid innovation, senior management must adopt an intrapreneurial approach that centres on increasing employee autonomy, supporting risk-taking through policies as well as system design and promoting creativity through technological investments.Wilson Hua
Can the organization localise risks?
Cultivating a culture of courage and risk-taking is deeply embedded in MoMo’s corporate culture, epitomizing an underdog mentality in a competitive market. The leadership recognizes the necessity of taking calculated risks to stay competitive and relevant. Employees across all levels are encouraged to propose and pursue innovative ideas, even if they seem unconventional or daring. This risk-taking culture fosters trust and support between senior leadership and employees, where even “crazy” ideas are welcomed and considered. As the company grows, it has developed more sophisticated risk management approaches, such as isolating risks within modular mini-apps. These measures ensure that innovation can occur without cumbersome bureaucratic procedures, reinforcing the autonomy mentioned earlier.
How can company’s invest in creativity DNA?
Creativity: The Driving Force of Innovation Creativity is not just a buzzword at MoMo; it’s a fundamental element of their DNA. The organization places a premium on nurturing creativity and innovation at every level. Employees are encouraged to generate new ideas constantly, and innovation is a core value. MoMo invests in its employees’ knowledge and provides funding for exploring new technologies, creating a framework that guides and supports creative thinking.
This emphasis on creativity extends to advanced technologies like AI, where MoMo has witnessed exponential growth, expanding its AI department from 40 to over 160 employees in just over a year. This investment has led to groundbreaking products, such as AI-powered credit scoring, which reflects the company’s transition to an AI-first approach.
Three steps to achieve rapid innovation through intrapreneurship
It is clear that rapid innovation in incumbent firms has become a matter of survival. Both growing start-ups and legacy firms need to consider the following intrapreneurial steps in re-inventing products and processes:
- Providing employees autonomy to explore and develop different ideas. This can be in the form of additional time out of their assigned duties or, in MoMo’s case, the design of cell teams.
- Taking risks to pursue innovation must be a culture propagated and supported at the top levels of management. This can be developed through policies as well as overall system design to localise risk and failures.
- Equally important is creativity, where support must be substantiated with investment in new and emerging technology that can help disrupt the company with new ideas, as demonstrated by the rapid adoption of AI.
Hua, W., Leong, C., and Tan, B. (2023). Rapid Intrapreneurship with a Human Touch. PACIS 2023 Proceedings, 96. https://aisel.aisnet.org/pacis2023/96